The McMaster men’s soccer team looked to extend their six-game winning streak as they took on the Windsor Lancers and the Guelph Gryphons in this week’s matchups. However, they were treated to a rude awakening.
They rode a wave of momentum into last week’s games, punctuated by a defiant 5-0 victory over the Waterloo Warriors. The sqaud played a team-oriented game; the defenders won their challenges, the midfielders delivered great through-balls, and the strikers finished with regularity.
However, this was not the case in their games against Windsor and Guelph. They were shut out in the Sept. 27 match against the Windsor Lancers despite generating seven shots on target, losing 1-0 on a goal by Windsor’s Derrick Amankwa.
Their sluggish performance carried into Sept. 29 match against the Guelph Gryphons. The first half was arguably a nightmare as the Marauders struggled mightily to get the ball out of the backfield as Guelph’s aggressive challenges resulted in a number of McMaster turnovers. In turn, this put immense pressure on the Marauders back four and keeper Angelo Cavalluzzo.
Guelph’s efforts paid off in the 26th minute when a free kick from just outside the 18-yard box resulted in a fortuitous rebound for Guelph’s Tim Flynn, who made no mistake as he headed the ball off Cavalluzzo and into the net.
Four minutes later, off yet another McMaster turnover in the midfield, Guelph charged down the pitch and scored once again on yet another header by Flynn. The Gryphons led 2-0 at the half.
In an effort to generate some offense, and to wake up his team, Coach Dino Perri subbed out his entire attacking four at the half. The fresh legs seemed to do the trick as the substitutes (most notably Gersi Xhuti) managed to generate some scoring chances at the net.
Mac broke through in the 70th minute as Nate Morris – another substitute – pounced on a loose ball near the net and scored to cut the lead to 2-1. The Marauders sustained the offensive pressure and netted a tying goal in the 84th minute when Gersi Xhuti scored off a scramble in front of Guelph’s net.
The game ended in a 2-2 draw, bringing McMaster’s record to 6-2-2 on the year. They currently rank third in their conference and fourth in the OUA.
After the game, Coach Perri had some critical words to say about his team for their poor performance in the first half.
“They were terrible in the first half. There was no energy, no urgency, no desire to win, no desire to play,” Perri said.
“It was very disappointing, especially from players who you expect to lead the team, and they definitely weren’t there today.”
Perri also spoke about his reasoning for his wholesale substitutions at the half, citing that “[he] took out [his] whole front line because they gave no energy, created no opportunities and didn’t look like they wanted to score so [he] put in four fresh guys who wanted to score.”
He commended the efforts of his substitutes, especially Gersi Xhuti.
“Everybody up front gave us a lot of energy. [Xhuti] gave us a lot of opportunities with his play and he created some chances, which was what we needed.” Perri said
Xhuti, along with fellow substitute Nate Morris scored the two lone goals for the Marauders.
The team now sets its sights on the match against the York Lions on Oct. 5. York currently sits atop the OUA rankings with 27 points. They will be looking to avenge their 1-0 loss to McMaster from earlier in the season.
The York squad has been utterly dominant, averaging 3.8 goals scored per game and only allowing 0.5 goals against per game on the season.
The much-anticipated match up against the Lions kicks off this Sat Oct. 5 at 3:15 p.m.