By Chris Sanders
The Ryerson Rams men’s soccer team took down their cross-town rival on Oct. 28, defeating the Toronto Varsity Blues 3-1 at Downsview Park. The quarter-final matchup between the two appeared as if it was straight out of a Hollywood script, with the teams located within the same district facing off in the playoffs for the sixth consecutive time.
The first half lived up to it’s enthralling narrative, with both sides aggressively pushing the ball to attain an edge over their opponent. Ryerson looked to capitalize in the early minutes of play, seeing star midfielder Raheem Rose create several opportunities before being shut down by a robust Blues backline and an in-form goalkeeper in Stefan Dusciuc.
Scoring chances alternated through abrupt momentum swings throughout the half, with each opportunity feeling more dangerous than the last. But nothing more would come and the first forty-five minutes would end in a 0-0 draw.
Barely a minute into the second, a cross in front of the Varsity Blues net found Rose, who headed the ball straight into the keeper’s hands. This time, Dusciuc wouldn’t be able to handle it, bobbling a rebound to striker Mirza Custovic who put away his first OUA playoff goal for a 1-0 Rams advantage.
Reiterating his self-dubbed nickname from the previous rivalry matchup, a laughing Rose said his mentality is rubbing off on the rest of the squad.
“They call me the U of T killer, but we’re more so a wolf pack,” Rose said. “We’re coming to beat down teams, whoever we’re facing.”
With their season on the line, Varsity Blues midfielder Anthony Sousa levelled the game with a perfectly placed shot in the 66th minute to tie the game at one apiece. Trying to close out the Blues in regulation, the Rams went in full swing during during the final moments. Another dangerous cross nearly found its way in for a Rams game winner, but fell short.
Still tied at one each, two fifteen-minute halves were needed to decide which Toronto side would qualify for the OUA Final Four. In the 96th minute, Ryerson striker and captain Abdallah El-Chanti chipped a ball into the opposing box. That ball would deflect off a Navy Blue defender and find its way across the goal line to put the Rams up 2-1. Three minutes later, Custovic provided the insurance goal, breaking through the defence before finishing from the slot. A late game push by U of T nearly resulted in a 3-2 scoreline, but it would be too late, as the Rams solidified their Final Four spot for the sixth straight season.
Delighted by the win, El-Chanti knows it’s all about winning the OUA championship and qualifying for the U SPORTS National Championship.
“It’s been amazing,” El-Chanti said. “We’re trying to get over the curse. We’ve been in the Final Four for the fifth or sixth year in a row and haven’t gotten to Nationals. Hopefully next weekend we can win our semi-final game and go to B.C. (British Columbia).”
UP NEXT: The Rams will go to Ottawa to take on the York Lions on Friday Nov. 2. at MNP Park. First touch is scheduled for 6 p.m.