The fall semester is right around the corner. For Stingers enthusiasts, this means your favourite university sports are back and better than ever. As the regular season approaches, the Stingers Men’s Soccer team is looking to improve on last year’s results.
The Stingers kick off their season on September 6 with a tough trip to last season’s champions, Université de Montreal. Concordia lost both matches to Montreal in 2011, losing 3-1, and again 4-0 at Concordia Stadium.
Prior to the first match, Stingers Head Coach Lloyd Barker has only three weeks of pre-season to prepare his squad for the upcoming year. In accordance with league rules, teams can only return to action in mid-August.
During the three week build-up to the season, Barker hopes to play around four or five exhibitions against CEGEPs, AAA teams and other Universities. An estimated 50 hopefuls will try-out for the Maroon-and-Gold, but the final squad will only consist of 23 players.
“We’ve got a few new players coming in,” Barker said. “We’ve got the nucleus coming back and we’re not losing many, we only lost two to graduation.”
The two players leaving the squad are forward, Alfred Moody, and mid-fielder, Ali Nafii. Moody played in every single match last season and finished with three goals. Nafii made three appearances during the year.
Out of the returning players, Barker confirmed leading goal-scorer, Karim Haroun, will be returning to camp in August. Haroun led the Stingers with five goals, which was good enough to make him tied for second in the league.
In terms of additions, forward Andrew Bryan looks to be joining the Stingers. Bryan currently plays in the same Division One AAA league as Haroun, except he represents Lakeshore. Bryan is averaging nearly a goal per game so far. Barker believes Bryan will be a key addition to solve the team’s problems up front.
Last season, Concordia scored only 15 goals, tied for second last with UQAM. Only University de Sherbrooke scored fewer goals. They managed to find the net a woeful four times. To make matters worse for the Stingers, six of their 15 goals came from forfeits. A forfeited game results in an automatic three-nil win.
Defense has also been a problem for the Stingers in the past. Last season Concordia conceded a league high 29 goals. That’s an average of 2.42 goals against, every match. Barker, who spent some time playing as a defender for the Montreal Impact in the past, believes minimizing mistakes at the back will give the team a better chance of getting results.
“We have to do a better job of playing to our potential,” he explained. “This year, we expect a little bit more maturity from the returning guys and a better understanding of what we are trying to do defensively. Hopefully that will be the ingredient to staying in the game.”
Coach Barker also said that the team’s lack of success has had a notable impact on Stinger spirit. It’s his hope that a winning streak might draw people back into the seats.
“I tell my players, don’t expect fans to come until we start winning games,” Barker said. “Everybody loves sports, but the enthusiasm is a lot higher when you are winning. I would love to see games with a good amount of fans and games where support is strong. Everything starts with winning.”
Since being named Stringers Head Coach in 2007, Barker is still tweaking things and learning about his squad.
“Each year I learn something different,” he said. “As far as practices, I’ve learned to tinker the times so we could get a good attendance. I’m still developing the art of adapting to exam schedule.”
To summarize what went wrong in 2011, Barker says the team was inconsistent in front of goal. Last minute goals crushed the Stingers last year and being able to stay focused the entire 90 minutes will be key for the team.
Making the playoffs is a reasonable objective for the Stingers. Despite struggles in 2011, Concordia only missed the playoffs by seven points. They finished with three wins, eight losses and one draw. In a league with seven teams, the top four in the standings move on to the playoffs in November.
Following the first match against Université de Montreal on September 6, the Stingers will return to Concordia for its home opener on September 9 against Université de Trois-Rivieres.