By: Keveren Guillou, Peak Associate
SFU’s Men’s Soccer team kicked off their 2019 GNAC season on Thursday night by crushing the St. Martin’s University (SMU) Saints at Terry Fox Field. The match gave fans a taste of what to expect this season, as the Clan are once again favourites to win their conference.
Both teams started off fairly well, with chances on both ends of the pitch in the opening 15 minutes. This was largely a result of midfielders on either side doing a tremendous job of transitioning quickly into the attack. SFU’s attack consisted mostly of long balls sent straight down the field by captain Marcello Polisi. The Clan really started to take charge later in the first half, smothering any momentum that the Saints had managed to build up.
This momentum the Clan built was finally rewarded on what appeared to be a seemingly harmless throw-in, which found its way over to midfielder Quinn Dawson. In a moment of brilliance, Dawson decided to whip the ball over the top of Saint Martin’s defense, finding SFU forward Matteo Polisi, who managed to head the ball into the center of the net. The goal was a testament to the Clan’s impressive agility and their ability to create space on the attack.
With roughly 15 minutes left in the half, SFU was pushing hard for a second goal. An impressive slide tackle from Quinn Dawson allowed forward Connor Glennon to send a brilliant ball down-field to Matteo Polisi.
Polisi attempted to round the keeper in the box, but was clipped in the process, causing him to fall on the pitch as the ball rolled out of play. Despite the referee refraining from calling a foul, the replay suggested that SMU’s keeper did, in fact, foul Polisi, and thus, the Clan should’ve been awarded a penalty.
The referee later redeemed his mistake by awarding a penalty kick to SFU after Glennon was tackled near the top-right corner of the box. The Saints were livid about this call, arguing that the defender had managed to regain possession in his tackle, and they did have a basis for their argument. However, the referee was in a perfect position to see the play unfold, and not giving a penalty would have been harsh, as there was definitely knee-to-knee contact on the play. Matteo Polisi stepped up to take the penalty and managed to convert it, albeit with a bit of luck, as the keeper could’ve done a lot better job of handling the shot.
SMU would manage to get themselves on the scoresheet before half time, as Saints forward Brandon Madsen did a fantastic job of somehow getting himself into the side of SFU’s penalty area uncontested. His short cross was deflected by Clan defender Eric de Graaf, which threw off keeper Aidan Bain. The ball then reached St Martin’s forward Jason Fairhurst, who volleyed the ball into the empty net.
All in all, both teams had a very strong first half, with SFU focusing their attack on long balls from their backline and midfield. Despite trailing by one goal, SMU was leading in terms of shots, giving them hope for the remainder of the match.
The Clan looked refreshed coming out for the second half, as captain Marcello Polisi showed his skill both defensively and offensively. The entire midfield had a standout performance, stopping numerous attacks before they became too dangerous, and quickly launching lightning-fast counter-attacks.
SFU would quickly deal another blow as Sidrit Vukaj did a great job of finding William Rapahel on the run, and played a perfectly weighted ball right into his feet. Williams, who was in a decent position to score, unselfishly played the ball across the face of goal, where Glennon tapped in his first of the season.
Glennon found himself on the scoresheet for a second time just 10 minutes later, after SMU’s keeper misjudged a corner kick, leaving Glennon open to knock home a header at the back post. However, upon further review, it was difficult to tell whether Glennon was the one who actually scored the goal, or if it was off the head of a Saints defender. Nonetheless, Glennon did a great job of getting into scoring position.
With 15 minutes to go before the final whistle, SFU was awarded their second penalty kick of the match — this time with much less protest from the opposition. A poor giveaway by SMU in their own half allowed Glennon to find his way into the Saints penalty box, where he was tripped from behind. It was an easy call for the referee to make and gave the culprit a yellow card. Matteo Polisi sent the keeper the wrong way to claim his hat-trick on the ensuing penalty kick. This reassured fans that Polisi does not appear to be slowing down after his league leading 18 goals last season.
The Clan sat back for most of the remainder of the game, with the midfield and defense regaining possession quickly when necessary. Ultimately, the Clan ended the game leading in shots, most of which came in the second half. While both teams started off well, the Clan, for the most part, were able to keep the Saints quiet and capitalize on their opponent’s mistakes.
Man of the match: Matteo Polisi
While some may point out that two of his goals were penalties, Polisi was undoubtedly the Clan’s most potent attacker. He made multiple clever runs for his teammates, and got himself into dangerous scoring positions on multiple occasions. He also took the corner kick that led to Glennon’s second goal of the game.