By Tagwa Moyo
The task was clear, win and book a ticket to nationals.
Unfortunately the Ryerson men’s soccer team was not able to do so, losing 3-0 to cross-town rivals the U of T Varsity Blues in the OUA bronze medal game at York stadium Sunday morning.
The Rams came out of the gate strong, keeping possession early and creating chances. The first chance for Ryerson came from a free kick however, U of T’s defence was able to clear the ball out of their defensive end.
While the Rams were unable to capitalize off of their early opportunities, U of T on the other hand was. In the 13th minute U of T got on the score sheet when striker Dakar Charles caught a long ball and flicked it passed Rams keeper Praveen Ahilan
A few minutes later the Blues continued pressing and almost added to the score scoreboard, however this time Ahilan was up for the challenge. The Rams and Blues were tightly competitive and creating their own scoring chances.
The Rams struggled to get shots passed U of T’s keeper while the Blues were able to add to their lead in the 37th minute. Rams keeper Ahilan came out to challenge a U of T through ball however, U of T striker beat Ahilan to the ball and tapped it past the keeper into the open net.
Being down two in the first half didn’t slow down the Rams, they continued to fight in that first half and getting shots on net and applying pressure on U of T’s defence. After the half the Rams made a number of substitutions bringing in Peter Christidis, Jamie Baker, Misel Klisara and Luka Lee.
“We went to a more offensive line up in the second half, we moved the ball around and tried to play more direct those were kind of our tactics,” Lee said.
Those tactics early on in the second half worked against the Rams. With the attacking players on for the Rams, U of T came out pressing. In the 52nd minute the Blues delivered the knockout blow to the Rams as Nirun Sivananthan got around Ryerson defenders and flicked the ball passed Rams keeper.
“A two nothing lead is usually the most dangerous lead in soccer, for the team with the lead, they think they’re safe and good but if you get it 2-1 then their backs are against the wall,” said coach Filip Prostran. “The third goal broke our spirits, in soccer three goals to come back from is a hard mountain to climb. When that third goal came in I had to think about next year,” Prostran said.
Following the third goal from U of T, the Rams struggled to get back into things and evidently fell 3-0. This loss for the Rams doesn’t just end the season for the Rams but it also ends the career for a few key veterans. The Rams will be losing their leader in the defence and five year veteran Jacob O’Connor, Nick De Grave and team captain Martin Dabrowski.
“You know it’s gonna be over so you give it your all, you’re playing and your just counting down the seconds and your last touches of the ball, it’s pretty tough.” Dabrowski said
As the team heads into the offseason, the will try to fill the gaps that have been created. Prostran understands the talent that he will be losing this offseason but also hopes to find new leaders within the team.
“We aren’t gonna be able to replace Jacob O’Connor’s leadership, Martin Dabrowski’s leadership, Nick De Grave’s leadership. Those three guys have been rocks in our programs, they’ve been through the ups and the downs,” Prostran said. “As the off-season plays the decision makes itself, these tough loses are how leaders are built,” said Prostran.
The team will have a long time to reflect on the disappointment of this year. Although they didn’t make it to nationals this season and will be losing valuable pieces, the Rams remain strong with players like Nick Lambis, Lee, Baker and this years OUA east OUA MVP Raheem Rose hopefully returning to the team next season.