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Tuesday, Sep. 18, 2018
Cambrian soccer dealing with increased expectations
by Cambrian Varsity Athletics

The expectations on the respective Cambrian Golden Shield soccer teams stand in stark contrast, one from the other, as both the men and women kicked off their 2017 OCAA schedule at home this past Saturday.

The Cambrian women are hosting the provincial championships this year and have built a team that they hope will move a rung or two higher from the pair of bronze medal performances the squad has enjoyed in recent years.

The weight of such a lofty goal was evident against the Sheridan Bruins, as the Golden Shield spotted the visitors a first half goal from Kendra Challis, roaring back with strikes from Tiffany Johnson (52nd minute) and Gabby Conrad (62nd) to squeeze out a hard fought 2-1 victory.

“I thought the girls squandered too many chances in the first half,” noted head coach Giuseppe Politi after the game. “We could have closed things off in the first half and had a lot less stress than what was required.”

“They had one registered shot on net the entire game, and that came on a handball that was our own fault. I don’t know if the word is dominated, but we certainly enjoyed a huge territorial advantage. We could have been up three or four by half, and then we let in the goal.”

In that sense, Politi was able to draw the positives out of a victory that came with much more difficulty than was likely anticipated. “Psychologically, it’s a bit of a challenge when you’re pressing, pressing, pressing, but not scoring,” he stated. “It does take some resilience and a good team effort, when things are not going well, to turn it around, tie the game and go for the win.”

“The girls should be happy that on a day where we did not play that well and were not that lethal, that we still pulled it through.” While he acknowledged that he certainly addressed some concerns at the half with his troops, Politi was quick to note that there was certainly no need for a major overhaul, strategically speaking.

“There was a bit of a tactical adjustment, but it was more about keeping people in the spots that they were supposed to be on the field to be more dangerous,” he said. “For example, some of our strikers were dropping too far back to the midfield. We needed more pressure up front. I didn’t change the system. I just needed them to play their spot in the system.”

Politi highlighted the play of Conrad as key to the Cambrian success, while Lockerby graduate Laura Ozoria enjoyed a homecoming of sorts, suiting up with the Sheridan side this fall. As for the Cambrian men, the fall of 2017 comes down far more to trying to find a way to slide into the playoffs while competing in the toughest division in the country, than enjoying dreams of a podium placement.

The Golden Shield men kept things close through the first half, trailing Sheridan 1-0 as Malcolm Whyte opened the scoring in the 23rd minute. But it was a five minute stretch, midway through the second half, that made all the difference in the world, as the Bruins struck three times in rapid succession, including twice on penalty kicks, in posting a 4-0 whitewash of Cambrian on the road.

Francis Ameyaw Jr, Nicolas Mejia and Reshaun Walkes capped off the offensive outburst, as the Golden Shield look to find a way to regroup for a second consecutive interesting weekend at home.

Coach Politi and company will host the Humber Hawks on Saturday, a team that has captured the national crown in four of the past five years. More critically, the locals battle the Conestoga Condors on Sunday, one of those opponents with which Cambrian is expected to fight it out for post-season play.

“We started very defensive, and I was pretty happy going into half only one goal down, playing a quality side,” said Politi. “The second goal was the killer. I thought in the second half, we opened it up a little bit to try and be more offensive, but then we allowed another set piece goal. We let in a goal off a throw-in in the first half, and we let in a goal off a corner kick in the second half, off an error, in my opinion.”

“Once we got down two, the guys panicked a bit, and then it got out of hand,” Politi added. “I think a more fair result would have been a 2-0 loss, to be quite honest, given the game.” Still, the hope is that the lads learn from the short-term lapse and move on. “Them going through that experience and seeing how quickly it can get out of hand should be enough of a wake-up call,” said Politi.

“That was probably the most disappointing part of the game. It looked like we gave up for that five minutes, and Sheridan pounced, they took advantage.” While the result might not have been great, promising signs included the work of rookie forward Masoud Mahmoud from Toronto.

“The level of soccer is pretty tough,” he said. “I feel like I still have more work to do. I would like to improve my skills, and keep my head in the game. Sometimes things happen, and you get your head out of the game.”

From a team perspective, the 20 year old veered back to some very basic concepts that need to be cleaned up, prior to the week two encounters. “One of the things that I see is that people did not really communicate,” said Mahmoud. “Communication is one of the keys when you play soccer. We need to play together as a team.”

“The focus, this week, needs to be on passing, we need to work more on passing,” he continued. “The defence was good, but we need to do more with the forwards.”

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