Soccer without fans is a different game

Without spectators, the home advantage loses most of its sense

COVID-19 brought all kinds of new protocols and season rearrangements to sports leagues and associations. One of the most drastic changes for those resuming their season amidst the pandemic might be the absence of fans in the stands.

Head coach of both Concordia Stingers soccer teams Greg Sutton said players always want to do well, and having fans to watch them play makes players push themselves harder.

“I think when you add family, friends, or even students in the stands, players want to impress [more],” Sutton said. “It’s only natural, as they simply want to do well in front of others. It makes a difference for sure. It’s also an extra motivation when times are a little bit more challenging.”

Sutton added that he thinks teams playing in front of their own fans have a better chance to win, and that’s something that will never change.

“Let’s think about an important game at the end of a season, in which you know you need the victory,” Sutton said. “You want that big intimidating crowd on your side, not against you. It can be difficult to play visiting stadiums with loud crowds. There’s no such thing as the home crowd advantage. Even if you’re playing in your own stadium, it’s much less of an advantage without fans.”

Concerning the experience of playing inside what we call the “bubble,” which asks team members to avoid contact with anyone outside their team, Sutton said the challenge of playing without fans is even greater for first-year players.

“It’s a lot about the young players, who haven’t really had that experience of playing in front of fans at that level,” Sutton said. “First-year players playing their first games with their team this year … are yet to experience a game with fans of that magnitude. It would be more challenging for them, but of course also for the senior players because it’s much more enjoyable to play in front of your fans.”

Sutton said that playing well in such circumstances also depends on your professional experience. He explained that players who have been on professional teams for long enough understand the level it takes to be successful on a regular basis, even if this time they’re not playing in regular conditions. For the head coach, it’s imperative to find that extra motivation when there’s no fans.


Graphic by Taylor Reddam


Stingers soccer teams play winter seasons with different mindsets

Women’s team looks for consistency while men’s team tries new formation

The Concordia Stingers soccer teams have different objectives for the winter season. Head coach Greg Sutton wants to use the time as a way to prepare for next year and try new formations with his men’s team, while maintaining consistency on the women’s side.

Women’s team

The women’s team finished the fall season sixth in the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ), with a 4-9-1 record. For this winter season, due to injuries and players graduating, they don’t have much depth.

“It’s going to be a challenge, so these girls just have to do the right thing and pass the right message along,” Sutton said. “Even though we might me a bit short-handed, it doesn’t mean they could take a day off.”

The soccer teams each play seven games during the winter season. Photo by Gabe Chevalier.

Sutton was named head coach of the women’s team last July, so this is his first full year of recruiting. He said there are players that will be joining the team in the fall, but aren’t playing with them this winter.

“We have to look at how we’re going to plan with those that are here currently and see how we’re going to integrate those coming in,” Sutton said. “We don’t have all the commitments quite yet, so it’s hard to tell [what] personnel we’re going to have in the fall.”

For the players, these games aren’t about getting results. “For us, our main focus is to just stay fit and keep playing,” said midfielder Alessia Di Sabato on CJLO Sports on Jan. 28. “I think it’s important for us to stick together as a team and keep working out and practising.”

On Jan. 27, the Stingers played the national champion Ottawa Gee-Gees, who don’t compete in their conference in the regular season. They lost 3-0 but Sutton was happy with how the team played. “I thought we managed the game the right way, and I thought we did a pretty good job of that in the first half,” Sutton said. “But it caught up to us in the sense that our depth is not nearly as close to theirs.”

Di Sabato said it’s a challenge to play teams from other conferences because they don’t know what to expect. “All we had heard were that they were national champions,” Di Sabato said. “It’s also cool [to play other teams] because you get to see a different style of play.”

Men’s team

After a one-win season, Sutton knew heading into next year, changes had to be made. “We’re a young team right now, but I think it’s something that will pay off,” Sutton said. “We have a group of good character guys, so it’s about developing some of the younger guys in the leadership roles they need to take forth.”

