Varsity Blues win ‘ugly’ to earn playoff bye

1-goal win over 10-man Carleton secures 2nd-place finish for men’s soccer team

Ugly. That’s how University of Toronto head coach Anthony Capotosto described his side’s 1-0 victory over the Carleton Ravens on Saturday afternoon, a win which confirmed second spot in the OUA East Division and secured a bye to the second round of the post-season.

The Blues are likely to face a quarter-final rematch with Carleton next Sunday, if the Ottawa side can make it past Trent Excalibur in the midweek knockout round.

Carleton Ravens goalkeeper David Monk lasted just 13 minutes before being shown his marching orders for handling outside the box.
Carleton Ravens goalkeeper David Monk, left, lasted just 13 minutes before being shown his marching orders for handling the ball outside the box.  (CIARAN BREEN/TORONTO OBERSVER)

“Ugly, very ugly. We’ll call it an ugly win,” said Capotosto after watching his side squeeze past 10-man Carleton at Varsity Stadium. “We’ll take the three points but I thought they did a great job with 10 men, battling and fighting. Not that we did a poor job but I think they were better than us today.”

Carleton goalkeeper David Monk found himself in an unlucky spot in the 13th minute when he was shown a red card for handling Antonio Ajhert’s tame lob attempt outside the box. His replacement Jared Maloney, subbed in for forward Dani Gorelev but could do nothing to prevent Toronto scoring the only goal of the game in the 30th minute. Left-back Devon Bowyer showed some neat footwork to get to the by-line and cross for Harry Michelis to finish from close range.

“I’m happy to score but it doesn’t really matter to me,” said midfield playmaker Michelis. “The most important thing is the three points to clinch second place.”

Toronto (12-2-2) finish the regular season on 38 points, four ahead of Carleton (10-2-4), which became only the second team to take points of East Division champions, the Ryerson Rams (14-1-), when it tied up a 2-2 game in the 87th minute on Sunday at Downsview. The first to do so? The Blues.

Harry Michelis pokes home the game winner and celebrates with Jack Wadden, 9, who offered a more direct option in attack for creative midfielder Michelis.
Top: Harry Michelis (8) pokes home the game winner. Bottom: Michelis celebrates with Jack Wadden (9) who offered a more direct option in attack for creative midfielder. (CIARAN BREEN/TORONTO OBSERVER)

Ajhert, who was provided a new strike partner in the form of Jack Wadden in a rejinked formation, was the subject of controversy again in 36th minute, receiving a yellow card for simulation in the penalty area, despite being quite clearly tripped by a Ravens defender. Nevertheless, the 3-5-2 formation deployed by Capotosto for just the second time this season was effective in matching the size and strength of Carleton.  

“Sometimes at this time of year, you’ve played a team already. They figure you out, you kind of figure them out,” said Capotosto “We made an adjustment based on what we thought would give us the best opportunity to win today.”

Ajhert has spent most of this year’s campaign as a lone frontman, supported by Nirun Sivananthan from wide positions and Michelis, who has six goals and two assists on the season.

“That was the game plan, to play more direct and play over the top to Jack and Toni,” said Michelis. When they got the red card, we knew it would be a little bit easier but we still had to take care of our defensive duties. I think we did a good job in the second half limiting their scoring chances.

They’re a physical team so physically we have to match them and play our football. If we play our football I think we will get the victory.

His coach wasn’t quite so impressed, noting that he changed the formation in the second half, bringing on Marc Gallo for Wadden with 30 minutes to play to shore up the midfield. Capotosto believes there is work to do on the training pitch to prepare for a potential rematch on Sunday.

“We’re going to have review the video, show a few things to our players and then make our adjustments for the next game,” he said.

Meanwhile, Michelis is confident that if he and his teammates can match the Ravens intensity, the Blues will prevail.

“We’ve played these guys twice already and we play them every season. We know what they bring,” said the East York Collegiate alumnus. “They’re a physical team so physically we have to match them and play our football. If we play our football I think we will get the victory.”