VANCOUVER — When it comes to setting the bar in the preseason, Simon Fraser’s Clint Schneider and Mike Mosher of UBC both reach for the sky.
In fact if you read the preseason stories on two of Canada’s elite men’s university soccer programs on each school’s official website, both began with the two head coaches re-affirming their goals of contending for respective NCAA Div. 2 and U Sports national titles.
On Wednesday, at Thunderbird Park, the crosstown rivals came together for a dress rehearsal of sorts, one with roles still up for grabs on both sides, but with local bragging rights still the ultimate goal.
Simon Fraser’s Clan, for the first time since joining the NCAA’s ranks, beat UBC’s Thunderbirds 2-0 behind a feverishly-effective opening few minutes.
Despite the fact they were on the road and playing without two of their very best talents in redshirt senior Adam Jones, the West Region’s reigning D2 Player of the Year, and junior West Region all-star Mamadi Camara, the Clan scored in the fifth and eighth minutes of play to stake themselves to a lead which would last the rest of the night.
Yet Schneider wasn’t about to place much relevance on the result.
“Don’t read too much into it,” he said. “We were both rotating our players through. (UBC’s Mosher) is probably trying to figure out his 11, and I am still trying to figure out my 11. The thing that we both know as coaches is that we have good sides.”
The ‘Birds had a chance to change the tenor of the game early, but Mackenize Cole’s blast from close quarters was tipped over the crossbar at the last second by the Clan’s new keeper, South African redshirt senior Miguel Hof.
“We don’t play teams as good as them typically in our conference and our division,” said Schneider of the ‘Birds. “And that is the truth. They are a good side and I hope we gave them something to where they can adjust and get better, too, because at end of day, if they are the team representing B.C. at the (U Sports) nationals, I want them to win and I know Mike (feels) the same way (about) us.”
And as both teams came into Wednesday’s season-opening friendly looking to start anew after tough losses at their respective 2016 national tourneys, it seemed fitting that rookie talent really seemed to carry the day.
UBC’s Victory Shumbusho, a dynamic attacking talent, looked every bit as good as advertised.
And from the Clan’s perspective, freshman talent played a huge role in both of their goals.
In the fifth minute, Simon Fraser’s lightning-quick response on a counter play saw Connor Glennon, a first-year from Vernon’s W.L. Seaton, put a shot past ‘Birds keeper Chad Bush from the top of the box.
“They made a mistake in the middle third and unfortunately for them, we punished them for it,” said Schneider. “Connor finished it. That’s why he’s here. He did a good job on the front foot.”
Just three minutes later, a pair of frosh talents teammed up for what proved to be insurance.
Joey Mijaljevic made a strong run, then passed off to Matteo Polisi, whose pace forced a UBC player to take him down inside the 18-yard box.
Kyle Jones scored off the resulting penalty kick.
“It was a great run by Joey,” said Schneider.
Mosher, whose 2017 charges might be the youngest UBC team he’s coached over his 22-year Point Grey career, said of the setback: “Today was disappointing to lose. Especially in the manner with which we did it. We gave away goals really soft and easy early on, but we found out lots about our players and about our team. That’s why you want to get good tests in preseason games. SFU has a very good team and we knew that coming in.”
Again, an SFU win felt good for the Clan. A UBC loss stung a little for the ‘Birds.
But Wednesday was potentially a night for two championship journeys to begin.
“When you don’t win national championships, then your last game is typically a loss,” said Schneider. “So this felt good. I’m proud of the team and I know we have a good group. The seniors like Adam and Magnus (Kristensen) and Pascal (Schmidt) and Miguel, they want to win something. They want to do something special and I feel like we have a good group to do it.”
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