On the men’s side, a change of formation is a major priority for Sutton. They played with a four-man backline throughout the season, either in a 4-5-1 or 4-4-2 set-up, but this winter, he wants to try something different, with a 3-5-2 formation. It has become more popular in the soccer world after Antonio Conte used it when he was the manager with Juventus and Italy. By taking one defender away, it requires the centre backs to communicate well.

“We have some quality defenders where we could play three in the back,” Sutton added. “We’ve applied pressure up the field and it takes away a little bit of pressure off our back three. It’s a learning curve too in this formation.”

Sutton said he wanted to try the 3-5-2 because it allows his team to control possession and play with an extra attacker. In three games so far this winter season, the Stingers have two shutouts.

Main photo Hannah Ewen.


Sarah Humes is the ideal number nine

Third-year striker looking to score on every opportunity

Forwards in soccer, also called strikers, are recognized for their offensive role and scoring abilities. Sarah Humes is the striker with a great goal-scoring ability on the Concordia Stingers women’s soccer team.

“She’s strong, she’s fast and she’s got great abilities,” said head coach Greg Sutton about Humes. “She’s been someone we have relied on in the season.”

Head coach Greg Sutton said Humes is strong and fast. Photo by Gabe Chevalier.

Midfielder-turned-forward, Humes is in her third year with the team. The Pointe-Claire native played 11 games in her first year with the Stingers as a midfielder, recording one goal. She explained how her coaches saw her in a more offensive role.

“I definitely started my career more as a winger,” Humes said. “Then, I’ve kind of moved to the striker position. I think it’s something that my coaches noticed. I have height and the strength, so I’m able to foil up the defenders. It’s just been a better fit for me.”

For the Stingers’s head coach, Humes’s game style corresponded perfectly to a striker. “Her skillset is around the goal,” Sutton said. “It’s not so much setting players up and keeping position, it’s finishing plays off. I think she’s a typical nine as far as being a big, strong forward. [She] gets around the goal and finishes with her head and with her feet.”

In soccer, the term “typical nine” refers to the traditional striker of the team and is usually given to players in that position. That’s why, this year, Humes is wearing the number-nine shirt rather than the number 12 from the last two seasons.

For Sutton, Humes is more than an ordinary striker. “She’s probably one of the most dangerous strikers in our league,” Sutton said. “She’s an ideal striker.”

In 14 games last season, Humes scored five goals and finished in the top-10 scoring in the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ). This season, the forward had five goals in 14 games, tied for most goals scored on the team.

“I think it’s been a lot harder to find opportunities on net this year,” Humes said. “It’s really important to capitalize when I do get [scoring opportunities]. I think being consistent is important for this team because we don’t necessarily get a lot of chances in every game, so it’s really important to score when you do.”

Sutton said Humes always puts herself in good positions on the field. “She’s a good finisher,” the head coach said. “She will really test the goalkeepers with the chances she will have.”

Humes scored five goals in each of the last two seasons. Photo by Hannah Ewen.

According to the striker, being a student-athlete takes a lot of time and organization, but is something that ends up being beneficial.

“There’s a lot of demands, especially during the fall season,” Humes said. “However, I think it’s actually helpful to have soccer, school and work because it keeps me busy. It doesn’t give me time to waste. I know that I can do my homework as soon as I have free time, and, as soon as I finish practice, I head back to school.”

While going to practice is one of the many tasks she juggles, the forward said it’s the activity she enjoys the most.

“We just had our last practice, and it’s a bit of a sad feeling to know that we won’t see each other every single day, but we know the year is not over,” Humes said on Oct. 18. The Stingers’s season finished Oct. 21.

“It was a year with a lot of changes,” Humes said. “It’s been interesting, but a really fun year.”

Sutton added that the Stingers are pleased with Humes’s dedication. The program hopes to gain more talented players that can help Humes improve her game.

“Her attitude is great and her work is awesome,” Sutton said. “Now we just have to do a good job at surrounding her with some more talent in the next years. Hopefully we can get even more production out of her in that way.”

The Stingers concluded the 2018-19 RSEQ campaign with a 4-9-1 record, in sixth position in the league.

Main photo by Gabe Chevalier. 


