Varsity Blues’ Thanksgiving weekend was spoiled in spectacular fashion on a windy Sunday, as the men’s soccer team fell 4-2 to the visiting Queen’s Gaels, snapping the home side’s six-game winning streak.
On Saturday, University of Toronto (9-2-2) had swept aside the challenge of Royal Military College, adding four goals without reply for a total of 24 in just six games.
The main course and stiffer test was Queen’s University (5-4-3) but Blues coach Anthony Capotosto accepts his side were simply swept away.
“It was clear that they (Queen’s) came here to fight and to battle and we didn’t,” said Capotosto, in his 10th year with the U. of T. program. “We were beaten by the better team on the day.”
Having lost 2-0 to high flying Ryerson on Saturday, the Gaels came out all guns blazing, looking a completely different outfit to the one that lost 4-0 to the Blues in Kingston on Sept. 25.
Beating Toronto to first and second balls in blustery but sun-soaked conditions at Varsity Stadium, they hit the woodwork and twice had Blues goalkeeper Mark Rogal scrambling within the opening 15 minutes. The pressure finally told on 41 minutes, when midfielder Tonko Bacelic curled in beautifully from outside the area.
Toronto rallied briefly after the break but when Queen’s forwards Andrew Martin and Patrick Van Belleghe scored two goals in a minute with 25 to play, the game was up.
Stopper Rogal admitted he and his teammates came out a little slow in the second half, saying, “we didn’t get our feet under us.”
The home crowd were briefly given hope when Harry Michelis pulled it back to 3-1 in the 74th minute but Briam Jimenez Lopez restored the two-goal cushion and Russell Rodrigues’ injury time goal for Toronto was no more than a bright spot on his stat line for the weekend. Rodrigues had a goal and two assists against RMC.
“We tried to play some pretty football and it wasn’t the day to do that,” said Capotosto. We had a hard time securing the ball today. They pressed us and we couldn’t deal with it.”
MS⚽C – Don't blink! Andrew Martin and Patrick Van Belleghem add to the Gaels lead before Toronto gets on back. 3-1 Queen's with 15 to play.
— Queen's Gaels (@queensgaels) October 9, 2016
Rogal, province leader with eight-clean sheets, had conceded just four goals all season before this game but is more concerned with the playoff race than any personal accolades.
“The clean sheets are second in importance,” said the third-year Blue, for whom this is a first season as No.1 choice in goal. “We could’ve won 6-5 and for me, I don’t care as long as we would have gotten three points.”
There were no surprises elsewhere in Toronto, where the Ryerson Rams (13-0) defeated RMC 6-0 at Monarch Park to continue their drive towards a perfect season. Toronto remain level on points with Carleton in second but have now played a game more.
The teams finishing first and second receive a bye for the opening round of the postseason.
Blues will hope to bounce back on Wednesday at Downsview Park, when they face Ryerson, which leads the East by a massive 10 points. Capotosto says his team won’t spend Thanksgiving licking their wounds.
“We’re not going to get too phased by this to be honest,” said Capotosto, who also coaches at the Toronto FC Academy. “We take the lesson from it, we learn and then we apply it to the next game.”
Rogal reiterated his coach’s perspective and believes it’s important not to think too long and hard about the loss.
“It’s just desire that let us down today. This is kind of a one of for us this season,” he said. “I know the guys in front of me are all going to be really hyped up, ready to go for next game.”