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SB Soccer: Late Comeback Ties MVR in Opener

By Graham Chandler
If game one of the ETIAC senior boys soccer season is a game to go by, then the Stanstead College Spartans are in for quite a ride this fall season.
On Friday afternoon in sunny Cowansville, the Massey-Vanier Vikings started the game on the front foot, chasing every loose ball and putting the Spartans under tremendous pressure in our own half of the field. Their efforts were rewarded five minutes into the match when their crafty centre-forward intercepted an errant Spartan back pass and calmly slotted the ball past helpless Spartan keeper Emanuel Ganz. 1-0 to the Vikings.

This setback would provide a good test for our squad; would we dig in and respond positively or would we drop our heads and allow MVR to dictate the quality and pace of the game? To our credit, we chose the former approach, quickly adjusted our mindset and soon after we began to grow into the game and change the flow of play. We started winning 50/50 balls, winning 1-on-1 races, and began to string more passes together. These good moments produced excellent scoring chances by Matteo Paradis, Henry Riddell, Jordan Ilunga, and two attempts by Jeremiah O’Reagan, one a header on target, and the second a solid shot that smacked the crossbar. While the statistical package favoured the Spartans – out-chancing MVR 14 to 7, 4 corner kicks to 0 and more territorial play in the attacking third of the field -- the Vikings held the advantage in the most important category, the scoreline: 1-0.

After a positive halftime team talk, Stanstead opened the second half with greater determination to keep better ball possession. This led to more accurate passes in behind the Viking backline which allowed our forwards to create more threatening scoring chances. On the sideline, the subs and coaching staff began to feel as though it was just a matter of time before we would break through the tough Viking defense and score. Ah, but soccer can be a cruel game at times and this would be such a moment. At the 57-minute mark and totally against the run of play, Stanstead conceded a questionable penalty kick which the MVR forward dispatched with confidence. Now, down 2-0 with 23 minutes to play, our Spartans were really put to the test. It was a truly defining moment in time for our team… in game one of the season! How would we respond to what looked like a mountain to climb?

In what has quickly become a wonderful set of trademark characteristics of this team, we continued to dig in, challenge for every ball, play our system and display great resiliency, as we were determined to give it our all until the final whistle. So, with a collective deep breath and a scan around the field to check in with each teammate, as if to say “we’re okay here”, we kicked off from centre and took our team play up a level. Finally, with 16 minutes left to play, Henry Riddell received a well-played pass from midfielder Gabriel De Santis, turned at the top of the 18-yard box and hammered a shot high into the Viking goal to narrow the margin to 2-1. The ensuing goal celebration and rush to bring the ball back to the centre field kickoff dot signified we were keen on doing this scoring thing again, and soon! After the Viking kickoff, the Spartans swarmed MVR’s defense and pressured every player and every ball with relentless enthusiasm and commitment. We had well and truly turned up our intensity and level of play. This massive team effort forced several turnovers deep in Viking territory and, unquestionably gave the impression there was more in the offing for the visiting team.

Less than two minutes after scoring, MVR fouled just outside the top of their own 18-yard box. Up stepped senior Mauricio “Swiss Army Knife” Lopez, who unleashed a rocket of a shot just below the crossbar and into the roof of the net to knot the score at 2-2.

The Spartans, convinced they could steal the win, piled on more pressure which resulted in a few more quality scoring chances by Riddell, De Santis and Ilunga. In the last minute of play, the Spartans almost won the contest as a clever move just inside the 12-yard area saw our shot hit the bottom of the goal post and spin away in the wrong direction from the goal line. Final score: 2-2. All in all, it was a very strong performance by our boys in red on the day. We understood that the goals we conceded were largely simple mistakes that we can quickly correct and that if we are to be more ruthless in front of the opposing goal, we will be tough to beat this season.

Other positive takeaways…
  • We created 18 goal chances in the second half while limiting MCR to 5.
  • Good collective team pressure resulted in 4 second half corner kicks.
  • We won the second half, 2-1, which proves we are never out of it.
  • Goalkeeper Emanuel Ganz is a tough goalkeeper to beat and his kicking distribution is outstanding.
  • Defensively, Will Towner, Mau Lopez, Chaz Grenier, Beckett Kirstensen and Mason Beasse became tougher to play against as the game wore on.
  • The midfield unit of Matteo Paradis, Luke DeLabruere, Jordan Ilunga, Gabriel De Santis and Josh Lippmann dominated the middle of the park and supplied numerous quality passes to our eager forwards.
  • Our attackers, Frederic Vincent, Henry Riddell, Nico Robillard, Erik Fabian, Jeremiah O’Regan and Shun Hatano created havoc in the Vikings end of the field and were relentless in their pursuit of scoring.
  • Defensive and Offensive Players of the Game, as chosen by players and coaching staff…Defensive POG: Mauricio Lopez…Offensive POG: Jordan Ilunga.
Next up on our ETIAC schedule is our home opener against Bishop’s College School on Monday, September 18 at 4:15pm on Philip Field. Before that, our Spartans host a 4-team, 1-day Stanstead Invitational Tournament on Saturday, September 16th. Details to follow.