Stingers beat Gaiters in Erica Cadieux memorial game

Win allows women’s soccer team to continue fighting for playoff spot

The Concordia Stingers women’s soccer team won the 13th annual Erica Cadieux Memorial game 2-0 Friday night against the Bishop’s Gaiters. Erica Cadieux was a former midfielder on the Concordia Stingers and played for the team from 1992 to 1994. The Stingers have been playing a memorial game in her honor every year since she was killed in a car accident in 2006. 

After the game, players from both teams gathered to give gifts to Cadieux’s widower, Carlo Spadafora, and her two daughters, to be donated to the Montreal Children’s Hospital.

“It was a fun experience, this being my first Erica Cadieux Memorial game,” said head coach Greg Sutton. “Even the men’s team is getting involved in this memorial game now, it’s great.”

“I enjoyed both my experiences playing in the memorial games,” said second-year defender defender Kathleen Evoy. “It is very special to be able to play in.”

Photo by Gabe Chevalier.

The game started with both the Stingers and Gaiters playing a very even game. Both defences were key in keeping it close. It was only in added time at the end of the first half that defender Claudia Asselin got a shot past the Gaiters keeper to change the momentum.   

“My goal at the end of the half helped us play looser in the second half,” Asselin said. The Stingers spent most of the second half in the Gaiters’s side of the field.

The Stingers finally added an insurance goal when Evoy crossed the centre line and blasted a shot over the goalie’s head for her first goal of the season. “I was trying to send it in front so one of the other girls could head it in,” Evoy said. “It was the time of game when you want to get as much as possible on net.”

The Stingers now have a 4-6-1 record with three games remaining in the season. They are in sixth place, four points behind McGill for the final playoff spot.

“The girls remained focused all game which is something that we will need to do to make that last playoff spot,” Sutton said.

The Stingers play away against the Université de Québec à Montréal Citadins, who are a point ahead of them, on Oct. 14.

Main photo by Alex Hutchins.


Greg Sutton is adjusting to a new head coaching role

Master coach sees challenges in charge of both teams

The 2018-19 season marked a new start for Greg Sutton, as he was named the head coach of both Concordia Stingers soccer teams this summer.

Sutton, who had an international career in soccer for 14 years, began coaching the Stingers as an assistant coach for the men’s team in 2011. He was named the head coach in 2013.

“It’s been fun, but challenging as well,” Sutton said on his experience so far. “We knew the challenge going into it. It’s two different teams.”

For Sutton, this new role with the Stingers also represents a new start and new opportunities.

“We have a team that has been built for few years now, under my guidance,” Sutton said. “Now, it’s the women’s side that really is a new start for me and them. It’s all about developing a culture and continuing to grow our team, as we want to get better and better every year.”

Head coach Greg Sutton wants to develop better players for the future. Photo by Hannah Ewen.

According to Sutton, improving the women’s team’s success might be his biggest challenge for the next few years. Developing more talented players is a priority for the future.

“They haven’t been in a great place for the last few years,” Sutton said. “For me, it’s about trying to work on that and get better in that aspect. We understand that it’s not going to happen in one night.”

Sutton adds that there are differences between both programs. The women’s and men’s teams each require their own unique approach.

“There’s a different path that we’re trying to develop for both teams,” Sutton said. “Coaching women and coaching men definitely has differences and we recognize that.”

Sutton also sees the importance of cooperation between men’s and women’s programs, as both teams often work together. “There are a lot of similarities and synergies that we use to develop the kind of programs and the culture behind these stables,” Sutton said.

Success remains something that Sutton focuses on. In fact, seeing the growth of both teams is what Sutton enjoys the most.

“It’s making sure that they’re enjoying their soccer, but also winning games,” Sutton said. “It’s good to see that they are enjoying their soccer. Now, we need to keep that going and that will come with winning games at the same time.”

Just over the midway point of the soccer season, the women’s team has a 2-6-1 record, while the men are 1-6-1. They both play Oct. 4 at McGill.

Main photo by Mackenzie Lad. 


Stingers lose both times in rainy doubleheader

Men’s Game

The Concordia Stingers men’s soccer team were defeated 2-1 by the Université de Laval Rouge et Or at the Concordia Stadium Friday night. A second half dominated by the Rouge et Or cost the Stingers the game.

