After back-to-back deep runs in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport national tournament, the latest McMaster men’s soccer campaign has been met with adversity.
After winning their first two games, the squad has stumbled over their last few games. This included a 4-2 loss to the defending CIS champions York Lions, who scored three goals in a span of four minutes to open the second half.
Five games into the season, Mac sits in sixth place in the OUA West Division, with seven total points and a 2-2-1 record.
Mac head coach Dino Perri points to key injuries – including wing players Marco Gennaccaro and Sasha Ricciuti – as their main obstacle so far into the season.
“Our biggest problem is having so many key players out injured, forcing us to rotate our starting lineups,” Perri said after the team’s practice on Monday night. “We don’t have a consistent starting lineup every game. You’re trying to teach new players of the system and team to step in and fill their spot. They’re put in a tough situation.”
“We have to take a few steps back and simplify our strategy. This is the most difficult part of our schedule right now, playing top CIS teams back to back.”
While injuries are unfortunate, they also provide opportunities for other players to step up and expand their role. One player who has impressed so far is first year striker Dusan Kovacevic, who has been a bright spot early in the season.
“Our one rookie starter [Kovacevic] has scored some quality goals for us and has definitely stepped up his play,” Perri said.
Other players have stepped up their game. Third-year midfielder Yunus Mollayev has scored three goals on eight shots this season, while fourth-year goalkeeper Kieran Doyle-Davis has already registered three shutouts.
McMaster has only faced teams that are currently in front of them in the OUA West division. Still, Coach Perri – who has been the head coach of the men’s soccer team since 2008 – holds a high standard befitting to previous years, no matter whom Mac is facing.
“The standard is the standard, regardless of who’s on the field,” Perri said. “I’d like to see us at the top of the table, realistic or not. We want to be in a situation where we are one of the top two teams heading into the playoffs.”
McMaster plays each team within the OUA West division twice during the regular season, so there will be opportunities for the team to exact revenge for their previous losses, and improve in the standings.
Their next game takes place at home, in a rematch against third-place Guelph. The last time the two teams faced each other ended in a scrappy 0-0 draw, with the two teams combining for 11 yellow cards.
“It was a chippy game last time against Guelph,” Perri said. “We’ll need to maintain our patience, and make sure the officials take care of the scrappy tactics.”
With players returning from injury soon and an experienced coach at the helm, there is still reason for optimism for the men’s soccer team for the rest of the season.