– Mario Annicchiarico / Times Colonist
April 17, 2016 06:00 AM

They have arrived from near and far as Victoria Highlanders FC open training sessions Monday night in preparation of the team’s return to the United Soccer League’s Premier Development League for the 2016 season.

Among those in attendance — as the Highlanders lace up their boots at their new home at the University of Victoria’s Centennial Stadium — will be newcomers Nolan Wirth of Comox and Sean Prizeman of Dublin, Ireland, who arrived this week.

Wirth is a goalkeeper who played in the Vancouver Whitecaps residency program. He also played at Oregon State University and was a member of Canada’s national under-20 team.

Prizeman is a midfielder/forward who played at Peninsula College in Port Angeles, Washington, in 2011. He grew up playing youth soccer for Belvedere FC and also suited up at Killester United in north Dublin.

Both came to the Highlanders via word of mouth, head coach Dave Dew said.

“It’s interesting because I had not seen either of them play, but I took them on recommendations of coaches that I’ve networked with over the years — coaches who I respect. That’s how I got the heads-up on them,” Dew said.

Oregon State coach Steve Simmons gave the reference on Wirth and Dew also cross-referenced with local goalkeeping coach Bob Stankov. They also checked with Raegyn Hall, of the Whitecaps residency and youth programs, and he confirmed Wirth was a high-end player. “With him being with the national under-20 program, we knew he was good and it went from there,” Dew said of Wirth.

As for Prizeman, Dew has a strong rapport with Kanyon Anderson, who coaches with the women’s program at Peninsula College, but was previously with the men.

“Sean can play up front or in the hole behind the attacker, but he’s one of those guys who, if I needed him to play right fullback, he would do it. He’s that versatile, according to Kanyon,” Dew said.

“He’s also going to be getting into some coaching here. That’s one of the reasons Sean came. He finished his UEFA B licence and he wants to get involved in coaching. He’s on a two-year work visa here so he can do that and help the game along here in Victoria.”

The Highlanders will open their season in the Northwest Division of the Western Conference of the PDL on May 7 at Gordon Field against the host Kitsap Pumas before returning home to play Calgary Foothills FC on May 15 at Centennial.

Training this week will continue Wednesday and Thursday.

The core of the Highlanders will be returning from last season’s Pacific Coast League team, but it would not be a surprise if the likes of a Blair Sturrock should surface again.

FREE KICKS: Two of Sheffield Wednesday’s youth program coaches are expected to be in the city this week with news of their availability to be announced. Wednesday, one of the world’s oldest professional clubs, is this season challenging for promotion to the English Premier League from the Championship.

– See more at: http://www.timescolonist.com/sports/coaching-grapevine-helps-victoria-highlanders-select-two-new-recruits-1.2233197#sthash.YYNsZwG2.dpuf