WELLAND — Early pressure was the key to success for Niagara College in their 2-1 victory over the Mohawk Mountaineers in Wednesday’s OCAA men’s soccer action.
That was the same Mohawk squad that had clobbered the Knights 5-1 last week.
“Last game, we were fairly even but what happened was we got a player sent off down 2-1,” said Knights head coach Frank DeChellis. “We are down a man, trying to push it up but we were short of a player.
“What’s the difference if we lose 2-1 or 5-1, we are trying to win.” he added.
He had a different game plan for this match. The Knights took only one minute to get on the board after Joseph Nagnonhou volleyed the ball into the net, following a deflected corner kick.
At that point, it was time for a little advice from the boss.
“I told the kids we need to play like it’s 0-0,” said DeChellis, to the Observer. “When you score early, sometimes it’s dangerous because you are now in the position of having to hold that lead for 88 minutes.”
Keeping that mentality, it didn’t take long for the Knights to add insurance. Sunao Yamamoto chipped the ball just over the Mountaineers’ goalkeeper, giving Niagara a 2-0 lead in just the fourth minute of the match.
The Japanese transfer now leads the team in goals and points, showing why he was on the radar of the Knights’ coaching staff.
“He’s been great for us, he has a great attitude and works well,” said DeChellis, after the game. “Our first game he caused the penalty kick, second game he scored, and today he scored again.”
Yamamoto is one of three international players on the squad, the others being Nagnonhou, from Cameroon, and defender Kevin Patel, from India.
Historically, it is unusual for the team to have more than one foreign player, but the Knights take pride in their recruiting system.
“We put a lot of work in to make sure the soccer community know we have a legitimate program here,” said DeChellis. “Even during the offseason, we are always playing futsal in the gym, and this is where we get a better look at the international students.”
Like the women’s team, Niagara’s men’s team has a lot of first-year student-athletes. With so many new faces, staying on the same page is essential to the team’s success.
Here is what DeChellis had to say about his group building chemistry on the pitch as a new squad.
Now they will seek another dose of revenge, going against the Sheridan Bruins, who blanked Niagara 2-0 last Saturday and are currently undefeated on the season.