By Armen Zargarian
The Rams men’s soccer team took a tough 1-0 loss in their home-opener at Downsview Park on Saturday versus the University of Toronto Varsity Blues.
Even before kickoff, former Rams all-star goalkeeper Ali Ghazanfari couldn’t help but recall some haunting memories. He was referring to the 2019 Ontario University Athletics (OUA) quarter-final loss the Rams suffered against the same Varsity Blues side, on the same field.
“Soccer’s a game of chances. They had one chance, one goal. That’s the story of soccer,” said Ram’s head coach Filip Prostran following the loss.
Although it was only the second game of their respective seasons, the intensity mimicked that of a playoff affair between two familiar foes.
The first half started at a frenetic pace, but led offensively by Kai Martin, Justin Santos and Abdallah El-Chanti, the Rams began creating opportunities.
With each offensive attack and some oral back and forth with Varsity Blues players, the fans on the packed bleachers quickly turned up the volume.
The best chance of the game for the Rams came at the end of the first half with an unexpected three-player breakaway. But a little indecisiveness resulted in a routine save for Blues goalkeeper Jacob Gundermann.
The Rams improved even more in the second half, controlling the pace and working the full length of the field.
“We kept the ball better in the centre-mid, we swung it from side to side. I thought our wingers were deadly,” said Prostran.
In the 70th minute, Santos made a series of moves to get by defenders then went down in the penalty box to the dismay of the Rams bench and supporters.
“Definitely a penalty. Got hit from behind, ref just didn’t call it,” said Santos about the play.
Only a few minutes after a crossed ball fell to the feet of Colin O’Dwyer who netted the goal for the Varsity Blues. Up until that point, the Ram’s back five had not even allowed a threatening chance.
The pressure mounted from there as the Rams aggressively pushed forward looking for an equalizer.
In the 75th minute, a commotion broke out along the sideline as a Varsity Blues player stayed down for an extended period. A passionate fan felt obligated to interfere with what he viewed as time-wasting by the player and referee.
The delay resulted in nine minutes of added time and the Ram’s pressed until the last minute.
Substitute Zakaria Abdi created havoc with his leaping ability, nearly missing two headers in the final minutes.
Despite their push in added time, the Rams’ comeback bid would fall short. Now they’ll head out on the road to face the Nipissing Lakers, a team they’ve beaten in five consecutive meetings.
Up Next: The Rams head to Nipissing for a home-and-home with the Lakers starting Oct. 8. Kickoff is set for 5 p.m.