By Chris Sanders
The Ryerson Rams men’s soccer team is once again entering a new season with hopes of winning the OUA (Ontario University Athletics) championship for the first time in program history.
After falling short to the York Lions in last year’s OUA Final Four, the team and head coach Filip Prostran hope that this will be the year the team finally gets over the hump.
“We’ve got some of the recipes [for a championship contender], now with good fortune and good luck, maybe the ghosts of the final four past will even out this year,” said Prostran.
One part of that recipe and a player to keep an eye on entering his second-year with the Rams is defender Kai Martin. Last season, Martin led the team with five assists and became the first player in program history to be named to the U SPORTS All-Rookie team.
Coach Prostran will be looking to use Martin at different positions this season with his elite flair and pace, considered to be one-of-a-kind.
Being keen on turning a new leaf with Martin at the forefront, the team will be without one of the most talented players in program history: midfielder and striker Raheem Rose.
Rose was a three-time All-Canadian and three-time OUA First-Team All-Star in his five years at Ryerson, finishing his career with 29 goals and five assists in 65 regular season games.
“Raheem is a player that comes around once in a program’s history,” said Prostran. “He was our X-factor last year, not many teams had an answer for him.”
Although most programs would suffer from a player like Rose departing, the Rams have U SPORTS All-Canadian Abdallah El-Chanti prepared to take the reigns.
“I know he’s an exceptional talent, he’s going to score goals, he’s going to be a selfless player,” said Prostran. “But what I need for him to do is bring the younger guys along … all these things that make our culture run that you don’t see on game day.”
“His ability and his play is going to stay consistent, and I expect nothing less of All-Canadian level,” Prostran added.
Last season, El-Chanti was vital to the team’s regular season success with a 14-1-1 record in 2018. Scoring seven goals in four straight wins while Rose was out due to an injury, his hot start translated into a career-high 11 goals while earning OUA First-Team All-Star honors for the first time in his career. This year, El-Chanti is looking forward to sharing the load offensively.
“We have a lot of new talent that is definitely going to help us so it’s not all on my shoulder,” said El-Chanti. “It’s not one player that’s going to make us win a title.”
A new player set to take the field for the Rams is Andrew Barrett, a 27-year-old midfielder that sat out last season due to eligibility rules. Barrett will be the oldest player on the roster and is expected to bring another level of maturity.
“The complementary duo of talent and experience is something that will definitely win us a championship,” said Barrett.
Coach Prostran is optimistic they have the right ingredients to have a real shot at a title run this year. And with the skill there and a little bit of luck, the Rams could be destined for something special.
Ryerson’s home opener is set for Sept. 7th at Downsview Park.