Finish eludes snake-bitten Griffins as they settle for 1-1 draw with visiting Pronghorns

Stefan Gajic set up MacEwan's only goal of the game by Rakan Yassin in the 50th minute, but the Griffins had multiple chances to add to that throughout the game (Chris Piggott photo).
Stefan Gajic set up MacEwan's only goal of the game by Rakan Yassin in the 50th minute, but the Griffins had multiple chances to add to that throughout the game (Chris Piggott photo).

Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – Recording a dozen high-danger chances and only converting one, it was almost comical how snake-bitten the MacEwan Griffins were on Saturday at Clarke Stadium.

In a game they could have had six or seven goals if their finishing touch was more on point, the Griffins were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw with the visiting Lethbridge Pronghorns in a battle between two teams already out of Canada West men's soccer playoff contention.

"You couldn't have asked for better chances," said MacEwan head coach Adam Loga. "We had so many one-on-ones with their keeper.

"But, hey, that's kind of been the common theme to our season. Just can't really find the breaks. Obviously, we're very serious with what we do, and we work hard with what we do, but you can't help but kind of chuckle and laugh in disbelief."

Michael Enes hit a crossbar and Stefan Gajic dinged a post just over three minutes apart in the first half.

Joseph Abrahart narrowly missed the net twice in the first half on wide open shots.

Rakan Yassin beat Lethbridge keeper Matthew Vandervoort but not defender James Braid in the second half.  Kapri Simmons had a late breakaway, but his feet got tangled and he was unable to execute a chip over the sliding keeper into a yawning cage.

And it was the height of ridiculousness how the Griffins didn't score in the 76th minute off a scramble in the box where Enes' point-blank attempt was blocked before Yassin fired a laser in that Vandervoort stopped and Everett Orgnero sent the rebound over the bar.

"Whether it's five ties now and five one-goal losses, we're right there and it's becoming almost laughable," said Loga.

MacEwan outshot Lethbridge 26-9 in the game, but only 9-6 in shots on goal, highlighting many near misses. With the result, the Griffins are 1-7-5 on the campaign, while the Pronghorns are 0-10-3.

Yassin scored MacEwan's only goal of the game in the 50th minute, just 37 seconds after getting subbed into the match. On his first touch of the afternoon, he took a pass wide right from Stefan Gajic and buried a low steamer inside the left post for his first career Canada West goal.

"He made me look good, didn't he?" joked Loga. "It was great to have him back. He was away at a family event last weekend.

"It's just too bad. One of our Achilles' heels is our set pieces and boom."

Indeed, the Pronghorns tied the game off a 63rd-minute corner kick that Danilo Morales sent high back post. Big 6-foot-6 rookie Damon Field elevated and headed it into the top right corner for his first career Canada West goal.

"I know it's a big moment for him," said Pronghorns head coach Randy Bardock. "He's a first year and he's played every minute for us. He's just been awesome. It's well deserved.

"Hopefully the first of many.

"We had a lot of young kids out there today and I thought they battled hard," he added. "It's the only way they're going to get better is to make those mistakes and learn and grow from it."

Kapri Simmons blasts a shot on Saturday (Chris Piggott photo).

Even with the playoffs out of reach, the Griffins aren't without motivation in their final game of the regular season. With their last match against Saskatchewan on Sunday (12 p.m., Clarke Stadium, Canada West TV presented by Co-op), they have a chance to post the best season the program has had since joining Canada West in 2014.

With a win over the Huskies, they'd match the program's high watermark for points with 11 (accomplished in 2014 and 2018), but never before have they had an equal number of wins and ties to their loss total. If they avoid a loss on Sunday, they will reach .500 in that department with seven losses and seven non-losses.

"We're still motivated intrinsically within our program to create history and still have the best season in MacEwan history," said Loga. "It's a bit difficult to phrase it this way, but we've lost the least amount this year (in program history), if that makes sense. We call it the MacEwan .500. We lost as many games as we didn't lose.

"So, that's a step forward. It doesn't help with the point total, but that shows, I think, the improvement of being way more competitive within the league."

Lethbridge will also finish their 2019 season with a Sunday visit to Alberta (2 p.m., Foote Field).