Thirty seconds into the third game of a soccer season seems a little bit early to be hitting the panic button, but that's what the Capilano University men were facing Saturday afternoon when they hosted Quest University.
The Blues were already 0-2 in PacWest regular season play after losing two games on the road in week 1. A third straight loss to open the notoriously short 14-game season would mean massive trouble for the Blues. It would have been easy for the team to have a major meltdown, then, after rookie goalie Shawn Greensides mishandled a back pass just seconds into the game, spilling it to a Quest forward who happily pounced on the loose ball and slid it into the net.
"I actually didn't even see it, I was just dealing with the game report there," said Capilano head coach Paul Dailly after the game. "Obviously not the start we were looking for."
The Blues, however, didn't wilt under the pressure. For the next 89.5 minutes Capilano actually controlled much of the flow of the game. Offensive maestro Robbie Giezen tied it up 1-1 from just outside the 18-yard box on a free kick that struck the defensive wall but trickled through, rolling into the near corner as Quest's goalie watched helplessly from the far post. Late in the first half the Blues took the lead when second year forward Chad De Boer picked up a loose ball in the middle of the box and fired a left-footed shot into the top corner. In the second half the Blues added two more, a header from first year Carson Graham grad Stewart Elliott off of a nice cross from right fullback Matthew Fuji followed by Giezen's second of the game coming with the big Seycove grad taking a through ball, holding off a defender while dancing past the charging Quest goalie to slide in an easy finish.
Quest got one back with a penalty kick in the 67th minute but the score ended 4-2, allowing the Blues to cancel the collective panic attack.
Dailly said it was a "very important" win considering the hole the team dug with a 2-1 loss to Thompson Rivers University to start the season followed by a 2-0 loss to UBC Okanagan. "Hopefully we've leapfrogged a couple of teams there - we're not sitting on the bottom of the division anymore. And it's always nice to get that first win, it kind of relaxes the guys. Hopefully we can build on this."
The lone complaint for Dailly was that the Blues allowed two goals for the third straight game, a streak that continued Sunday when the Blues battled Langara to a 2-2 tie to finish off week 2. "I think we can do a better job defensively - giving up two goals a game isn't what I'm looking for," said Dailly, adding that third year central defender Thomas Arnott from West Vancouver secondary and rookie Dylan Van As from Sentinel should be able to tighten up the backline as the year goes on.
"They're still getting used to each other and how we're going to play," said Dailly. "They're doing and good job."
Greensides, another West Vancouver grad, should be able to put his ball-handling blunder behind him, said Dailly. "We'll put it down to a rookie mistake and hopefully it doesn't happen again." The rookie made a few nice stops to allow the Blues to complete their comeback on Saturday.
The biggest positive for the Blues was the return of Giezen who missed the first two games of the season. The third year offensive midfielder was the BCCAA rookie of the year back in 2008 when he helped the Blues win a provincial title. He returned to the team last year and was named a first team PacWest all-star. This season he picked up right where he left off last year despite some lingering neck and back issues stemming from an August car accident.
"He calms everything down on the field for us and obviously attackingwise he just adds another dimension," said Dailly. "He's obviously very offensively gifted so for us we need to look to play through him. He should be our leader offensively and he's an older guy, he's got a cool head on his shoulders so I think he's going to help not only offensively but on defence as well, keeping the guys on top of things."
Other players Dailly is expecting to lead the team on offence include De Boer, second year midfielder Andre Pietramala from Port Moody secondary, second year forward Jagdeep Sangha from Howe Sound secondary and rookie Keith Jackson, a Seycove grad who has impressed early in the year.
"In the preseason all he did was go in and score goals," said Dailly. "We're looking for him to add a spark, maybe off the bench."
The Blues, typically a powerhouse in the PacWest league, are coming off a down year that saw them miss the playoffs. Dailly isn't keen on doing that again any time soon.
"It's a lot of motivation," he said. "I think last year's team and last year's group under-performed for the most part so it's up to me and my assistant coach Desmond Tachie to rectify things and get these guys playing a system that we're comfortable with."
The Blues are three points out of a playoff spot after the first four games but the coach is confident they've got the talent to push into the top four and make a deep run in the playoffs as long as the desire is there.
"This team can go as far as it wants to," he said. "It starts with hard work, determination. If we can get that right through the 21 players that we have, that they're going to work hard and they're going to compete every game, then the sky is the limit."
The Capilano women picked up their first win of the season Sunday when they topped Langara 1-0. Those three points put the Blues into sixth place in the PacWest league, two points behind Langara for the fourth and final playoff spot. Both Blues teams will try to keep the wins coming this weekend when they host a pair of contests. On Saturday, Sept. 21 Douglas College will visit Capilano while on Sunday the Kwantlen Eagles will be in town. Both days the women will kickoff at 1 p.m. with the men to follow at 3 p.m.
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