”We have to show up for more than just one half,” said Stingers head coach Greg Sutton after the game. “We can’t sit back and just watch like we did tonight in the second half.”

Yousef Benali’s goal at the 35-minute mark gave the Stingers a brief lead. The Rouge et Or answered with two goals by Bila Dicko-Raymond and Gino Temguia in the first 16 minutes of the second half and took the game away from the Stingers.

Benali’s goal was probably the only thing to remember from this game, according to Sutton.

“That goal gave us the lead, but we gave up two goals after,” said Sutton. “We were playing a good team tonight, so for sure they will make us pay if we play like we did in the second half.”

The men’s game was also marked by heavy rain. Players had to adjust their game style since there were moments where they could barely see the other end of the field.

“The conditions are the same for both teams,” adds Sutton. “You still need to play your game, no matter the conditions, if you want to win games.”

The Stingers will play the McGill Redmen at home this Sunday.

Concordia’s Zyon Ayodele battles a Rouge et Or player. Photo by Hannah Ewen.

Women’s Game

The Université de Laval Rouge et Or women’s soccer team showed why they are one of the best teams in the country Friday night. The number-four ranked team in U Sports beat the Concordia Stingers 6-2.

“They are a hard team to play against and you have to give them credit for that,” said head coach Sutton about the Rouge et Or. “We’re a team that works hard and that’s a good base to start with, but it’s also about being better in the right moments defensively.”

The Stingers also scored first against the Rouge et Or. However, the Rouge et Or responded with five unanswered goals and took control of the game. Concordia’s Sarah Humes and Laval’s Laurie Couture-Dallaire exchanged late goals in the second half for the 6-2 win.

Most of the goals scored by the Rouge et Or happened on breakaways or when a player was left alone in the box. Laval had numerous scoring opportunities and they capitalized on most of them.

“We have to make sure that we don’t give them the time and space to play the ball through our defense,” said Sutton. “That’s part of trying to get closer to the ball and we’ll have to make some adjustments going into Sunday.”

The Stingers women’s soccer team will also play Sunday against the McGill Martlets.

Main photo by Hannah Ewen. 


Stingers lose soccer doubleheader vs Carabins

Carmen Milne makes 11 saves in loss against ninth-ranked women’s team in Canada /  Yancine Ait Slimane scores lone goal in men’s team loss

Men’s Game

by Alec Brideau

The Concordia Stingers men’s soccer team faced a resilient Université de Montréal Carabins team Friday night. The Carabins scored early in both halves and capitalized on their chances.

“I think that there are moments in a game where you have to capitalize and we had a couple of opportunities in their box, but just couldn’t finish,” said Stingers head coach Greg Sutton. “They won more battles than we did.”

The game was marked by high intensity and physical play. The Stingers received two yellow cards and the Carabins got one; Concordia’s Mateo Zazo and UdeM’s Mouad Ouzane each received red cards.

Despite the loss, Sutton said “it was a good performance.” The Stingers had numerous scoring chances during the game, even hitting the crossbar late in the first half. Unfortunately, they just couldn’t keep the momentum going into the beginning of the second half.

Stingers forward Yacine Ait Slimane scored the lone goal for his team. His performance against the Carabins gave his team a chance to fight until the very last second of the game.

“We’ve been really pleased with the way Yacine has worked and has been committed to his team the right way,” said Sutton about his forward.

Omar Kreim and Frédéric Lajoie-Gravelle scored for the Carabins forty minutes apart.

The Stingers will play the Université de Laval Rouge et Or at home on Sept. 21.

The men’s team fought hard, but couldn’t come back from a two-goal deficit. Photo by Hannah Ewen.
Women’s Game

By Isaiah Martel-Wilson

The Stingers women’s soccer team’s game  the Montréal Carabins on Sept. 14 at the Concordia Stadium posed one of their toughest tests of the season. Montréal, through its first three games, allowed no goals and sat on top of the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) standings with a 2-0-1 record.

Following an injury to one of the Carabins, Rose-Marie Julien, they came back strong. Thanks to a fortunate bounce, Maude Leblanc scored the only goal of the game for the Carabins.

