Fans pack Downsview Park for Rams soccer home openers

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By Mario Russo

A memorable orange sunset welcomed the Rams’ faithful back to the pitch, rewarding many who made the hour-long trip to Downsview Park on Oct. 2 with a great evening of Ontario University Athletics (OUA) soccer.

Sights of Ryerson’s blue and yellow trumped the dark Varsity Blue in the stands. Signs scattered themselves across the bleachers spelling “UofTears.” If it already wasn’t clear who was in charge, a sign that read “We run this city” made sure of it.

Hushes turned to roars as the ball took its first touch of the evening, with parents and students alike forming a passionate crowd. The University of Toronto (U of T) Varsity Blues players got quite familiar with the fans as they tiptoed the sidelines.

 In the first matchup of the night, the rowdy crowd helped lift the Rams women’s soccer team to its first victory in program history over the Varsity Blues. With it came an even bigger celebration for the team. 

“It’s amazing, you should see us over there, we’re blasting music and jumping around,” said Rams women’s soccer midfielder Christiana Daniel in an interview after the match.  

When the second game of the evening started, the crowd kept up its energy shown earlier during the women’s match. Although it had only been a week since the two teams last met, there was no love lost between the two crosstown rivals. 

While the two fan bases were split on who to cheer for, they were on the same page when it came to the storm of boos directed at the referee after every missed call.

“It was electric,” said Rams men’s soccer head coach Filip Prostran. “They were cheering, yelling [and] screaming, for the most part all positive stuff.” 

After the first half of the match, the teams were at a 0-0 deadlock. There were only six shots between both sides in the opening 45 minutes of the match. With scoring chances hard to come by, the game was trending toward “first goal wins” territory. 

U of T broke the tie in the 73rd minute of play. Not only did this mark the game’s first tally, but many would describe it as the moment the levy took its final blow.

In the 75th minute of the game, a fan was less than pleased when a U of T player stayed down on the sidelines. The fan decided to take matters into their own hands and shoved the opposing player. 

This resulted in chaos temporarily storming Downsview Park and a lengthy delay to restore order to the match. 

As the clock reached the 90-minute mark, there was lots of confusion as nobody had a clue how much extra time was on the board. Scorekeepers forgot to punch the additional minutes into the system, resulting in the 90 minutes to stay frozen on the clock as play continued. 

The game went nine minutes past the 90, but it felt like seconds for the Rams players and even the fans, with the group being unable to capitalize on their plethora of late opportunities. 

“Soccer is a game of chances…[U of T had]  one chance, one goal,” said Prostran after the game.

While the Rams men’s soccer team was unable to send fans home with a win, playing in front of a packed crowd for the first time in two years was a win in itself, according to the players. 

“It was nice seeing people that supported us for a couple of years. It’s nice seeing familiar faces again and it was really refreshing after a couple years off of OUA soccer,” said Rams men’s soccer goalkeeper Praveen Ahilan. 

The Downsview double-header welcomed the women’s team home with crazy fanfare; starting with the warm sunset and ending with the rumble of soccer’s memorable viking stomp.

Whether it was the sweet taste of victory in the first game of the evening, or the loud roars emulating from the bleachers, the Rams return to Downsview Park never had a dull moment. Despite having the day end in a Rams split, both sides showed resilience, courage, and most of all, put the word “home” back into “home opener.”

With files from Koylan Azofeifa

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