Cougar Corner: MRU’s men’s soccer season opening weekend
MRU Cougars men’s team drop two heartbreaking defeats against Golden Bears and Griffins
By Dan Khavkin, Sports Editor
The Mount Royal Cougars Men’s soccer campaign started off on a luckless note. After playing the two opposing schools visiting from the provinces capital, The University of Alberta Golden Bears, and The Grant MacEwan Griffins.
Game one took place at Cougar Stadium Field in front of a packed and pro-Cougar crowd. As the boys in blue were ready to kick off a season wearing new colors and threads on the hopes of achieving the success of last years season, where the Cougars lost in the quarter-finals of Canada West playoffs.
This year’s squad consists of 12 rookies and only five players with at least three seasons under their belts or more.
The squad lost their “heart and soul” player and team captain Cody Cook to graduation. Cook was the all-time Cougars goal and assist leader and was named to Canada West’s second all star team along with fellow all star Tyrin Hutchings who took his talents to a pro level and is currently playing in Sweden this year.
MRU also lost veteran back-stopper Kamil Zielinski who also had graduated and in turn the Cougars have lost a strong presence in net.
Though the Cougars lost their core players, the new recruits have a chance to create their own history and to write more chapters for the future.
MRU lost the home opener 1-0 to the powerhouse Golden Bears who are coming off a national winning season. They started their defense of the national title with a fortunate win as the lone goal came off a penalty kick that was a result of a grey 50/50 call when rookie goalie Kyran Valley collided with a player in the air and the call was given to the opponents.
First-year forward Kylan Johnson had the best chance of the game when he teed up a bicycle-kick of a cross delivered by fellow first year Yusuph Kalenga that was denied by a strong left palm by fifth-year senior Goalkeeper Connor James early in the first half.
The Cougars controlled the whole game and pressed the most but Bears goalkeeper James kept blocking shots as the level of difficulty increased. With the last save being the most vital of them all, a one-on-one blocked with the ball tipping the crossbar on its way over the net. The chance came from Richard Nyavor seconds before the final whistle went off.
Next afternoon, the Griffins netted three consecutive goals inside the last ten minutes against a 10 man Cougar squad who simply collapsed and couldn’t hold back the surging Griffin squad anymore.
MRU was up 2-0 thanks to a header scored by Nyavor and a spot kicked put away by rookie Justin-Anderson Louch.
The red card was the turning point and as good as the Cougars did on defense, fortune just didn’t land with them. As three fate deciding chances landed in favor of the Griffins and scored by way of two deflections and a rebound tapped into the empty net.
Both losses were unfortunate and winnable games with a break going towards the Golden Bears who got a call in favor of them when in another scenario, the spot kick would not have been awarded.
With the second game, meltdowns sting the most in sports because you know you had the opponent but couldn’t close them out. The MacEwen game was a good early lesson in a very young season for the young squad who will undoubtedly bounce back in the games to come.
MRU are going to be on a four game road trip where they hope to string a few wins along to boost morale within the locker room and start climbing up the leauge’s table.
The next home game will take place on September 23rd against Thompson Rivers with kickoff schdueled for 1:30 at Cougar Stadim Field.