Carabins 2, Stingers 0: Concordia men’s soccer bows out after promising season

Costly errors and missed opportunities send Concordia back to the drawing board

After a hard-fought season with loads of potential, Concordia has to settle for a semi-final exit once again. Photo Caroline Marsh.

Less than a month ago, the Concordia Stingers stunned the USPORTS men’s soccer scene.

For the first time in 15 years, they had beaten the Université de Montréal Carabins in their own backyard. It wasn’t a fluke, they kept up with the then-top-ranked team in the country for 90 minutes and forced les Carabins to adjust to their tempo. 

This was the crowning achievement for head coach Greg Sutton who, throughout his eight-year tenure, had finally built a team capable of challenging for the title. 

However, as the saying goes, ”experience wins championships.” That was on display as les Carabins comfortably ended Concordia’s season Friday night at the CEPSUM. 

“We had some good opportunities in the first half to punish them,” said head coach Greg Sutton. “If you watch the game back, we dictated the tempo in so many ways, and it was just that final end product [that was missing].”

The game started the exact same way, both midfields bringing energy and tempo right after kickoff, trying to put the other onto the back foot. That would be short-lived though as only six minutes in, Concordia keeper Jordy Kerlegrand spilled a cross right to the feet of Quentin Paumier, putting the hosts up. 

Past iterations of this Concordia team would’ve thrown in the towel and gotten to work at minimizing the damage. But this wasn’t the same team that ended in last place just three years ago. They spent the rest of the half producing quality chances and turning the game into a proper back and forth, going blow-for-blow with one of the best teams in the country, producing incredible chances and even better saves on both ends of the field. 

“There was no difference,” said captain and defender Sean Holmes about the team’s reaction to conceding early. “We’re a confident group and even at halftime, the guys were calm. We knew we could come back into the game in the second half.”

Just two minutes before halftime, Concordia had their best chance to equalize. A free-kick on the edge of the box from Mohammad Reza Nafar was on its way into the back of the net until Carabins keeper Olivier Rouleau came soaring in to keep the lead. 

That would be as close as they came with UdeM doing what they do best when leading: turning on cruise control. They have won every game in which they scored first and showed why that is on Friday night.

“That’s been one of our MOs this year. Conceding early means defenders drop behind the ball,” said Sutton. “We thrive in a game that’s more open and that’s our key to winning them.”

Just after the hour mark, les Carabins put the final nail in the coffin when a bit of panic in their own box allowed Guy-Frank Essomé-Panda to get a free shot off, doubling the host’s lead.

“I couldn’t be more proud of us. I’m still hungry and I have two years of eligibility left, so we’ll see what happens,” said Holmes. “My main focus is this team and I don’t want to graduate without a medal in my picture.”

Following the game, there’s very little time to lick your wounds, as recruiting and preparations for the winter season are next on the list of priorities.

“We’re student athletes so we’re going to focus on school now and pick up training again in a few weeks.”