Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – Just past the halfway point of the Canada West men's soccer season, only divisional matchups remain for the MacEwan Griffins.
That means despite a 1-5-2 record to date that has them on the outside of the playoff picture looking in, their destiny is still very much in their own hands.
This weekend, they'll face the teams with the top two records in the Prairie Division – 7-2 Mount Royal University (Saturday, 3:30 p.m.) and 5-4 Calgary (Sunday, 2:15 p.m., both games Canada West TV presented by Co-op).
They've already shown they can play with both of them. MacEwan knocked off the Dinos 2-1 in their home opener back on Sept. 7 and were leading the Cougars 1-0 on Sept. 8 before a parade of cards led to them finishing the game three-men down in a 2-1 defeat.
If there is a lesson to be heeded ahead of their weekend road trip, they only need to look back to last season. The Griffins also beat the Dinos early in the 2018 campaign but failed to emerge from the Calgary road trip with a point.
"They have to understand that surface, playing dimensions, etc., they do change when you're on the road," noted MacEwan head coach Adam Loga. "We're on grass (this weekend), it's a bit smaller of a pitch, it's not as flush. So, we've got to adjust and adapt accordingly.
"I think last year, being young and a bit more naïve, they wouldn't have adjusted to that and the battle of being on the road. This is at least better because we stay in the same city – we don't have to do to multiple cities on this trip. I think they just have to adjust and adapt accordingly."
If they do, they have a chance to climb the ladder. The Griffins are just two points behind Alberta (2-5-1) for the final playoff spot and are also in reach of 2-3-4 Saskatchewan for third, especially since they have three games remaining against those teams.
Furthermore, while MacEwan is now four games below .500 on the campaign, all five of their losses have come by one goal – three of those coming on late tallies – so the season could have a very different tone if a few minutes swung differently.
"The difference between winning and losing is so fragile," said Loga. "Kudos to the guys in a sense their spirits are still up. There's still a great sense of belief within them. With each one of these setbacks, some in our control, some not in our control, they've kept their heads up.
"We couldn't be more pleased as a staff. A lot of teams, especially this young and vulnerable, would have given up, hit the deck. But not these lads. They keep on going and for that we're very pleased."
There is a possibility some inclement weather could hit Calgary this weekend, but Loga noted there's really no way to prepare for snow.
"They've got to go through it," he said. "Most of the guys probably remember the Trinity Western game last year, which was a bit of a snow bowl at Clarke Stadium. Obviously, it takes a little bit away from our technique and what we want to do in keeping possession. It can turn into a gritty game. We'll have to battle in the trenches because it won't be as flush on the deck.
"There's not much we can do to prepare other than prepare ourselves mentally and maintain concentration and focus as best we can."