The university sports season has started and not many may have noticed. Across U Sports, the fall sports have hit the ground running with their opening weekend matches.
Soccer took the main stage on the opening weekend, with many of the matches across Canada being the hosts for their various homecoming events. While the beautiful game kicked off coast to coast, it was nowhere more evident than it was in Toronto and it’s surrounding areas.
The Ryerson Rams, the true downtown school saw their Mens side travel to Kingston this weekend to take on both the Queen’s Gaels and the Royal Military College Paladin to kick off their 2019 campaign
Ryerson, faced with the challenges of replacing six graduating players; kicked off their season as an unknown quality within the Ontario university circuit. A young team, with little Usports experience, was expected to be hit with the harsh realities of university soccer, but they showed up to the task at hand on opening weekend.
With all the departing seniors, the Rams could have gone one of two directions this offseaosn.
Bring in older players, with the hopes of being better in the here and now
Or Bring in true freshman who can be bred for future success, and maybe surprise in 2019
The Ram’s recruitment and coaching staff opted for the latter and enjoyed the fruits of their labours with two wins on opening weekend.
Antony Curic, Luca Di Marco, Aryan Hakim, and Henrique Rodrigues have come in to refresh the team’s offensive force and fill the gaps that were left for the departing seniors. Although there was an abundance of new faces, Ryerson is still relying on their remaining veterans such as their captain Abdallah El-Chanti and fourth-year goalkeeper Ali Ghazanfari to guide their young core, to hopefully a first-ever U Sports championships appearance, a tournament which this year is being held in Montreal
Prior to the season in an interview with The Eyeopener, head coach Filip Prostan explained what he sees in his group this season, saying “We’ve got some of the recipes [for a championship contender], now with good fortune and good luck, maybe the ghosts of the final four past will even out this year.”
One could assume that luck will have to play a big role in the Rams 2019 success especially considering their unmatched roster turnover.
The opening weekend could not have gone any better for the young side, who are coming back to Dundas square with six points in their back pocket.
Ryerson’s first victim of the season was that of Queens Gaels, who in front of their home fans failed to deliver any sort of inspirational football. Ryerson dismatled the Gaels 4-1 en route to their first victory of the year.
It was veteran leadership which opened the scoring for the Rams less than 10 minutes into the game, with El-Chanti rekindling his scoring prowess to give the visitors a 1-0 lead in the sixth minute.
El-Chanti’s experience was complimented with the other end of the age spectrum, as first-year Manzoor Afzaly converted a penalty kick in the 13th, giving a Ryerson a very fast two-goal lead.
Queen’s got their only goal of the day near the end of the first half, with Jason Choo finishing a wonderfully worked cross to cut the Ram’s lead in half and bring the Gaels within striking distance of a result.
At the half, the Ram’s led by one, and things only got better for the Torontonians. Ryerson added an additional pair of goals to secure the 4-1 victory in the opener, and hand the Gaels their first loss of the season.
After the opening match, the Rams were full of confidence as they head into their Sunday matchup against a much weaker RMC Paladin side.
So, the Queen’s match was a blowout. Lessons learned, things to build on.
And built on things they did. Ryerson defeated the Paladin 5-1 launching themselves to first place in OUA East after two games this season.
Goals from every position contributed to the victory, as the Ram’s cruised to an easy second consecutive win.
The lone goal by the Paladin was scored by one of the few non-Ontario based players in the league. Vancouver Island native Liam Chambers scored the single goal, and as one of the rare BC born players in the OUA, he has put his name on the map early in the season.
Overall, after two games the Ryerson Ram’s leave Kingston more than happy and have set themselves up nicely for the season to come. Now in first and nine goals scored through two games, Ryerson returns home for their home opener on September 7th to face Queens yet again, and will surely be met with a re-invigorated Gaels side looking for revenge.