The WolfPack men’s soccer team has defeated the York Lions to move on to the U Sports men’s soccer championship semifinal.
The two teams battled it out on a cold and wet Hillside Stadium field Thursday evening.
It was a tight affair that resembled a game of chess.
Early on in the contest, TRU was very well organized defensively and York looked dangerous in attack.
York looked the bigger threat in the first 15 minutes but TRU grew into the game and started creating chances of its own.
In the first half of play TRU had 4 shots to York’s 3.
TRU had its closest chance when forward James Fraser attempted a bicycle kick 26 minutes in, which went straight into the keeper’s hands.
Going into the break the 0-0 scoreline was a fair reflection of the game, as neither team had done enough to be in the lead.
The second half of the game was more of the same, with York starting strongly in attack and TRU defending well.
The ‘Pack performed better as the half wore on, leading to a goal 15 minutes into the second, when Joshua Banton (first-year defender, London, England) scored a header off a Mitchell Popadynetz free kick. The goal was scored at the 60-minute mark.
From then on York was chasing the game, and the ‘Pack did a great job frustrating them by staying organized and playing a clean, defensive game.
The frustration boiled over for York in the 68th minute, when Francesco Sinopoli received a red card after picking up the ball and throwing it at Popadynetz’s head.
It was a game of narrow margins and nothing was more evident of that than when fifth-year keeper Allan Connor made a huge match-winning save on a shot from a set play.
It was the play of the game – a few inches lower or higher and the match would have gone to extra time. That save helped secure the game for TRU.
Head coach John Antulov was ecstatic with his team’s performance.
“It was the biggest win in our history for sure,” he said. “Our guys really showed what they can do on a national stage.”
When asked if the ‘Pack was trying to get under the skin of the opposition, Antulov said he didn’t think so, and what was on display Thursday night is just the way the team plays.
“We were strong defensively. We didn’t give them a lot,” he said.
The semifinal appearance is a big first of the WolfPack in a season of big firsts. The team will take on the Cape Breton Capers at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Hillside Stadium, looking to move on to the gold medal match.
Photos by Juan Cabrejo/The Omega