Confidence crushed after 0-3 start to the season, coach Sutton says
“It was difficult from a mental standpoint,” said Greg Sutton, head coach of the Concordia Stingers men’s soccer team, about the 2017 season. “I don’t think we were mentally strong enough after the start of the season to be able to get past [a 0-3 start].”
The Concordia Stingers finished the 2017 season in sixth place out of seven teams in the Réseau du sport étudiant du Quebec (RSEQ), with a 3-8-1 record. Two of the team’s three wins were against the league’s lowest-ranked team, the Sherbrooke Vert et Or.
According to coach Sutton, a mix of inexperience and injuries led to the disappointing season. Sutton said he and the rest of the coaching staff initially believed the season would end with the Stingers making a run for the playoffs.
The Stingers began the season with a series of games against the Université de Québec à Montréal Citadins, Laval Rouge et Or and the Université de Montréal Carabins. Those teams finished in the top three places in the RSEQ. The Stingers lost all three of those opening games, scoring three goals and allowing nine.
While the team missed the playoffs for a fourth-straight season, Sutton said he believes their record this year didn’t reflect their quality of play.
“We lost a lot of confidence starting the season 0-3,” Sutton said. “That can play with the boys’ minds. After that third game, we had to dig deep. We put together a few wins. We had some good performances, and we had some immature performances.”
Injuries to key players, such as defenders Corentin Aussems (fractured ankle) and Mateo Zazo (anterior cruciate ligament injury), early in the season forced the team to rely on younger, more inexperienced players.
“When [we lost] Aussems and Zazo […] we knew we were going to have a challenge defensively and offensively,” the coach said. “A lot of the [play] starts from the defenders and their ability to move the ball. Those guys have an [offensive] quality that not many of our other defenders have. These were injuries to not only good-quality players, but also quality leaders.”
Sutton said rookie striker Simon Malaborsa, who finished as runner-up for RSEQ rookie of the year, as well as midfielder Henry Barutciski and defender Philippe Audy, all played well throughout the season. Malaborsa scored six times this season, accounting for nearly half of the team’s 13 total goals.
“We had some players that we were really high on, and had expectations for them to be significant parts of our team, and for some reason just couldn’t handle the pressure or just couldn’t handle the strain of being a student-athlete,” Sutton said. “I can’t really say who because there were too many, unfortunately. As much as this game is physical, it’s also mental.”
Moving forward next season, Sutton said he believes the team’s success will come from staying healthy and getting the most out of key players. He’s optimistic that, with the growth and development of younger players, the team can bounce back next season. He added that the team’s goalkeepers, Karl Gouabé and Cameron Rae, are the two best keepers in the country when healthy.
“A lot of things you just can’t control,” Sutton said. “It just really seemed like luck wasn’t on our side this year.”
Main photo by Alex Hutchins