Not deterred by their early struggles, the Stingers maintained their composure. Goalie Carmen Milne made it clear that she was going to keep her team in the game and continued to make key saves for the remainder of the first half.

As the Stingers returned to the field for the second half, their new-found aggression may have been misplaced as it led to a free kick. But as she proved during the first half, Milne blocked the shot, breathing life back into her team.

Their defensive pressure forced the Stingers into coughing up valuable possessions, finally opening up scoring opportunities. This culminated in a one-timer that went wide with under 15 minutes to go. The one-goal loss didn’t hurt the team’s chemistry—it seemed to bring them closer together.

“We’re a hard working team and we showed that we can compete with the number two team in the country,” said head coach Greg Sutton. The Carabins are ranked by U Sports as the ninth-best team in Canada, but second-best team from Quebec.

Milne was forced to make 11 saves in the game and attributes her performance to her team’s constant support. “They stayed behind me, they told me to just keep playing,” she said.

The Stingers’s next game is Sept. 16 at Bishop’s University.

Main photo by Hannah Ewen.


Shannon McFadden is the engine in the midfield

Fourth-year player heading into season as new co-captain

On soccer teams at any level, the defensive midfielder is one of the most important players on the field, acting as the link between the defence and offence. Soccer Training Guide writes, to be a good midfielder, “you will need to encourage your teammates and give them strength to work harder. You must also have enough power to force yourself to work hard.” On the Concordia Stingers women’s soccer team, that player is Shannon McFadden.

“She’s the engine and she turns the wheel,” head coach Greg Sutton said about McFadden. “With her energy, and her defensive responsibility that she takes very strongly, she does very well for our team in the midfield. She’s kind of the glue that binds everyone.”

McFadden, who is in her fourth year with the team, is able to help her team out on both sides of the field, and occasionally likes to join in on the attack.

“When [the other team] is pressuring us, I have to stay back in a more defensive role,” McFadden said. “If I don’t feel that myself, I know Greg and the coaches will tell me as well.”

McFadden was voted by her teammates as co-captain with Courtney Lundell-Streeter. Photo courtesy of Kyran Thicke/Concordia Stingers.

The defensive midfield position is so highly valued because players are constantly running, which is why Sutton called McFadden the engine of the midfield. When asked how important it is to be in good physical condition to play that position, McFadden laughed.

“It’s very important,” McFadden said. “Off-the-field training is just as important as on-the-field training as a midfielder. In the summer you have to be in the gym everyday.” Sutton added that she’s one of the fittest girls on the team.

This year, the players on the women’s soccer team voted McFadden as one of two co-captains for the season. Montreal native, Courtney Lundell-Streeter, is the other co-captain, while Claudia Asselin will be the assistant captain.

“Her experience, her dedication, her leadership and communication, that’s what you need in a captain,” Sutton said about McFadden. “[The players] chose wisely because I think those three came in with the right attitude. They’re committed to doing what we ask of them.”

As captain, McFadden wants to lead by example. “Rather than telling the girls on my team what the expectations are, we have to show them so they realize what’s expected of them,” she said.

McFadden said she wants to always work hard at practice, show up on time and do whatever it takes to make sure her teammates know what to do.

McFadden faced some challenges during her time at Concordia before she was named captain. Native to Kensington, Prince-Edward-Island, a town of just over 1,600 people, she moved to Montreal in 2015 to study history.

“Being from a small town, I wanted to experience living in a big city for a bit, and I thought, ‘Why not have the opportunity to play soccer as well,’” McFadden said. “I have a sister that goes to McGill […] Coming here with only one sister was tough at first.” She moved away from home, having left behind her three other sisters, two half-sisters and four half-brothers (in case you weren’t counting, that’s 10 total).

“In my first year, the first couple of weeks were hard,” the fourth-year player added. “I thought about not coming back. I stuck with it, and I’m happy I did.”

The P.E.I. native also noticed a difference in the level of talent when she came to Quebec. According to Soccer Canada’s 2017 annual report, there are just over 55,000 youth female players in Quebec versus 2,200 in P.E.I. There are also 11,000 coaches in Quebec, compared to just 100 coaches in her home province, so there’s a better chance to develop talent here.

