Imagine letting the provincial championship title just barely slip through your fingers. Now imagine your team, despite losing, is still in contention for the National title. Crazy, huh?
Well, this is exactly the position the Concordia men’s soccer team find themselves in after narrowly dropping their provincial final match to the Montreal Carabins by a 1-0 score on Sunday night.
What makes the outcome so unfortunate, apart from the final score, is that the Stingers could have very well come away with a win.
However, between giving up a goal in the game’s eighth minute and having a virtually non-existent offence in the first half, the Stingers were never able to fully catch up to their early ineptitudes. “We looked overwhelmed in the first half,” Head Coach Vladimir Pavlicik said. “We just lost to a better team today.”
The early moments of the game, and many more after that, were evidence that MontrEal had come ready to play with their best game.
It might have been they were vengeful after losing their last game to the Stingers 3-0 or maybe they wanted to send a message that they will be a force to be reckoned with as they get set to host the Nationals. For whatever reason the caliber of play wasn’t even in the same atmosphere as Concordia got pounded for 45 minutes.
The opening and ultimately game-winning goal was scored by Julien de la Riera off what was an appalling defensive giveaway deep in the Concordia end.
After an unsuccessful clearing attempt, the Stingers got caught in an odd man situation where de la Riera received a pass that left him all alone to roof a shot over keeper Steve McCauley.
Any hopes that the early letdown would wake-up the offence were quickly dashed as play settled into a deep lull.
MontrEal hardly allowed the Maroon and Gold to penetrate their zone while they themselves were unable to finish off a slew of good scoring chances.
The Stingers were also living dangerously on turnovers as McCauley nearly coughed up the ball at one point. Then a Concordia throw-in nearly backfired when the play immediately came back deep into their zone.
About five minutes into the second half it was the Maroon and Gold putting in a far more determined effort.
Along with the improved attack, Concordia earned one of their best chances when Ryan McDonnel, uncovered at the time, received a pass at the right side, about 20 yards away from the goal. Unfortunately he fanned on the shot.
Nicolas Jonard was also a strong force on the Stingers’ offence as he let off a series of long-range shots that challenged the MontrEal keeper’s abilities.
Despite the impressive effort, Concordia wouldn’t be able to capitalize on their late chances and will now prepare for the start of the tournament on Thursday.
In light of what Pavlicik called a hiccup describing the game’s only goal, he is confident the Stingers will be able to get their game together for the Nationals. “Now we have to get ready and hopefully we’ll be celebrating on the weekend.”
Note: The last time the Stingers made it to the Nationals was in 1992. The last time they won it was 1976.