The University of Calgary Dinos men's soccer team took to the road over the weekend needing to secure two wins in order to jump start an otherwise fruitless season of play in Canadian Interuniversity Sport Canada West competition.
Entering play on Saturday, the Dinos owned a 0-3-1 record, good for last place alongside the less than majestic University of Lethbridge Pronghorns. For the Dinos, the road to redemption began with two very tough tests: the nationally third-ranked University of British Columbia Thunderbirds on Saturday, followed up by a battle with the fifth-ranked University of Victoria Vikes on Sunday.
Saturday's game against the Thunderbirds began with a flurry of pressure from the home side, with only the slick goalkeeping of third year J.P. Crescenzi keeping the prehistoric side in the game. Eventually the Dinos were able to even the playing field and began to generate some offensive pressure of their own, although they were unable to cash in any of their chances.
At the half-- against arguably the best team in Canada and certainly the best in the Canada West conference-- the Dinos still had a chance to pull out a win, but a controversial goal in the 58th minute would put a damper on their chances of claiming victory. T-Birds midfielder Ryan Reynolds appeared to corral a loose ball just out of bounds and continued to drive down the field.
Assuming the linesman would whistle the play dead, the Dinos allowed him to continue to push the ball up field unimpeded. Reynolds would eventually cross the ball over to rookie Thunderbird Sebastian Crema, who promptly deposited it in the back of the net over a stunned Crescenzi. Despite numerous objections from U of C players, the goal was permitted to stand, leaving the Dinos in a hole from which they would not recover. Further exacerbating the issue was Reynolds, who-- after crossing the ball to Crema-- went to the UBC bench and appeared to gesture with his hands that the ball had been out of bounds by about three feet.
Following the T-Bird goal, the Dinos deflated and slowly began to wane in the face of renewed pressure by the Thunderbirds. Crescenzi did all he could to hold the Dinos in the game, making several spectacular saves and giving his teammates the chance to even it up until the 81st minute when T-Bird Graham Smith would find the back of the net to give his side the two-nil lead.
"The second goal just killed us," said third-year Dino Brian Delaney. "We had our chances, but we just didn't capitalize. I thought J.P. [Crescenzi] played unreal. I haven't seen a goalie play like that in a long time."
Sunday's match against the Vikes would see a much better effort from the team and they were rewarded accordingly. The Dinos came out of the gate strong, battling the Vikes for field position and often dominating mid-field with ball control. The play see-sawed back and forth until the ninth minute when the Dinos scored the first goal of the weekend and stopped UVic goalkeeper Dan Kilpatrick's shutout streak at 225 minutes. The goal came off a set piece by Tanmeet Singh, with first-year Dino Jeff Marsden heading it home for the one-nil lead. The score would be knotted just minutes later, as Vikes striker Cole McFarlane would score his fifth goal of the year off an errant clearing attempt. The teams would trade chances for the remainder of the half, with arguably the best coming off the foot of Delaney, who unleashed a rocket that beat Kilpatrick, but not the woodwork. As the second half progressed, the Vikes became noticeably more aggressive in their attack. With UVic on a four game winning streak, the Vikes continued to push for their fifth, but on this afternoon it was not to be. The U of C used the Vikes' aggressiveness to their advantage, turning the ball up field for several chances of their own and alleviating pressure on the Dino defense. The game would end 1-1, dropping the Vikes to 4-1-1 and improving the prehistoric soccer stars to 0-4-2 ahead of a pivotal home-and-home series against the equally winless University of Lethbridge this weekend.