“The game is a lot faster and the girls are a lot bigger,” McFadden said. “That was a bit of a challenge as well.”

McFadden developed through P.E.I.’s youth ranks. She joined the provincial team at the U-13 level, and at 15 years old, played with 17 and 18-year-olds on the provincial team at the 2013 Canada Games. That year, P.E.I. did “better than we’ve ever done,” according to McFadden, finishing ninth out of the 13 provinces and territories.

During her time with the provincial team, McFadden said she was coached by someone who would turn out to be one of her biggest role models in soccer. Glen Miller coached her at the U-13 level, and she is still in contact with him today.

“The philosophy that he instilled in us at a young age is kind of what I still go by today,” she said. The philosophy Miller taught McFadden was to keep calm with the ball, don’t force any passes, and to work hard on and off the ball to help her teammates.

Even though McFadden is still 1,100 kilometres from her hometown of Kensington, P.E.I., she has no regrets about coming to Montreal.

“[Being a Stinger] is part of who I am and it will always be,” McFadden said. “I’m glad I’m here to be a part of something bigger in the school community.”

Main photo courtesy of the Concordia Stingers. 


Sutton begins new era as women’s coach with draw

Men’s soccer team lose season-opener against UQAM

The Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) Citadins kept the Concordia Stingers soccer teams scoreless for three hours of play on Aug. 29. The Stingers women’s team tied the Citadins 0-0, while the men’s side lost 1-0 in the season-opener at Concordia Stadium.

Women’s Soccer

A new era for the women’s soccer team began as Greg Sutton coached his first game in charge of the program. Even with a new coach, the Stingers and Citadins played to the same result as they did last year: a tie. Concordia tied UQAM 2-2 in both games against them last season.

“The biggest thing for me is that we didn’t concede, when last year against this team we conceded twice in both games,” Sutton said. “You don’t lose if you don’t concede, and you give yourself a chance to win.”

Even with a scoreless draw, there were plenty of scoring chances on both sides. The Citadins had the majority of chances, but Stingers keeper Olivia Desgroseilliers made key saves. The Stingers’s defence also played a high line, creating plenty of offside calls against the Citadins, and frustrating their forwards.

“We have a very intelligent back four, “Sutton said. “We really didn’t give up breakaways from poor decisions on the offside trap.”

“Why chase after your opponent when you can just step up and run them offside?” Sutton added.  

Stingers forward Sarah Humes led the attack for her side. She was able to beat the Citadins’s defenders with her strength, and created a few scoring chances. In the second half, she beat the goalie with a low shot, but it hit the post and went wide.

“She will do well for us,” Sutton said about Humes. “She’s strong, she has a knack for goal, so she’s going to be a big piece for us offensively.”

Men’s soccer

Unlike the women’s team, the men weren’t lucky enough to shutout UQAM. This game got more physical than the women’s, with each team getting two yellow cards.

“The first game of every season is always a physical game,” third-year goalie Karl Gouabé said. “You want to send a message to everyone else in the league.”

The Stingers came out strong in the first half, with the forward duo of Simon Malaborsa and Yacine Ait Slimane creating problems for the opposing defence. Malaborsa had a couple of chances, but just didn’t get enough service before he was subbed off in the 65th minute. Sutton said they need to work on getting the ball up to the forwards.

“It’s going to take some time [to improve], and it’s not going to happen overnight,” Sutton said. “We’re just trying to work with our attacking midfielders and wingers to be able to support the forwards.”

Both teams pushed late to win, and it was the Citadins who got the lucky bounce. In the 80th minute, a UQAM cross in the box wasn’t cleared well enough by a Concordia defender, and the ball ended up in the midfield with UQAM in possession. Citadins’s Janouk Charbonneau took a long-range shot which deflected off Mohamed Derouiche, and found the back of the net.

“I think it was an unlucky result, in the sense that it probably should have been a 0-0 game,” the head coach said. “But we didn’t play well either, we are a much better team than we showed.”

The Concordia Stingers soccer teams host the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières Patriotes on Friday Aug. 31 at the Concordia Stadium. The men’s game is at 6:30 p.m., followed by the women’s game at 8:45 p.m.

