For the second straight season, the SFU men’s soccer team were riding high after winning the Great Northwest Athletic Conference championship heading into the playoffs. Unfortunately, this was also the second straight season that Cal Poly Pomona played spoiler in the National Collegiate Athletic Association DII Championship, knocking out the Clan with a 2–1 victory. Last year’s match was decided by penalties, whereas this match was decided by a crucial goal in the 85th minute. While SFU was the favourite (ranked number three in the West Region) and certainly looked the more dominant team, an inability to finish opportunities ended up costing them their chances of competing for a national title.
The game got off to an exciting start, as the two teams traded goals within the first four minutes of play. Jimmie Villalobos got the first goal of the game, finishing off an assist by Matthew Perez only 2:10 into the game for Cal Poly. The Clan answered back 81 seconds later, by virtue of a Broncos own goal as Cal Poly keeper Jason Trejos fumbled the ball into his own net off of a free kick. The teams would stay at a one-one tie until the 85th minute, but there was plenty of drama in between.
SFU had the majority of scoring chances for the rest of the game, but were unable to capitalize. In the second half, left-back Michael North made a fantastic run past Broncos defenders but whistled his shot attempt just over the bar. A few moments later, the referee made a crucial decision that may have cost the Clan the match. An SFU player was tripped up going after a through ball in the penalty area — a clear foul — but the referee decided that the foul occurred outside the box. What could’ve been a penalty kick, a likely goal, instead turned into an off-angle free kick from the top-left of the box. Needless to say, the Clan was unsuccessful in their attempt.
In the 85th minute, Cal Poly Pomona made Simon Fraser pay. A pass from Sergi Monso sprung Dante Medina down the left side of the field on a counterattack. After two SFU defenders surrounded him on the edge of the box, the chance seemed to have been lost. Medina, however, found a way to sneak the ball through the defenders and past the outstretched hands of Miguel Hof into the bottom-left corner of the net. When the referee blew the final whistle only five minutes later, the Clan’s season was over.
After the game, head coach Clint Schneider told SFU Athletics: “I thought we did enough to win the game, but if you don’t finish chances, eventually a team is going to create one. They did, and they scored on it.”
Matteo Polisi was the stand-out option on offence in this one, attempting six shots on goal with four on target, the only shots on target the Clan had in the game. Unfortunately for SFU, Trejos made up for his early blunder, saving all four shots.
With Simon Fraser’s season ending, it’s important to note the positives from the campaign. Nine players were selected to the GNAC all-conference team, with Polisi brothers Matteo and Marcello taking home Freshman of the Year and GNAC Player of the Year, respectively. SFU centre-back Magnus Kristensen was awarded Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight season. Winning the GNAC championship also marks the sixth time the Clan have won the conference in the last eight years. While Thursday night’s loss is certainly a disappointment, the SFU men’s soccer team will likely be national-title contenders for years to come.