The Concordia Stingers men’s soccer squad has kicked off their indoor league season
Despite the cold temperatures, the Concordia Stingers men’s soccer team stays warm all winter long. This is because they have an advantage not many other universities have—they can practice all season long.
For head coach Greg Sutton, the Stingers Dome offers the soccer team a home-field advantage like no other.
“It’s awesome, and I think that’s a huge advantage for our program. There’s not too many in our conference that have the facility at their door step,” Sutton said.
Only the Laval Rouge et Or have an indoor field, while all the other universities have to rent indoor stadiums for practices.
The team’s first-string goalie, Karl Gouabé, said the Stingers have an edge over rivals because of the indoor field in their own backyard.
“We train three [times a week], while McGill could only do it once or twice because they have to rent a place, so that’s a major advantage,” Gouabé said.
The men’s soccer team competes in the Réseau de sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) indoor soccer season during the winter. Although the winter season only consists of seven regular season games, it lasts for nearly three months.
For Gouabé, the indoor season isn’t about getting results, but rather preparing for next year.
“The big league is the fall season, so the winter season is kind of pre-season,” Gouabé said. “The result is not as important.”
Sutton has the same opinion of the winter league, but still wants his players to play hard in games.
“We always want to win,” Sutton said. “I think [the winter league] is very competitive.”
For the head coach, the winter league presents an opportunity to evaluate players who didn’t play as much in the regular season. With nearly 30 players on the roster and a regular season consisting of only 12 games, not all team members get a chance to play.
Along with that, the indoor season allows the team to play together all year long.
“It’s great for us,” Sutton added. “One, for the team trying to continue to grow as a unit, then secondly, we could start to give some opportunities to guys who didn’t see as many minutes in the fall.”
Samuel Pelletier, the team’s third-string goalkeeper, benefits from the added playing time. He said it allows the body to keep in tune with the motions and the feel of the game.
“It’s pretty important just to keep in touch with the ball, and stay in chemistry with your team,” Pelletier said.
Sutton also has the opportunity to introduce new recruits to their future teammates and opponents in this league. The head coach added some players to the roster, one of whom was selected during the school’s open tryouts. Although he expects more players to arrive only next summer because of the flow of the academic calendar, he said the new players benefit from the indoor league.
“We were able to bring in three new guys, and get them in the fold,” Sutton said. “When we get them in the fall, it won’t be new to them.”
Gouabé also appreciates the fact that he could meet his future—or potential future—comrades in the winter.
“[The winter league] helps us with assessing new players for next year. A lot of the guys are going to be on a long-term tryout,” Gouabé said. “That’s the importance of an indoor league.”
Playing as a team all year long also enables them to improve on their recurring problems throughout the fall season. The Stingers went 4-6-2, finishing seventh in the RSEQ, but only three points out of the playoffs. Four of those losses were one-goal losses, including a 3-2 defeat at home against the Université de Québec à Montréal Citadins, in which Concordia blew a 2-1 lead in the final five minutes.
A better showing in those close losses could have put the Stingers in a playoff position.
“If you look back at our fall season, we had some great performances and we laid some eggs,” Sutton said. “It’s about consistency, and I think that’s the most important factor from year to year.”
The head coach’s aim to improve every year is evident, as the Stingers have been on a rise since he took over in 2014. They went 0-7-5 in his first season, and 3-9-0 in 2015. Sutton has a simple key to success he looks for in his players during the indoor season.
“You’re only as good as your abilities could take you, but you [have] to have that extra motivation, that extra work rate in order to be successful consistently,” Sutton said. “That’s our message to our guys—you’re all good players, but you’re not great players unless you’re working hard.”
Pelletier believes the Stingers Dome helps in that regard.
“When you play all year, you’re always going to get better,” he said.
In the team’s first indoor game, they lost 5-2 against the Université de Québec à Trois-Rivières Patriotes.
Their next game will be on Feb. 5 at 3 p.m. in the Stingers Dome against UQAM.