Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – In a bitter refrain that is summing up the MacEwan University Griffins men's soccer season so far: another defeat, despite outshooting and out-possessing an opponent.
The latest chapter in their heartbreaking Canada West season came in a 3-0 loss to visiting UNBC where MacEwan led on shots (18-11 and 8-6 on goal).
"It's starting to sound a little bit like a broken record," said Griffins head coach Adam Loga, whose squad has the worst shooting percentage in the conference (0.059%).
"We're sometimes our own worst enemies and today was again a reflection of that."
MacEwan got off to a good start, taking it to their opponent in the first few minutes of the opening half. But after Timberwolves goalkeeper Tyrone Venhola made a spectacular diving save off Michael Ho's blast from the middle of the box in the fifth minute, UNBC's offence took over.
In the ninth minute, Dan Goodey's sublime free kick from the side of the box after a Timberwolves player was tripped went straight in off the head of Conrad Rowlands.
UNBC then took a 2-0 lead into the half when Tofa Fakunle's inspired through ball sent Francesco Bartolillo in on a partial break. He made no mistake, chipping it past diving keeper Dory Elliott into the far right corner in the 24th minute.
"In the first half, in particular, we knew how we wanted to shape up to play through them because we know their press can be good," said Timberwolves head coach Steve Simonson. "We managed to do that, I think, and the early goals helped us a lot. We knew if we could play through them the first third of the game we'd be comfortable."
MacEwan had UNBC under siege for most of the second half. Christian Kosmin had a dangerous 61st minute free kick from the side of the box, but it was headed out of danger. Alex Mosca then sailed a 39-yard blast just over the crossbar in the 67th minute.
And sure enough, on one of their only chances in the second half, UNBC managed to score again. After a 72nd-minute scramble in the box led to Elliott lunging out of position, Cody Gysbers put it past Mosca, who was defending the goal-line.
"I thought we were pretty sound in defensive shapes," said Loga. "The biggest thing was they scored off two set pieces. We spent a lot of time on them both offensively and defensively.
"We had our looks – quite a few set pieces, ourselves today in the attack, and we just didn't execute. We didn't generate the chances we needed in attack and we weren't sound enough defensively with them."
Chief among those chance generators was Kosmin, who took a game-high four shots to tie the Griffins' Canada West record for shots in a season, matching the 21 that Josh Ongaro had in 2014.
UNBC keeper Venhola made eight saves for the shutout, but most of those were right at him.
"The shots are one thing," noted Simonson. "It's chances created that are more important than shots because not every shot is a chance. But they do look threatening when they combine on the top of the box, for sure.
"We knew we had to be tight defensively and we knew our goalkeeper would have to make a couple of saves, which we did."
Next up for the Griffins (1-6-0) is a home match on Sunday against the University of Fraser Valley Cascades (2:30 p.m., Jasper Place Bowl).
UNBC (3-3-3) next travels to Lethbridge for a Sunday match against the Pronghorns (2:15 p.m.).