Main photo by Alex Hutchins.


Preparing for the season months in advance

What the Stingers soccer coaches are looking for during the winter season

After playing in the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) fall season, the Concordia Stingers soccer teams returned to the pitch for the winter season. The teams use the winter season for training, and even though they play seven games against teams in their league, results aren’t a priority for head coaches Jorge Sanchez and Greg Sutton. The Concordian talked to each coach about how they use the winter season to prepare their team for the fall.

Women’s team

The women’s team missed the playoffs by two points in the fall season, finishing in sixth place out of eight teams with a 3-7-4 record. Head coach Jorge Sanchez has the luxury of keeping almost his entire team intact for next season, as only graduating midfielder Alice Grandpierre is certain to leave the team.

“We have a good core of players, so it’s about figuring out who’s good in the system,” Sanchez said. “Towards the end of the season, we discovered how we wanted to play, and we discovered certain tactical changes that worked. […] So it’s just reinforcing it and getting players comfortable with it.”

Madeleine McKenzie prepares to throw the ball in during a game on Feb. 4. Photo by Mackenzie Lad.

Sanchez noted that, even though the winter season is used to prepare for the fall season, he still wants his players to focus on staying competitive by winning.

“Part of the culture at this level is being part of a winning team, and you want to do that by winning games,” he said.

Despite frigid temperatures and a constant reminder that it’s not typical soccer weather outside, Sanchez said players know they need to commit to the Stingers in the winter as much as they do in the fall season.

“When we recruit them, we tell them if they come to Concordia, they will be playing soccer for an entire school year,” Sanchez said. “It’s not an off-season. It’s not a recreational time.”

Men’s team

The men’s team finished in sixth place out of seven teams in the RSEQ with a 3-8-1 record. In November, Sutton told The Concordian the season was marred by injuries, and there wasn’t enough experience on the team to replace the injured players.

In the winter league, he’s looking to play some younger players and players who didn’t compete as much during the fall season.

“We use [the winter season] as a testing ground for some of the guys who didn’t get to play in the fall, to see how they’re growing,” Sutton said. “And for our guys who played a regular role in the fall season, they need to continue to improve.”

During the team’s first three winter games, Sutton said forwards Simon Malaborsa, who led the team in scoring last fall with six goals in 12 matches, and Peter Campbell, who had two goals, have impressed him the most.

“When you have guys who come from the fall and they had a good season, you expect them to do that in the winter, and those two guys have done that,” Sutton said.

The Stingers also have two players on their winter team who didn’t play in the fall. According to Sutton, twins Andres and Martin Lopez had to sit out the season after transferring from the United States, but they will be playing next fall.

“Those two have a great ability on the ball,” Sutton said. “Now, we just need to make them understand what it takes to be successful in our league and the physicality they need to come with.”

So far this season, the men have a 3-0 record, and the women are 2-1. Their next games are on Feb. 11 at the Stingers Dome against McGill.

Main photo by Mackenzie Lad. Video by Matthew Coyte and Antoine Heuillard.


Season marred by injuries, lack of experience

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.

Forward Peter Campbell kicks the ball against the UQAM Citadins during the 2017 season. Photo by Mackenzie Lad.

“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


From MLS goalkeeper to Stingers head coach

Greg Sutton draws on his own experience to guide men’s soccer team over the hump

From playing soccer to coaching it at a university level, Greg Sutton knows what it takes to develop a good soccer player and a good student. The head coach of the Concordia Stingers men’s soccer team combines 13 years of experience playing professional soccer with his experience as a student-athlete to help his players both on and off the field.

Sutton played soccer and basketball at St. Lawrence University in the state of New York before becoming a professional soccer player. The former goalkeeper played with the Montreal Impact from 2001 to 2006, when they played in the A-League and the United Soccer League. He played 132 games with Montreal before joining Major League Soccer (MLS) and played 47 games with Toronto FC and the New York Red Bulls from 2007 to 2012. He retired as a member of the Impact.

