MONTREAL, QC – There might not be a more significant night in conference university action than Friday night in Montreal. The Laval Rouge et Or make their way to the Island of Montreal to take on the Montreal Carabins for the RSEQ Championship Final.
A historic rivalry. A trophy on the line. Sport does not get much better than that.
The Carabins are out for revenge from 2019
The Montreal Carabins come into the match as the defending RSEQ Champions. However, the 2021 season is hyper-focused on the National Championships.
In 2019, the Carabins won the RSEQ title against UQTR but fell in the U SPORTS National Championship Final on their home pitch to the same pesky UQTR side. With a core remaining from that 2019 final, they want to make sure they give themselves the best chance at winning U SPORTS, and winning the RSEQ would help significantly.
Headlined by 2021 Canadian Premier League midfielder Kareem Sow, who spent time with the HFX Wanderers, Head Coach Pat Raimono’s side exquisitely dominated their opponents in the regular season.
Although their record was a game worse than in 2019, the Carabins look to be a stronger team than they were in the past. Not only did Sow play well for them in the middle of the park, but striker Guy-Frank Essomè Penda improved his level to score seven goals and two assists. While his actual tally might not be blistering, the 26-year-old has influenced the game in every area of the pitch.
Felix Goulet has treated the Carabins to superb goaltending over his nine matches, only allowing five goals while making 34 stops between the sticks. Despite not facing anywhere near the number of shots as some of the weaker teams, the fifth-year goalkeeper has shown his ability to make crucial saves when needed.
How can they beat Laval?
Montreal will have to be at their best in front of their home crowd if they want to beat the Laval Rouge et Or, who finished with the same numbers of points, 27, and only sit second seed on tiebreakers.
While Laval may not boast the same level of Canadian top-flight talent as the Carabins, they have attacked this season with a team mentality, with every player on the roster playing a significant role.
Heikel Jarras will undoubtedly torment his former university team, wearing red and gold rather than Carabins blue. After a successful 2017 season, Jarras went on to play in the USL, playing 21 matches with CF Montreal’s now-defunct development team, FC Montreal. At 25-years-old, the Quebec City-born midfielder scored a team-leading six goals and added four assists. As a result, he will find himself battling for the ball in the midfield with Montreal’s Sow, and the winner of that battle could very well win the match.
Although Jarras is an integral player, the Rouge et Or have three players in the Top 10 for attacking production, with Jeremy Ménard leading the attack and playing off of Jarras. Wassim Chaouki is also an attacking threat, using his six-foot frame to win battles and score goals, as he did to lead the Rouge et Or to the final.
To get by Laval, the Carabins will have to keep the ball with their attacking players; it’s easier said than done, but the qualities of Essomé-Penda, Sow and others out-perform most opponents in the RSEQ if the Carabins are hemmed into their end, the final shifts into Laval’s favour.
A Heated Rivalry
There is no doubt that this match will have some cards and a robust officiating presence. With massive support on both sides, over 1000+ fans are expected at the game, which is played at the same time as the Canadian Men’s National Team plays a World Cup Qualifier.
Laval had to play extra-time against 2019 National Champion UQTR in the semi-final, and they managed to win that match win just 10-men after a red card. The visitor’s blood is boiling heading into the match, and the draw of disappointing an opponent’s fans could be blood in the water for Laval.
How can you watch?
The RSEQ Final will be streamed for free on YouTube, starting with the women’s match at 6:00 pm ET and followed by the men’s final at 8:00 pm ET.