Simon Fraser University Clan suffered more Final Four heartbreak in Georgia on Thursday night, crashing out of the NCAA II national tournament after Carson-Newman Eagles hit an 88th minute winner.
It was the second consecutive year than the Clan have gone out at the semi final stage, and despite looking the better side for much of the game, SFU found themselves on the wrong end of a 3-2 scoreline.
You know they’ll be back, hungrier than ever, next year, but this wound will take a wee while to heal.
The game was delayed for nearly an hour due to a power outage at the complex in Evans, Georgia, but once the game did get underway it was a tense encounter, with both teams looking dangerous up front.
We said earlier in the week that Jovan Blagojevic had an eye for goals for the big occasion and the Coquitlam winger gave SFU an early lead when he headed home a Chris Bargholz cross in the 14th minute.
The Clan were looking comfortable and went in at the half ahead by that lone goal but they were stunned five minutes after the restart when Welsh dangerman Ross Frame collected a Sindre Welo pass and coolly slotted past Clan keeper Brandon Watson.
It was Frame’s 19th goal of the season and worse was to follow for the Clan ten minutes later when the roles were reversed. Welo got himself on the scoresheet this time after running on to a neat Frame lob and made no mistake in firing home to give Carson-Newman the lead.
The goal clicked SFU into another gear and parity was soon restored in the 64th minute when Juan Sanchez was allowed to rise unchallenged to powerfully head home a pinpoint cross from Blagojevic.
The Clan thought they’d got a penalty in the 71st minute when Colin Jacques was pulled back in the box, but the referee waved away the Canadian appeals.
It was to prove a costly decision.
Both teams were looking lively up front, but as the minutes ticked down, it really looked like SFU were going to be the more likely to grab the winner, but they were left crestfallen when Brazilian Junior Joao Pedro Dowsley scored his first goal of the season to win the tie with just 1.11 of the match remaining.
Dowsley got on the end of a ball forward and held of the attention of Robert Hyams to get a shot off from just inside the box and past a diving Watson.
Although SFU pushed frantically for the equaliser in the closing seconds, there just wasn’t enough time and Carson-Newman head through to their first ever NCAA II Championship game on Saturday afternoon against defeated 2002 finalists Southern New Hampshire.
Full credit to the Eagles who looked dangerous and creative in the final attacking third for a lot of the game. They have a star in the making in Frame and it will be interesting to see how he would perform at a higher level. In saying that, Welo was probably their ‘Man of the Match’ and was very creative, causing the Clan defence no end of problems throughout and the Clan’s young backline really looked like they were struggling at times.
As for the SFU, they fought hard and, personally, I just never saw that loss coming. Blagojevic had a great game and was their ‘Man of the Match’ with a goal and an assist in what may be his final competitive game for the Clan.
It will take a little bit of time for the guys to pick themselves up but when they do, they should look back on the season and know that they did themselves, their fans, the program and Canada proud.
The hard work now starts for Alan Koch to make the necessary additions to take the team to that next level. You know he’ll now be hungrier than ever to do that.
And with that, so ends our second, annual Clan Week.
We hope you enjoyed it, along with Thunderbirds Week last month, and it will encourage you to head out and see some college games in the spring season.
There’s some great young, local talent at the BC universities right now and they deserve your support and encouragement. So get out there and #SupportLocalSoccer.