By: Keveren Guillou, SFU student
The Clan’s Men’s Soccer team kicked off their 2019 campaign this past week by hosting the Burnaby Showdown, a mini pre-season tournament, that featured three visiting teams from California. This tournament format gave fans a good first look at the opponents the Clan will face this year as they aim to follow up last year’s promising season by claiming their fourth straight GNAC title and finding success in the NCAA national tournament.
Game 1 vs. Cal Poly Pomona Broncos
Over 500 fans filled the Terry Fox Field bleachers to cheer on the Clan in the first game of the season against their bitter rivals, the Cal Poly Pomona Broncos. The Broncos ended the Clan’s last season by eliminating them from the NCAA national tournament. Despite an overwhelming insect presence at the game, the crowd brought an energy that rivalled that of Liverpool’s Anfield.
SFU kicked things off on the right foot with star forward Matteo Polisi getting a shot off within the first minute that rolled just wide of the net. Following this energy, the Clan continued to dominante for the next 30 minutes or so. Defender Eric De Graaf had an impressive first half as he smothered any pushes from the Broncos.
The Clan would eventually open the scoring in the 27 minute as the ball was carelessly given away by the Broncos’ defence in their own half. In an impressive play, Connor Glennon and Mark Talisuna assisted Matteo Polisi in getting to the box, allowing Polisi to hold a defender off long enough to get a cross-shot into the bottom left corner. Polisi celebrated by running over to the roaring crowd while holding his armband, with the initials “B.B” emblazoned on it, to pay homage to fallen teammate Brandon Bassi.
The Clan added another two minutes later when team captain Marcello Polisi sent a beautiful floating ball into the Broncos’ box. His brother Matteo managed to get a head-on it which forced the keeper to deflect the ball off the crossbar, where it eventually bounced twice. SFU forward Raphael William converted on a bicycle kick right on the goal line; a tap-in worthy of Cristiano Ronaldo himself.
The Broncos did grow into the game and would eventually be rewarded with a goal as midfielder Jimmie Villalobos managed to find room to get a shot off from just outside the box. SFU keeper Aidan Bain, who made a great save a few minutes prior, had no chance of making the save.
Despite SFU seeming to dominate play throughout the match, especially with their use of aerial balls, the stats showed a different game. The clan only managed one more shot than their opponents and trailed in corner kicks 11–0.
In the second half, new Norwegian player Christian Haunch-Olsen got a chance to leave his mark on the match. Forward Raphael William managed to chase down a terrific ball from Clan defender Jorick Schilken and find his way into the box, before cutting back and finding the Norwegian forward who casually struck the ball into the goal’s top corner.
The attack also displayed its strengths as Matteo Polisi continued his offensive dominance. Raphael William also played a terrific match with a goal, an assist, and three shots-on-goal including one that hit the bar. William could be the perfect replacement for last year’s MVP, Mamadi Camara.
SFU ultimately came out on top after a well-fought match and secured revenge over the Broncos.
Man of the Match: Mark Talisuna
Game 2 vs. Cal State San Bernardino Coyotes
The Clan played their second game of the day in front of more than 400 fans, but the game quickly turned sour for the home team as the Coyotes managed to find the back of the net less than two minutes in. The goal was scored off of a cross that Coyote attacker Pedro Arrellano headed past SFU keeper Aidan Bain.
The game remained tight for most of the first half. In the 31 minute, while battling for the ball, San Bernardino midfielder Francisco Sierra stepped on Marcello Polisi to immediately earn a red card. Players from both teams were pushing and shoving each other before the referee inevitably calmed things down but, in the end, SFU had been given a massive lifeline in the match.
At the half, SFU players were visibly frustrated that they had not yet broken down the Coyotes’ defence but they could draw on the fact that they would have the extra man for the remaining 45 minutes due to Sierra’s red card.
San Bernardino started the second half with a clear plan to strengthen their back line and, in doing so, abandon all hope of scoring a second goal.
Despite this, the Clan pushed extremely hard for a goal. Marcello Polisi would prove to be a key player in this half as he controlled the midfield, doing so by sending balls wide to the wingers and finding space to support teammates.
As the game progressed, SFU became more and more restless to equalize as they sent waves of long balls and crosses forward — to no avail. The last ten minutes were a race against time as the Clan searched desperately for the tying goal.
As the final whistle blew, howls could be heard from the Coyotes’ bench as they triumphed in a well-fought match. For the Clan, the loss puts an end to their 33 game unbeaten streak at Terry Fox Field. While the Clan can be proud of the hard work and perseverance that earned them that streak, they now know that they still have work to do if they want to repeat last season’s success.
Man of the match: Marcello Polisi
Player of the tournament: Eric De Graaf
De Graaf was a huge factor in the Clan’s defence not conceding a shot throughout long periods of time. He halted many attacks by taking players on head to head and recovered quickly when beaten. He also showed his attacking prowess by sending critical long balls forward and pushing offensively when they needed a goal late in the second match.
The Clan will take on Cal State Dominguez Hills in Lacey Washington before flying to Hawaii to continue their preseason. They’ll kick off their official GNAC season at Terry Fox Field on October 3 against St Martin’s University at 8:30 p.m.