TORONTO, ONT – It’s a wonderful time of the year. The air has become a bit cooler (albeit the first weekend of September said otherwise in Toronto) and crisp yet not frightening; it’s a new type of season and feeling both in nature and in life for many student-athletes across the OUA. A new start, one that can always promise hope and prosperity – at the end of the road – if you work hard enough.
As OUA soccer began this weekend, we saw drama, on and off the pitch, for good and bad reasons. Regardless, plenty of former professional or semi-pro talent is back in the OUA and has made for some great contests. Since it is just week one, not all programs look like they’re at their strongest; we’ll see who is the real deal in the coming weeks.
In the meantime, here’s your guide to the past weekend’s action in OUA men’s soccer. This will be a weekly series, so stay tuned for more, and make sure to check out AC Lang’s articles about OUA women’s footy.
Match of the Week: York Lions 2-1 Laurier Golden Hawks (Sunday)
Learning from the mistakes made by the women’s team earlier on Sunday, who suffered a late goal that split the points, the York Lions men saw out a victory with little scares in the latter stages of the match, dismantling the Laurier Golden Hawks 2-1.
It certainly felt as though the times Laurier was let back into the match, it was by way of the Lions letting them do so. Late on it was York parking the bus, and not pushing a third, in many ways taking on the strategy Laurier had deployed for most of the contest. To open the second half, the Golden Hawks had some great offensive looks and long spells of possession. However, Laurier kept not taking their chances, and York settled right back into it on the ball.
At this point, they’d sucked most of the air out of the visitors. Leonardo Takahashi made some great presses in midfield, and the 4-1-4-1 formation for Laurier kept York’s defenders on their toes, but if nobody was joining Adriano Colangelo and the strike force, any promising plays quickly went to waste.
York’s centre-back duo, Frank Ross Di Matteo and Chris Melino, had to be frantic at times but played out of the back well enough. York might be unhappy they didn’t move very quickly nor look fully convincing, particularly in midfield, but they did advance the ball enough and really, it was the offence that clicked more than anything.
There are little things you can pick out, like Pedro Aparicio opting for long-range glory shots rather than short through-balls, but they put it all together for at least a couple of moments. A front two of Tyler Attardo and Ronaldo Marshall had the ball flung at them from distance many times in the first half, whereas in the second half, York favoured interplay and tiki-taka football instead of long balls. Once Marshall went off, the new offensive strategy was fully implemented, and York added another number up top.
They started crowding the box more, and Attardo’s go-ahead winner, his first in OUA play, was a great example of it: coming in from out wide, joining plenty of teammates locking horns with Laurier defenders, providing the aerial space for Attardo to get on the end of a beautiful cross by Gianluca Condello. He flipped a switch to just get to that ball, recovering after nearly going out of play. Luckily for York, none of their players hesitated in staying on the same line as Condello.
As opposed to York attacking from all channels with plenty of intensity, Laurier often tried to find Andra Neptune, who assisted in setting up Colangelo’s beautiful finish. The fullback was always making the right moves, and he was very trusted by his teammates.
Ultimately, York didn’t let Laurier get to the point of having too much possession or too many chances for them to get in the rhythm and start firing shots on goal. An Olimpico was called back for a foul on Lions goalkeeper Chris Calabro, who wasn’t a massive component of the game aside from a few high claims. From that moment on, Laurier didn’t have an extra spark. York stifled them every time after that moment of shock for Laurier.
It’s a short turnaround for York, who stay home for a Thursday night clash with the Waterloo Warriors, while Laurier heads back to Waterloo for a battle with the Algoma Thunderbirds.
- We don’t start, in any way, on a positive note. 49 Sports’ own Ben Steiner reported that the TMU Bold men’s team has forgone their season until “further notice” due to allegations of hazing the rookie players. It’s a very talented team, without a doubt, but the right thing must be done. Each match will be forfeited, and the result will be automatically 3-0 in favour of TMU’s opponent. Laurentian and Nipissing were the first teams to have this happen.
- Western, who finished a mere two points behind Guelph in last season’s West Division standings, sought out sweet, sweet revenge on Labour Day Monday, and got it. Courtesy of a brace from Charlie Bontis, the Mustangs held on despite late pressure (and a goal) from Guelph. A great way to start the season for the purple-and-white.
- Waterloo and McMaster, a day after the 3-3 draw between Toronto and Queen’s, went one better by playing out a seven-goal thriller. Despite McMaster’s best efforts at a comeback with two unanswered goals within ten minutes of the final whistle, the damage had been done. Kevin Espiro bookended the first half with goals right at the start and finish. McMaster obviously didn’t take the loss too hard, they beat Waterloo 2-1 a few days later.
Canucks at School Player of the Week: Matthew Ciavarro, Queen’s Gaels
Leading the line for the Queen’s Gaels in the first match of the season, a 3-3 duel with the Toronto Varsity Blues, Ciavarro picked up two goals and an assist in the first half alone. In fact, all six goals came in the first frame, and Toronto stormed back twice from behind. Ciavarro’s best efforts would’ve made sure that Queen’s didn’t sacrifice the points, but they couldn’t handle the efficient and effective offence of Toronto.
Queen’s resorted to the long ball game often, and they weren’t particularly inch-perfect, but Ciavarro chased every single pass and was one of only a couple of attackers in the final third at any given time for Queen’s. Sneaking past defenders out wide, getting the ball into the middle, or smashing it home himself became common in Kingston on Thursday night’s match.