Concordia 1, UQAM 1: Addicted to Drama

Stingers Men’s Soccer Team Salvage Late Point but Need to Get More Dangerous

Concordia Midfielder Jorgen Ulloa-Aguilar protects ball from opponent in a game that went down to the wire Photo Elisa Barbier

The difference between successful and failed seasons is often just a few points. Stealing a draw or a late winner here and there can end up being the deciding factor in who makes the playoffs or not and the most successful teams always find a way of doing just that.

That was exactly the case when a late Concordia equalizer stunned the crowd at Saputo Stadium, as the Université de Québec à Montréal Carabins gave the Stingers a vital point. This is the second time in as many games that the Stingers have come back late, with a last-minute equalizer from Yacine Alt Slimane giving them a 2-2 draw against McGill.

A typically energetic Concordia team started off the game true to form. Chasing down every pass with an insatiable press, they forced some early mistakes and even came close to taking the lead on two occasions. However, once UQAM settled into their rhythm and started beating the Stingers’ press, cracks in their formation started to show.

At the half-hour mark, a powerful shot from roughly 30 yards out that was mishandled by Concordia Keeper Julian Petrilli turned into an easy rebound goal for Simo El Alaoui to put the Carabins up 1-0. Head coach Greg Sutton and his players were now facing the prospect of their second loss of the year.

“It wasn’t one of our best games. Our start wasn’t what we expected,” said Sutton. “It’s all about how you handle adversity and we flipped that switch in the second half, but it feels like a step back from last game.”

The Stingers did come out stronger in the second half, winning a lot of possession high up but ultimately failing to create any real danger. Midfielder Sean Holmes, one of the Stingers’ most consistent players, was even substituted around the hour-mark to make way for more offensive-minded midfielders.

“We have a lot of depth on this team and great players for every situation,” said Holmes. “We really needed a goal, so more attacking players were brought on and it ended up working out[…] it was a character win from everyone and we showed a lot of people that we’re not willing to just lie down.”

While a refusal to lie down and accept defeat is certainly an improvement from last year’s mentality, the Stingers absolutely need to get more dangerous. They spent roughly an hour trailing and searching for an equalizer and only managed to muster up a few chances.

“I don’t think it’s anything tactical. We just need to be hungry and assertive and keep using our flanks,” said Sutton. “We have some great ball-playing midfielders that can cause a lot of damage and are pretty unpredictable and we just need to make it click.”

It took them a while, but boy did they ever make it click. With the 90 minutes of regulation time and all four additional minutes of stoppage time all played out, al UQAM had to do was clear the ball to secure the three points.

Instead, an immaculate ball in from Stingers’ Jorgen Ulloa-Aguilar found the head of rookie defender Lester Gariba. As the ball soared towards the net for what seemed like an eternity, the crowd did their best impressions of Kawhi Leonard’s iconic wait for the game-winning shot against the Philadelphia 76ers to drop.

As the ball soared into the top corner of the net, the Concordia bench exploded into celebration as the final whistle blew.

“We needed the goal, so I just ran into the box and did my best to get open,” said Gariba. “It was a beautiful ball in so I just put my head through it and it was a really awesome feeling.”

Sutton has no intention of giving future opponents an inch.

“We just need to be smarter with our game plan,” said Sutton. “We’re not going to change our style of play for any team but we also have to make sure that we don’t get caught out. They’re a really strong team and if we switch off for even a second they can make you pay for it.”