It was a fantastic day of CIS semi final action in Fredericton, with the four Conference champions taking part showcasing the skill in Canadian college soccer right now.
The two entertaining matches couldn’t have been closer and set up a Championship game between UBC Thunderbirds and Laval Rouge et Or on Sunday.
UBC Thunderbirds came from a goal down to see off Ontario champs York Lions 2-1, in a tight encounter with some good skill on show, whilst it took penalty kicks for Quebec’s Laval to inch past hosts, New Brunswick.
It was a tremendous game that would have been worthy of the final, with both sides enjoying periods in the ascendancy in an even first half.
York started the stronger and opened the scoring just 12 minutes in, thanks to a quickly taken free kick that caught UBC napping. The ball was hit forward to Dylan Sacramento, who shook off the close attention of Bryan Fong in the box to fire past Luke O’Shea in the Thunderbirds goal.
The Lions had a couple of half chances to double their lead but UBC tied things up in the 25th minute from a free kick of their own.
Caps PDL player Niall Cousens was fouled for a free kick by former TFC player Matt Stinson. Navid Mashinchi floated a dangerous free kick into the box, over the heads of a high up Lions defence, allowing Canada West ‘Rookie of the Year’, and yesterday’s match winning hero, Sean Einarsson to get in behind the defence and volley the ball home.
The equaliser spurred UBC on and they finished the half the stronger. Einarsson nearly added a second three minutes later, but headed over, and Mashinchi came an inch the wrong side of the right post with his shot in the closing seconds of the half.
York came out the hungrier after the interval and a lot of the play was now taking place in UBC’s half.
The Thunderbirds soaked up the pressure and took the lead on the hour mark with a fantastic move that saw Milad Mehrabi run at the Lions defence, before playing the ball forward to Mashinchi. The Caps Residency graduate, and one time USL player, played a beautiful back heel into the path of the continuing Mehrabi and the Tbirds leading scorer curled a beautiful low shot into the bottom right hand corner, for what was to prove to be the winner.
York pushed for the leveller and O’Shea excellently turned two fierce free kicks around for corners.
The Lions moved to three at the back and this played into the Thunderbirds hands who easily started to kill the game off and launch some dangerous counter attacks in the process.
With a minute remaining Jonathon Lao was played in but UBC captain Greg Smith came up with a huge last ditch tackle to nudge the ball away.
York pushed till the end and O’Shea acrobatically tipped another effort over in the closing seconds of normal time.
UBC easily saw out the four minutes of stoppage time and the final whistle sent the Thunderbirds back to the final and looking for the repeat.
It was an excellent win for UBC, for whom Greg Smith was my ‘man of the match’ after a strong defensive display throughout. Smith is an original Whitecaps Residency player from 2007 and 2008, and is in his final year with the Thunderbirds.
Credit also has to go to York, who were equally excellent and look a dangerous team up the wings. TFC academy Daryl Sacramento was particularly impressive and in his first year with the Lions is certainly one to keep a close eye on. He’s already represented Canada at U18 level.
The defending champion Thunderbirds will now face Laval Rouge et Or in Sunday’s Championship game, as they look for their first back to back titles since 1992.
Laval last won the CIS title in 2009 and it took them penalty kicks to get past hosts, and ASU champs, New Brunswick Varsity Reds in today’s second semi final.
With the game still scoreless after extra time, Laval came through 4-2 on penalties in front of 1200 fans.
Sunday’s Championship game will kick off at 10am Pacific Time and will be streamed online at www.cis-sic.tv. You can also watch both of the semi finals on demand there right now.
Get up early and hopefully watch history being made as UBC go for a record increasing 13th title.