The men’s soccer team’s dream of a deep playoff run were shattered by bad bounces and questionable calls. Jay Saran looks at how it fell apart
The men’s soccer team found out the hard way that history has a way of repeating itself.
After struggling to close out games all season, the Rams gave up a late goal with 20 seconds left in regulation time to York on Saturday. They lost 2-1 and were knocked out of contention for the OUA championship.
Then in the Sunday afternoon bronze medal game against Western, their season ended the same way it did last season: 5-4 in penalty kicks.
The sting of history is all too familiar to head coach Ivan Joseph, who was recently named OUA head coach of the year. His Graceland team bowed out early in the playoffs the year before they went on to win the NAIA championship in 2006. Despite the losses, Joseph is satisfied with his team’s progress.
“Our goal was to reach the OUA Final Four this year to see how we match up against the top programs. We took the number two team in the country to extra time, and the number six team to a shootout. We aren’t far off at all,” he said.
“Every program has a defining moment and I believe this will be ours.”
In the bronze medal game, Midfielder Kevin Souter put the Rams up early in the 10th minute when he and fellow OUA Second Team All-Star Viktor Anastasov worked a quick one-two at the top of the 18-yard box.
Western controlled the play for the rest of the half after that and scored the well-deserved goal when forward Niko Mavrikos scooped up a loose ball in front of the net in the 40th minute.
The game took a dramatic twist in the second half when Ryerson found themselves down to nine men after two red cards.
Twenty minutes after midfielder Adrian Mancini was sent off for arguing a call with the referee in the 59th minute, Souter was booked for a second time after a late tackle against a Western midfielder.
But the Mustangs were unable to take advantage as Ryerson defended with a lot of heart and determination to force extra time.
After Western scored in the 100th minute, First Team All-Star Markus Molder became an unlikely hero when he scored in the 120th minute after the Western goalkeeper fumbled a shot by Alex Braletic.
But in the shootout, Western scored all five of their penalties and took home the bronze, as well as a spot in the CIS National Championship Tournament.
Midfielder Jason Morgan, who played in his last game as a Ryerson Ram, was the only player to miss a penalty in the shootout. And he said the locker room was very quiet after the loss.
“I think after a game like that you’re so emotionally drained, so exhausted, so disappointed, that you’re at a loss for words,” he said. “[But] When all is said and done though I think every guy out there will tell you that performances like today are what make you proud to be a Ram.”
It was a bitter pill to swallow for the Rams, who lost a controversial game against the No. 2 York Lions on Saturday afternoon in the OUA Semi-Finals.
The Rams played very well against York for most of the afternoon and took a deserved 1-0 lead in the 59th minute after York failed to clear a wayward cross. A weak defensive header found its way to Ryerson’s leading goal-scorer Adrian Mancini, who made no mistake in blasting the ball passed York’s goalkeeper Sotiri Varlokostas.
Ryerson was 13 minutes away from a place in the OUA Final against the University of Toronto Blues when momentum took a dramatic swing in favour of the Lions.
In the 77th minute, midfielder Ashkan Mahboubi was sent off after he was booked for the second time in the match. Nine minutes later, York was awarded a questionable penalty after Rams’ defender Jacob O’Connor won a header but collided with a York forward at the edge of the 18-yard box.
With the York player on the ground clutching his face, the referee pointed to the spot and gave the Lions a chance to get back into the game.
It was a chance that OUA goal-scoring leader Adrian Pena would not waste, as he slotted home the penalty to rejuvenate his team.
Four minutes after tying the game, York worked a beautiful short corner to score and win the game.
After the match, Joseph said it was best that he didn’t comment on the performance of the referee, but was full of praise for his team for the way they battled adversity despite the tough losses.
“I have no problem with a loss when I feel the team left everything on the field, and I believe they did.”
Photo: Rob Moysey