During his career in Montreal, Sutton helped out the Stingers as an assistant to former head coach and Impact player Lloyd Barker, and returned to the role after retiring. Sutton was soon promoted to head coach, and he is now set to coach his third season.

“I do not do it for any other reason than I enjoy it,” Sutton said. “I like working with these guys because they all want to learn and become better players.” He also admits that he does not miss the travel required of a professional soccer player, and that he enjoys the time he gets to spend with his family.

Having played soccer for most of his life, the 39-year-old felt like he needed to give back to the soccer community, and did so by coaching.

“I always felt like I wanted to give back to the game” Sutton said. “I believe all pro players that are good people should [coach], because they are the most qualified. That’s how our country is going to grow as a soccer country.”

Outside of Concordia, Sutton is a colour commentator for the MLS on TSN, and has appeared on national broadcasts alongside Luke Wileman. He is also a representative for Umbro, a soccer apparel company, throughout Quebec and Eastern Ontario.

As a former student-athlete himself, Sutton draws on a lot of his personal experiences to help his players grow. Both in school and off the field, he knows what his players go through on a daily basis. Sutton maintains that education is important, but the student-athletes also need to work out their schedule so they can excel on the field.

“I have to be tough on them, I cannot just hold their hand. But at the same time, I want to make sure that I am supporting them in certain way [so] that they are learning,” Sutton said. “Whether it is a mistake on the field or off the field, they are learning from it.”

As a father of two young children, Sutton has not yet dealt with the task of teaching his kids the responsibilities of being a student. As a soccer coach at a university, however, he faces that challenge.

“School is a priority and it is our priority,” Sutton said. “It is a learning curve for me to make [my players] understand the responsibilities of being a student.”

As a goalkeeper, Sutton saw the play differently and is now able to use that knowledge as a Stingers coach. He watched the game unfold in front of him, including when plays were building up or breaking down, and knows the tendencies of both defenders and forwards.

A goalkeeper, like a coach, stands alone most of the game, often barking out orders to the players, so for Sutton, not much has changed.

The former Canadian international soccer player has his own unique way of coaching, but draws on personal experiences from his former coaches on the dos and don’ts.

“You try to create your own identity as a coach,” Sutton said. “I do not try to simulate someone, and I do not try to do what someone did not do.”

Sutton has been growing the university’s soccer program ever since he started. The team improved from a record of 0-7-5 in his first season in 2014 to 3-9-0 last season, scoring four more goals in the process. One of Sutton’s goals was to expand the team’s depth, considering they could play two games per weekend—one on Friday night, and the second on Sunday.

To be a good team in these Friday-Sunday leagues, a team needs depth to carry fresh legs into the second game. Concordia did not win a single game on a Sunday last season, and were beat by a combined score of 7-1 on the three Sundays following their Friday night victories. Sutton believes that may not be the case in 2016.

Sutton expects his team to make the playoffs this season.

“You need to create not just good 11 players, but good 16, 17, 18 players,” Sutton said. “We finally have that [depth] this year. I’ll be able to make 4 to 5 changes on Sunday and our level will stay the same.”

The past year has seen many soccer teams around the world, such as Atlético Madrid, Juventus and Leicester City, defend with 11 men, from the keeper to the striker. Those teams create scoring chances from a strong defensive stance, and at times on the counter-attack.

Sutton has the same principle when it comes to the Stingers, but to say he will employ the same tactics as managers like Diego Simeone, Max Allegri and Claudio Ranieri is a stretch. He still is a defence-first coach.

“I’m a stickler about defence. If we do not get a shutout, I’m not as satisfied,” Sutton said. “Our defence will create opportunities for us offensively. On a whole, every player has a defensive responsibility, but not everybody is responsible on offence.”

Considering the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) hosts two of the top 10 teams in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS), UQAM and Montreal, the Stingers play in a tough conference but feel prepared for the challenge. Sutton feels he has a strong team on the field.

“We have a midfielder who is an all-star already, in my opinion,” Sutton said. “We have some quality in all our positions, and now we have some really good quality in certain important positions.”

When asked about the expectations for the Stingers this season, Sutton was not afraid to set the bar high.

“If we do not make the playoffs this year, I’ll be disappointed,” he said.

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