Short-handed Griffins unable to hold lead, falling 2-1 to unbeaten Cougars

Marcus Simmons celebrates his goal in the 22nd minute, which gave the Griffins a 1-0 lead over MRU, but it wouldn't last after they were forced to play with only 10 men for the final 56 minutes (Chris Piggott photo).
Marcus Simmons celebrates his goal in the 22nd minute, which gave the Griffins a 1-0 lead over MRU, but it wouldn't last after they were forced to play with only 10 men for the final 56 minutes (Chris Piggott photo).

Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – If you thought Saturday's 11-yellow card special between MacEwan and Calgary was something, hold onto your seatbelts.

Assessed three red cards by the time the final whistle sounded on Sunday, the Griffins were unable to hold onto an early 1-0 lead and fell 2-1 to the visiting Mount Royal University Cougars in Canada West men's soccer action at Clarke Stadium.

"Sadly, we could only play so much," said MacEwan head coach Adam Loga, whose squad was a man down for the final 56 minutes and ended the game with only eight on the field.

"We defended well, we fought hard. We did well a man down. We had the better of them when we were even, and we weren't even playing our best," he added. "It just sucks we can't really seem to get a break."

The Griffins struck first on a corner kick in the 22nd minute when Marcus Simmons half-volleyed home a rebound after Ricky Yassin bicycle-kicked the initial cross off the bar.

The goal put the undefeated MRU Cougars behind in a match for the first time this season. But it wouldn't last for the Griffins.

Fullback Zibusiso Moyo was ejected in the 34th minute after being assessed his second yellow card of the match, putting MacEwan down a man the rest of the afternoon.

In a double whammy, MRU scored the equalizer on the ensuing free kick from the side of the box as Dane Domic curled a low screamer around the wall and keeper Seth Johnstone only got a piece before it hit the twine.

The Griffins then spent the rest of the match trying to preserve a tie, but the Cougars finally broke through in the 72nd minute when Rori Enno didn't get all of a ball in the box and the off-speed looper chipped over Johnstone's head and in.

"I think every coach and every team has suffered from being too greedy and going for that killer goal," said MRU head coach Ryan Gyaki of the opportunity presented to them with an extra man. "We weren't quite sure how to approach that. We didn't want to be too greedy, but at the same point you want to push."

It worked out for the Cougars, who are now 5-0-0, atop the Canada West standings.

"You need some luck as well, but the boys are working hard," said Gyaki of the dream start to the season. "We've got great depth. Our substitutions are making a difference in every game. Today was the first time we've been behind, and we managed to come back, so that was a positive."

To add lemon juice to the wound, the Griffins were assessed two red cards in extra time – Simmons was sent off after arguing a non-call against Stefan Gajic before Zach Rochat was shown a red for a hard tackle on an MRU player.

MacEwan (1-2-1) will look to regroup on the road next weekend as they visit the UBC Okanagan Heat on Sept. 13 and Thompson Rivers University Sept. 14. MRU, meanwhile, heads to UNBC on Sept. 13 and UFV Sept. 15.