2018-11-07 Vancouver- The U Sports national soccer tournament is set to be held at UBC this upcoming weekend, with quarter final matchups set for thursday. Yesterday at Van City Sport we previewed the hosts outlook on the tournament. While the hosts are a one favourite to win the championship, there are still seven others teams who will try to spoil their party.
Today at Van City Sport we look to the schools from the bilingual provinces as well as last year’s defending champions.
University of Montreal Carabins:
It’s been a long year for the Carabins following their defeat to Cape Breton in the U Sports championship match last fall in Kamloops. They come into this year’s tournament looking to take it one step further and bring home their first ever men’s soccer championship.
Following their heart crushing loss in last years tournament, Montreal has not missed a beat. They began the season winning, and never slowed down too much, finishing with a 9-2-1 record in the always competitive RSEQ.
The Blues, led by head coach Pat Raimondo come into the tournament as offensive juggernauts alongside a backline that has been strong all season. Their attack features the leading points scorer in all of U Sports in Frédéric Lajoie-Gravelle who finished the year with 20 points, 14 of which came from his impeccable goalscoring exploits. Lajoie-Gravel has been amazing for the Carrabins this season, that why he was awarded RSEQ MVP; the problem is that he is the heart and soul of their attack. Unlike many of the other teams at this weekend’s tournament, Montreal does not have an all-round attack. So far it’s been good enough to rely on their talisman, but if he goes down or hits a cold spell it will lead to some complicated offensive tactical decisions for Raimondo.
Midfielder Pierre Lamothe has been an invaluable addition to this seasons Carabins side. The freshman midfielder was picked as RSEQ’s rookie of the year thanks to his calmness and orchestration in the midfield. The Montreal Impact Academy product adds a creative element which the Blues lacked last year and could be the missing piece towards them bringing the trophy back to Montreal.
Up first for the Carabins is the University of New Brunswick, a test which is very close to call.
The UQUAM Citadins are the other team from the RSEQ at this year’s tournament. They qualified via the same route they took last season, as finalists losing to Montreal in the RSEQ finals. This will be the fifth consecutive tournament the Citadins take part in, although they have never brought home the championship. The team is a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to experience, there are a number of first year players making this an exciting young roster; but of course there are also U Sports veterans sprinkled in amongst them.
The Citadins did not have the best of regular seasons, however; they shifted into another gear come playoff time. After finishing the regular season with a record of 5-3-5, good for third place, UQUAM won their semi final matchup by the slimmest of margins 1-0 to book their spot at nationals.
They are certainly not as strong as they have been in years past, and even then they have been unable to advance past the semi-finals. The hopes and dreams of the school will come to rest upon the shoulders of two veterans in the defense. Goalkeeper Valentin Lamoulie has been a steady presence between the posts and will be heading to his third national tournament, while veteran defender Andre Bona will help out on the defensive side of the ball. Defense has played and will play a key part to the success of the Ctadins, since their offense is the lowest ranked at the tournament only scoring an average of 1.42 goals per game. Their leading scorer is also Andre Bona, the aforementioned defender; when your offense relies on defense that is not usually a positive thing.
It will be a nice trip out west for the UQUAM citadins, but their participation in the tournament will likely be brief, barring a miracle performance versus lsat years champions the Cape Breton Caper in the quarter-finals.
University of New Brunswick Reds:
The boys from New Brunswick are certainly star studded. A large portion of their team had career high seasons in 2018 and they have two of the last three AUS rookies of the year in their side.
After beginning the year slower than their goal, earing a 1-2-2 record in their first five, the Reds exploded for the rest of the season only losing one more game in the remainder of their campaign. The slow start did cost them in playoff seedings, as they finished third in AUS behind Cape Breton and StFX. Riding high into the playoffs UNB had no problem seeing off StFX, before eventually falling to Cape Breton in the finals.
Threats on both sides of the ball come from every aspect of their roster. After a mediocre 2017, goalkeeper Kevin Barker posted a conference leading save percentage of 0.851 and has had a bounce back year as he returned to 2016 form; a season where he was named the AUS rookie of the year. He has become a stalwart between the posts for the Reds, however he has gotten a bit of help from his sides extraordinary offense.
Scoring by committee is something many teams who do not have a proven goalscorer set out to do. This can be seen from the grass roots level right up to the professionals. Few teams are able to succeed when relying on committee, but UNB has found a way; and boy has it worked. Tristan Nkoghe, Dan Walker and Ben Gorringe all chipped in with six goals this season, and assisted many of each others tallys. This attacking trident led the Reds to an average of three goals per game, a stat that should be high enough to win the average soccer game. Although he put up similar goal numbers as Walker and Gorringe, Tristan Nkoghe was awarded rookie of the year honours for his performances this season.
In the first round the Reds are set to take on the Montreal Carabins. It’s hard to pick a winner for this matchup, but either side will have a tough road ahead of them if they are to advance.
Cape Breton Capers:
They’re the champs. The University of Cape Breton Capers are out to defend their first title at this years championships. The Capers haven’t missed a step this season coming off their win last year. They finished with a near perfect record of 10-0-2, and won their third AUS championship of the past six years. It was also the first time any U Sports team has gone undefeated over two seasons.
Every element of their game is elite. Head coach and 2018 AUS coach of the year Deano Morley has recruited and coached a team that now has nearly zero visible weak spots. while every other team at the tournament has either a stingy defense or outstanding offense, the Capers have both. In their 10 wins this season, they had eight clean sheets; and scored a jaw dropping 36 goals. Not even their home and away records can distinguish a weak link as they posted identical 5-0-1 records both on their own pitch as well as on the road.
Forward Cory Bent led the line for the Capers all year and was the team’s leading scorer with six goals, but he was not relied on as much as other attackers for other teams. The Capers had four players all score above five goals this season, and have had one of the leagues deepest teams.
In terms of honours earned this season, midfielder Peter Schalle was awarded the AUS MVP, Deano Morely was crowned with coach of the year status for the third consecutive year, while five other players were named the the first AUS all-star team.
It is certainly posible, maybe even probable that the Capers could defend their title this season. They come up against UQUAM in the quarter-finals in a match which should be an easy win. If this side can step up their game yet again, the trophy will be theirs to lose. Watch out U Sports, the Capers are coming!
That’s all for our previews here at Van City Sport, we hope it’s been enjoyable. This year’s championship has an aspect to it which it has never had before. On hand at all the games will be scouts and coaches for the newly founded Canadian Premier League which is set to kick off in 2019. U Sports has joined the CPL in their ventures of furthering Canadian Soccer, and there will be a draft of U Sports players who have opted in for the chance to play in the CPL. For more info on the draft and the Canadian Premier League visit canpl.ca
If you live in the Vancouver area, go out and watch the best soccer U Sports has to offer. The tournament runs November 8-11, and tickets can be bought at gothunderbirds.ca.