By Keiran Gorsky
The Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) men’s soccer team advanced to the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) finals after a commanding 3-0 win over the Waterloo Warriors on a nippy Wednesday night at Downsview Park.
Waterloo upset a strong York University team in the quarter-finals on Oct. 29 to qualify for Wednesday’s match. Having gone the entire season undefeated, York was expected to see the TMU side in the semis before falling to the Warriors 3-1.
It took sharp blasts from the floodlights to illuminate the home team’s confident display, cutting through a thick fog that hung over the pitch all night long. The Bold made great use of their possession throughout the match, forcing the Warriors into ill-fated counter attacks with pace they didn’t have.
“We’ve got the perfect mix of dogs and warriors and skillful, talented people,” said a beaming head coach Filip Prostran. “We stayed focused, we fought and passed with flying colours on all accounts.”
A contingent of visiting fans brought their drums and screams, but they were quickly quieted by a perfectly placed set piece from Justin Santos in the sixth minute. Defender Tristan Marshall found himself open in the box, easily placing the ball in the back of the net to give the Bold a 1-0 lead.
The home fans seemed to reclaim the field from then on out. A flustered Waterloo backline botched their defensive assignments a second time, leaving a dangerous Santos all alone to double the lead.
The rest of the half went by more quietly, with Bold midfielder Oliver Wales being afforded a decent chance, storming down the right flank and striking it off Waterloo goalkeeper Simon Grande’s fingertips for a corner.
TMU swapped tactics in the second half, content to soak up Warterloo pressure so long as the ball stayed clear of their 18-yard box. Waterloo tried to play it clever, sometimes pulling off elaborate set plays only to lose the ball at the feet of a relentless Bold backpress.
Waterloo winger James Arango managed a weak strike only a few feet from goal in the 73rd minute, gobbled up by Bold keeper Ali Ghazanfari. The game meandered on until the 81st minute, when even the tall floodlights towering over Downsview failed to fight the fog, bringing the game to a pause.
The match finally resumed a half hour later, and not because the fog had cleared. The final minutes of the match consisted of 22 men wandering through a misty maze, occasionally resembling something that looked like soccer.
A desperate Waterloo pushed every man forward in added time and Santos made them regret it. An impossibly perfect through ball from substitute Zakaria Abdi stopped right in Santos’ path, who put the game away, charging into the crowd through smoke tinted blue and gold.
“This has been our end goal,” said Santos. “Now we just focus on our next game, play our final and we go to B.C.”
UP NEXT: The Bold will face off against McMaster University in the OUA final this weekend at Downsview Park. Kick-off time has yet to be announced.