By Victor Ferreira
In what was supposed to be an easy victory, the Ryerson Rams had to work a little harder than expected to earn a 2-0 victory over the lowly RMC Paladins on Saturday afternoon at Lamport Stadium.
Due in part to the work of Paladins keeper Jhordan Darrington, the Rams (7-2-2) were held to a lone goal by left winger Vince D’Elia until forward Jamie Baker was able to seal the result in the 72nd minute of the game.
“Winning 5-0 or winning 1-0, three points is three points,” said soccer co-ordinator Kevin Souter.
Having not won a game since the 2007-2008 season and having not earned a point in two years, the Paladins (0-10-0) were, as expected, overtaken by the Rams’ offense from the opening whistle. Ryerson tired out the Paladins with their possession game, easily obtaining more than 70% of the total. The Rams’ spells of possession were so long that in one case, the Paladins did not touch the ball for more than six minutes.
Dominating play, the Rams broke through in the 16th minute after a clever pass from midfielder Adrian Mancini found D’Elia who struck the ball into the top corner of Darrington’s net.
“Coach [Souter] has been saying that I’ve been doing everything on the pitch but scoring so I’ve been practicing my finishing and it’s working,” said D’Elia.
When the Rams looked to extend their lead immediately after, Darrington stopped everything that came his way.
Rams forward Viktor Anastasov tried his luck on two different occasions. On a different night, he would’ve scored a brace, but on this night, Darrington stopped him cold each time. D’Elia cut in to the middle more than once to test Darrington but was stopped more than once by poster-worthy saves.
D’Elia was impressed with the keeper’s performance.
“He was great today,” said D’Elia. “He robbed me clean twice and stopped Viktor and Jamie [Baker] a few times. He’s the best goalie we’ve faced this far.”
The Rams were not able to add to the 1-0 score line and were shaky on the rare occasions when the RMC attack was actually able to touch the ball on the Rams side of the pitch.
With some coaching changes, the result would soon increase.
Throughout the game, forward Jamie Baker was ineffective playing as a false-winger who would cut inside to join Anastasov in the 18-yard box. As soon as he was switched back to his natural position, the rookie striker produced.
Running through the RMC left-back, Baker cut into the 18-yard box to strike the ball over Darrington, who had no chance on the play, for his 6th goal in seven games.
On an afternoon where Mancini, centre-back and captain Dmitri Karopoulos, and midfielder Ashkan Mahboubi were honoured for their long commitment and contribution to the team, the Rams were largely substandard.
Mancini was happy to be honoured but disappointed with the team’s performance.
“We got the points, the rest isn’t important,” said Mancini. “In the first half there were flashes of brilliance but the second [half] just went badly.”
Souter says the performance was a result of the coaching staff still attempting to find its strongest starting 11.
“We didn’t play as well as we could have because we are still experimenting,” said Souter. “We would’ve liked to have our starting lineup solidified but we’re still trying to see where all the pieces fit.”
To close out the season, the Rams will play all their remaining games on the road, with trips to division rivals Toronto Varsity Blues and leaders Carleton Ravens on the horizon.
Souter knows the importance of these two big games.
“We have to get the results from these teams if we are to accomplish our goals,” said Souter. “We want to finish in the top two [OUA East] and reach the final four.”