Hamilton, ON- The McMaster Marauders men’s soccer team didn’t have to wait long to face an early season tough opponent.
After a win and a loss to start the season against the Western Mustangs, McMaster faced off against the defending OUA champion Guelph Gryphons in a home-and-home series.
It would be a good early season showing of where the Marauders stood against elite OUA teams. On Sept. 9 in Guelph, the Marauders jumped out to an early lead thanks to a goal by forward Ed Bryan Florent.
They outshot Guelph 4-3 in the first half before Guelph outshot them 6-3 in the second half. The Gryphons found their equalizer through a goal by striker Leo Shrimpton. The goal was sandwiched between two yellow cards by Shrimpton.
The McMaster attack was led by Bryan Florent and fellow forwards Amir Shirazi, Miles Green and Sachin Sargeant – who each notched a shot on goal. Green had three shots total.
“I thought it was a good performance for the most part,” Marauders defender Sam Richardson noted. “We could have reacted better to when they went down to 10 men and we could have taken that opportunity but overall a draw at Guelph is always a good result so we were positive.”
The Marauders carried their attacking play into their home game against Guelph on Sept. 11. McMaster created chances early and often, including a few shots inside the box. They outshot the visitors 12-5 in the first half but couldn’t find that finishing touch.
“A lot of strength lie in our front three,” Richardson said. “I think in the first half, we did a good job of winning the ball high up and stopping Guelph from playing out back and then getting the ball into our three talented players up top.”
Bryan Florent and Sargeant each had two shots on goal while Green led all players with six. “On another day, we’re getting two goals in that first half but today, they hit the crossbar, it just didn’t happen,” Richardson noted.
Things changed in the second half as fourth-year defender Ahmad Mansour was sent off at halftime. Richardson said McMaster was caught off guard and had to change their tactics after going down to 10 men.
“We were a bit more exposed and Guelph went into the half with confidence,” he added. “They played well, moved the ball around and they got their chances and scored them.”
The Gryphons didn’t wait long to capitalize as Peyton Ferdinand found Malek Aborig in the 46th minute for the opening goal. Guelph was now creating more chances, controlling the ball and pushing for a second goal.
They found one as a Guelph player was fouled inside the penalty box. Colin Gander slotted home the penalty kick into the corner of the net, past the diving hands of McMaster goalie Jonathan Vaughan.
The Marauders created some final chances but couldn’t finish as the game ended 2-0.
Despite the result, the games were a test for a McMaster team that lost to Carleton in the playoff last season. “We learned that we can be as good as them,” Richardson said. “We played to their level so we learned that we’re good enough and that to set the highest standards we can.”
Growth is something Richardson and the team has gone through. For the team, it’s learning under a new head coach as former assistant Chris Markou takes over for long-time head coach Dino Perri. Richardson said they’re learning Markou’s way of coaching and how he wants them to play.
“Change is always a time for opportunity,” Richardson noted. “When you have change, you have different people who can step up and different opportunities you can learn from.”
Richardson’s entering his fourth year at McMaster and third year of eligibility. He said he’s grown as a leader – “someone’s who able to impose themselves on a group of guys, which is not always easy,” according to him.
He’s grown with his confidence to play and compete with opposing strikers. It’s grown from game time. “Learning what works, what doesn’t work,” he pointed out. “When you make a mistake, think back to why that happened and not getting too frustrated out of it. Going the next day and trying to learn every day.”
Richardson said the focus is on moving past this loss and winning the upcoming games. “We had four tougher games to start and now it’s time to start getting points and get points quickly so we can make we finish as high as we can,” he said.
Featured Image: Myra Whitfield/McMaster Athletics