OTTAWA, ON – If there was ever a game that neither team would ever have wanted to play in, it was the Friday evening clash between the Laval Rouge et Or and the UBC Thunderbirds in Consolation Semifinal number two at the 2021 U SPORTS Men’s Soccer Championships.
To be fair to both teams, trying to re-invigorate yourself for the consolation round after a quarterfinal loss is difficult, but after the tough way each team fell on Thursday night, being disappointed would be understandable
The Laval Rouge et Or looked to be about to pull off a possible miracle in upsetting the five-time defending AUS champion Cape Breton Capers after coming back from being down 2-0 in the 74th minute. A 117th-minute brace from Kairo Coore ended the Rouge et Or titles hopes with a 3-2 loss.
The Thunderbirds faced a different kind of disappointment. Riding the wave of their Canada West title, the team from Vancouver started with a quick 2-0 lead over the host Carleton Ravens only to see that lead evaporate in less than 10 minutes before they eventually fell in penalty kicks.
It was a disappointing circumstance, but neither team left Friday’s match thinking it was a disappointing result.
As the sun fell on The Ravens Perch in Ottawa, it was Laval who got what would eventually be a barnburner of a game going in the 23rd minute when a Heikel Jarras corner connected with the head of Doryan Soualem who buried it to make it 1-0 for Laval.
“UBC was a bit tired. It’s just part of the game,” Jarras said.
The Thunderbirds and Rouge et Or would hold at 1-0 until half-time when with really nothing left to lose for either team, the floodgates opened up, and the fun began.
“That was the message—have fun with your soccer. Don’t worry about the scoreline, don’t worry about the results. Just enjoy yourself.” UBC forward Mackenzie Cole said.
Just four minutes into the second half, a cross into the box found UBC’s Tristan Nkoghe, who struck it home to tie the game at 1-1. Barely 120 seconds later, a spectacular cross-field pass from Gonzalo Misol found Wassim Chaouki, who slotted it home to give Laval a 2-1 lead. Four minutes later, a Sebastian Dizikowski cross hit Markus Kaiser, who deflected it up and off the left post to make it 2-2.
Three goals in barely six minutes, a low-stakes game suddenly turned fun.
“It’s kind of almost therapeutic to go out there and play again and just have fun and enjoy it,” Cole said.
In the 66th minute, it was Wassim Chaouki converting again, this time stealing the bouncing ball from the UBC keeper before slotting it home to give Laval the lead.
Baptiste Toussaint added an insurance goal in the 80th minute, and that was it. On Saturday morning, the Laval Rouge et Or move on to the U SPORTS Men’s Soccer fifth-place game against the Victoria Vikes.
For the UBC Thunderbirds, a program that always holds high expectations of themselves, it’s a chance to reflect on what was indeed a strange year. A 4-2-6 record, with one of those losses being a 5-1 defeat to Fraser Valley, but at the end, a Canada West Gold Medal to show for it. On the national stage, the game provided the opportunity to learn from mistakes for a team expected to be at Hillside Stadium at Thompson Rivers in 2022.
“It’s the little things that get you over the line, and experience is everything. Hopefully, we gained that in today’s game and can use it going forward.” Cole said.
As for Laval, they earn the right to play one more game at the 2021 National Championship. For a program only in the final eight for the first time since 2013, just like UBC, the weekend offered experience and opportunities to learn.
For the Laval, the reason is different, though. The Rouge et Or are not a veteran U SPORTS nationals team doing a post-mortem; instead, the Rouge et Or are showing potentially when the tournament moves to BC in 2022, the Red and Gold might just be getting started.
COVER: Marc Lafleur/U SPORTS