By Chris Johnston
The only thing different about these teams are the line ups.
Most first year coaches expect growing pains, but men’s soccer coach Tony La Ferrara endured an absurd amount of them on the opening week of the season.The team opened the season with two losses, a 3-0 loss to the University of Waterloo Warriors on Saturday, and a 2-0 defeat at the hand of Wilfrid Laurier University Golden Hawks on Sunday.
“They gave up,” La Ferrara said bluntly following Saturday’s loss. “It really wasn’t what I expected, I thought that we would play a better game. The boys just didn’t put the effort in.” There is a feeling around the team that the rookie coach is being unfair. Four players are considering leaving the team, unable to cope with La Ferrara’s rigorous practice schedule.
The Rams also had to deal with their share of bad luck. La Ferrara was forced to start fielder Aldo Tari in net after Ryerson’s first-string keeper Oliver Strong badly bruised his shoulder in practice on Friday. Strong’s status for Saturday’s game against the McMaster Marauders is unclear.
“We don’t have our goalkeeper, and Aldo is a field player ,” La Ferrara said. “He let in two really, really bad goals and that killed us.” After consecutive pre-season wins over York and George Brown, La Ferrara was optimistic heading into the regular season. After only one weekend of play, his mood has changed drastically. He likened the Waterloo squad to the York team that Ryerson beat 3-2 in exhibition play.
“It was like our first game when we played York,” he said. “Everybody was trying to impress the shit out of the coach, they played their hearts out, and we won. When Waterloo started playing well, the boys got intimidated – they just sat back and said, oh shit.” The losses extended the Rams regular season losing streak to 14 games. The women have not won in more than four years.
The lady Rams lost 4-1 to the University of Waterloo Athenas, and 3-0 to Laurier. The women played sloppy dump-and-chase soccer in the first half of their game against Waterloo. They were unable to make their presence felt and found themselves down 2-0 at the half, on two late Athenas goals.
Still, the team played well in the second half and head coach Jon Sanderson was upbeat about the result.”At the half I went in and told the girls to stay positive and that we had had the world with us in the second half,” he said. “We came out and battled hard.” The Lady Rams started the second half making good decisions with the ball and it paid off midway through when first-year forward Michelle Anderson converted a penalty kick to bring the score to 2-1.
But that was as close as the Rams would get, despite several good chances to tie the game. A five minute lapse in the late stages allowed Waterloo to score two more goals, putting the game out of reach. Anderson was the best Rams player in the second half. “It was the first game, and we’re all a little rusty,” the first-year radio and television arts student said.
“I thought that we played pretty well, but there’s room for improvement.” Sanderson was generally pleased with the Rams’ performance and said he expected the team to build off the opening result. “It’s very early in the year,” Sanderson said. “I think that we’ll stay competitive all season long.” On the flip side, the men’s team started strong against Waterloo and faltered in the second half. They controlled play from the first touch of the ball, making sharp passes and finding plenty of open field. But, the Rams found themselves down 1-0 at the half after keeper Tari tackled a Waterloo player in the 18-yard box. The Warrior player promptly converted the penalty kick.
Waterloo scored three goals came in in the second half of the chippy game. Ryerson also received two yellow cards in the second frame. When Waterloo built a three-goal lead, its defense stifled a frustrated Rams team. Ryerson only managed one shot at the Warrior net in the second half.
The team’s best scoring opportunity of the game came in the first half when forward Brook Azede rang a shot off the crossbar from outside of the 18-yard box. Azede’s play was one of the few bright spots for Ryerson. “Brook played really hard in the first half. He was the only one who was creating something,” La Ferrara said. “In the second half I had to take him out, so that he would be rested for Sunday’s game. Everybody else was terrible.”
La Ferrara did not attempt to hide his disappointment following Saturday’s loss. “We gave them a good game in the first half, and then they just died,” La Ferrara said. “That’s what happened last year. They would go down 1-0 and everybody would give up.”
Although the score was close in the Sunday’s loss to the OUA defending champion Golden Hawks, the Rams seemed to be in disarray. “A lot of the first year guys don’t have the feel of university soccer yet,” the coach said, referring to the six rookie starters in his line-up. “University sports are really rah, rah, rah, let’s kick their ass, let’s go. I expect them to go out there and give 100 per cent. If they don’t want to do that there are other players on the team who would love the chance to play. Maybe they’re going to give a better effort.”
And with some players likely leaving the lineup, it appears some of those other players will get a chance. Both teams are now 0-2-0 in the OUA central/south division of their respective leagues and find them selves embedded in the familiar confines of last place. Only the top two teams in the four-team divisions make the playoffs.
The women’s 1-7 aggregate score was a vast improvement over some of the horrible weekends the team played last year. But coach Sanderson knows that more improvement is needed immediately. “It’s such a short season that you have to be ready to go each week,” Sanderson said. “You have to get your points from Game 1 on, you can’t wait until your fourth or fifth game.”
Both teams will hit the field next on Saturday when they face the McMaster Marauders at Birchmount Stadium in Scarborough. The women kick off at 1 p.m. and the men follow at 3 p.m. The next day both teams travel to the University of Guelph to take on the Gryphons.