Royals men open season strongly
By Davie Wong, Sports Editor
After all the hype, and all of the waiting, the Douglas College men’s soccer team kicked off their season this week. And boy was it worth the wait.
It was a miserable, soggy Wednesday when the men began their 2016 campaign. They faced off against their mainland rivals, the Langara Falcons, in what was sure to be a heated bout.
The Royals got the game rolling early with a beautiful play. A long pass sent winger Isaac Kyei on a counter break. Before the Falcons could react, Kyei headed towards the net. Drawing the goalkeeper to a vulnerable position, he threw a cross to a slightly trailing Devon Jones, who tucked it away into an empty net. The score got the Royals onto the score sheet, only two minutes into the game.
From there, the Royals played lockdown, keeping the ball in Langara’s half, denying them chances while creating their own. However, both teams would fail to convert again in the first half.
Sensing an imminent defeat, Langara came out desperate in the second half. They outworked the Royals and caught them sleeping at the right moment. Royals goalkeeper Jared Horvath could only watch as the Falcons scored a beauty, sniping it into the top-left corner of the net from the top-right corner of the penalty box, and tying the game up at one-a-piece.
The goal, and some verbal encouragement from their coaches, sparked life into both teams. The Royals came at the Falcons hard, and the Falcons gave it right back. The messy weather made for a sloppy game of short passes and questionable tackles and fouls.
For a while, both teams were deadlocked. But a hard foul by the Falcons just outside their penalty box gifted the Royals a free kick. While the Langara players argued the call with the referee, the Royals took a quick tap and sent their attackers into a straight blitz at the net. After making one excellent save, the Langara goalkeeper allowed a rebound to pop loose, and Mateo Serka pounced on it, tapping in the Royals go-ahead goal. The goal, scored so late into the game, nearly spelt defeat for the Falcons. A frustrated Langara player made a dangerous tackle only moments later, which rewarded him with his second yellow and a consequential red, and sealed the game for both teams.
Multiple questionable foul calls and overturned play calls from the referee earned him an earful from the Langara coach, who strongly voiced his opinion on the game. However, coach Robby Toor had a different opinion on the game. “It was definitely a chippy game. It was a good battle, and good win for the team.”
The team had until Saturday to rest up, which was when they faced their next challenge. The VIU Mariners had come into town, and they looked hungry.
The two premier clubs duked it out for most of the first half without either team giving an edge to the other side. Their aggressive play highlighted what was otherwise a fairly neutral 30 minutes. It didn’t take long for the referee to issue out his final warnings and break out the cards. VIU was dished out a couple yell0w cards, but it was Douglas’ yellow card that proved to be the difference maker. A risky tackle from forward Devon Jones saw him awarded a yellow card from the referee and a free kick for VIU, just outside of the penalty box.
The island team made no mistake with their opportunity and found a way to curve the shot over the blockers and down into the bottom right-hand corner of the net. The goal would give VIU the lead, which they would hold onto going into half time.
Both teams came into the second half seemingly more aggressive than before. On a routine corner, a late and dangerous aerial challenge would send the Royals keeper sprawling, and spark what could have been a bench clearing brawl. At the end of the scuffle, greater minds prevailed, and yellow cards were issued to both teams for their involvement.
With a new keeper in net, the Royals sought to keep the pressing VIU off while trying to score the equalizer. However, their effort was for little avail. On an odd looking chance, VIU scored a tremendous tally, firing it in off the bottom of the top left-hand corner crossbar from 30 metres out.
Just like that, the Royals were sent into desperation mode. It was a heated second half for both teams, and there were a few shoving matches. Players were carded for their tempers, but remarkably enough, no one was sent off. As hard as the Royals tried to push, VIU would not budge, and they closed out the game sitting comfortably on a 2–0 score.
After the game, the team looked visibly frustrated, but had to do their best to shake it off for Sunday. As hard as their week had been, they still had more to go. To finish their home stand, Douglas College faced off against the Quest Kermodes.
Taking the pitch with the frustration and emotion from the VIU game still on their mind, the men stormed the Kermodes. Caught off guard at the intensity and speed at which the Royals were running at them, the Kermodes gave up most of the early possession to the home team. Against a team known to capitalize on possession, Quest made a huge mistake in doing so. For the second time in three games, the Royals got off to a flying start. A breakout on the side from Royals captain Tony McCullough brought the play deep into Kermodes territory. Playing a give-and-go strategy with Isaac Kyei, McCullough found himself a nice gap to shoot and proceeded to bang home a miraculously-placed shot, curving the ball so it fell into the net just under the crossbar.
The goal fired up the team and they came crashing into the Kermodes even harder than before. The pressure they exuded as a team was immense, and it was too much for the Quest keeper. He made a terrible error, and Kyei fixed it by tucking the ball into the back of the net, giving the Royals a cushy two goal lead.
The momentum from the two goals was enough for the Royals to quash the Kermodes chances in the first half, and take their lead into the second. From there, it was clinical defending that won them the game. Hard work from Douglas’s backline ensured that the Kermodes rarely stepped inside the Royals final-third. While they still searched for the put-away goal, the play from the Royals was much more conservative, as they simply gained possession and latched onto it.
They would hold on to the ball for much of the second half, and close out the game on the back of the two goals. It wouldn’t be an understatement to say the Kermodes were simply outclassed, as the Royals maintained a clean sheet, and stayed off the referee’s book. Coach Robby Toor voiced his pleasure with how his team managed to bounce back after a hard loss just the day before. “It was good bounce back today. The boys did well today and played a full 90, and that’s what we wanted from them.”
It’s exciting to see the Royals begin to take mid-season shape, even though the season just started. Let’s hope their form can hold into provincials this year, as that’s where it all comes together.