U Sports Men’s Soccer: A look at the Western flavour on display at National Championships

After they both reached the finals of the Canada West Men’s Soccer this past weekend, it meant that UBC and University of Calgary earned a spot at next week’s National Championships, which will be held in Montreal. After surviving a pair of tense semi-final matches, as Calgary staved off Mount Royal, while UBC cruised past Saskatchawan, they now find themselves at the end of the 2019 USports Soccer road. 

UBC will be counted upon as one of the favourites in this year’s tournament, entering play with a 10-2-3 record, which isn’t among the best, but it is solid nonetheless. Considering that they got hot late in the season, winning 6 of their past 7 games (including playoffs) to make the tournament, they fly to Montreal in perfect form. 

Led by Victory Shumbusho, who paces the squad with a staggering 11 goals, more than double his next teammate, they’ll be expected to score a couple of goals each game. Shumbusho, in particular, has been turning heads, as the former Victoria Highlander has carried over the lessons learned in this year’s USL League 2 season to USports quite nicely. 

“It’s great, I told you last night that this program is about lifting trophies and banners,” UBC head coach Mike Mosher told UBC’s Stu Walters. “I told the boys before the game this is their opportunity for their own little bit of history in winning a Canada West championship.”

He later added: “Victory is a big game player, he always shows up in playoff games and I’m pleased for him. In the second half, their goalkeeper made quite a few good saves and credit to him.”

UBC’s depth goes much further than just Shumbusho, however, as they can count on several other USL League 2 prospects, including Thomas Gardner, Jackson Farmer, Jordan Haynes and more. Haynes has been putting up strong performances at left back all year with the TSS Rovers (USL2), and he has continued that into the UBC season, while Gardner remains an imposing midfield presence for the Thunderbirds. 

https://twitter.com/ubctbirds/status/1190477673891368962

Against the high-flying offences of York, Carleton, Montreal and Cape Breton, UBC are going to need both Gardner and Haynes, as well as centre back Farmer, to mop up some of the danger in front of goalkeeper Jason Roberts. After keeping 3 clean sheets at the Canada West tournament, that shouldn’t be a problem, but it’ll need to continue to ensure success against the swashbuckling teams from out East. 

Across the Rocky Mountains, is Calgary, who will join UBC in making the trek to Montreal. Unlike UBC, however, they’ll just be hoping to get anything out of this tournament, as they enter the field as the only unranked side. As seen by their narrow 2-0 loss to UBC in the final, they can hang with the big teams, but they’ll have to do so against some top opposition, as they face the second-highest offensive team in Cape Breton during the quarters. 

So to do that, they’ll need some stout defence, and timely goals. While both their goals for and against ranks as the lowest among the 8 teams participating, they have a balanced attack, led by Dominick Zuczek and Derek Brust (5 goals apiece), and can count on Jake Ruschkowski to lock down the fort in the back. They’ve only conceded 3 goals in their last 4 games, and beat tough Trinity Western and Mount Royal sides to qualify for the dance. 

Along with a strong Calgary Foothills (USLL2) influence in their squad, giving them some good experience heading into this year, they can certainly fancy themselves to nick a game. Given that the Foothills were the only Canadian USL League 2 team to make the playoffs, having some of that big-game experience will help Calgary, as they look to pull off the unlikely with a tournament win. 

The championships will get going this Thursday in Montreal, as all 8 teams will commence their tournaments with the start of quarter-final play. Calgary will take on a very tough Cape Breton side, one that will require a more than perfect performance to win, while UBC will take on a fairly-matched UQTR side. With one of the eight teams looking to leave as National Champions, as well as the second-ever USports Canadian Premier League draft coming after the conclusion of the tournament, it promises to be a good weekend for Canadian USports Soccer. 

Cover Photo Courtesy of Bob Frid Images/UBC

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