Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – The lone Edmontonian on the UBC Thunderbirds men's soccer roster stunned the homestanding MacEwan Griffins with a late goal to deliver a 2-1 result for the visitors on the most iconic soccer stage in the city of #YEG.
Third-year Jackson Farmer got his melon on an inspired 87th minute sideline-to-goal-line throw-in by Riley Pang, touching it over keeper Seth Johnstone for the game-winner at Commonwealth Stadium – the regular home of the CFL's Edmonton Eskimos.
"I'm happy for Jackson – a hometown boy playing back here in Edmonton and he gets a timely goal," said UBC head coach Mike Mosher. "I'm thrilled for him to get the winner here."
It was a deserved result for UBC, which dominated possession in the contest, especially in the first half, outshooting the Griffins 20-7 (10-2 in shots on goal).
But you can't blame the Griffins for having a gut-wrenching bout of disappointment. They led 1-0, had other golden opportunities to score two or three times in the game, and were just minutes away from at least salvaging a draw.
"I think again it comes down to a little bit of maturity and just kind of battling to the final whistle," said MacEwan head coach Adam Loga, who is seeing déjà vu – able to attribute three losses and one of their ties this year to costly late goals.
"It's tough. You've got to think some breaks are going to come our way sooner or later because we've been pretty resilient with guys suspended, guys injured, guys sick all week and we still came out and played No. 6 in the nation to a draw until the 87th.
"Again, it's not a lack of belief. We just have to keep it positive and keep fighting because we're obviously right there."
The Thunderbirds jumped all over the Griffins early, but just couldn't find the twine. Manraj Bains hit crossbar in the 16th minute before Thomas Gardner's elite footwork led to a point-blank chance in the 17th, but he didn't get all of the shot and Johnstone gobbled it up.
"I'm happy they persevered and found a way there at the end, but unfortunately it's been a broken record our last couple of games," said Mosher of lots of possession, little finish. "At least the last couple of games we've created opportunities, but we've got to bury some.
That's been the thing. We've got to be able to change games by scoring early and taking our chances."
For as strong as UBC was in the attacking third, they were vulnerable to the counter-attack all afternoon, which is where MacEwan made hay in the 24th minute. Michael Enes worked for some open space at the top of the box and delivered a left-footed strike bar-down past diving Thunderbirds keeper Jason Roberts.
Griffins players celebrate with first-half goal-scorer Michael Enes (#14) on Saturday (Chris Piggott photo).
"We stayed compact and we played well defensively and just took our chances on the counter," said Loga. "The boys put in the shift and showed some character today. We just came up short."
As UBC pressed for the equalizer, Zibusiso Moyo made two defensive saves and Zach Rochat had one in the span of seven minutes before Johnstone came up with two massive saves on Logan Chung and Farmer less than a minute apart at the end of the half.
UBC just kept coming when the game resumed, however, and Victory Shumbusho struck in the 47th, booting home a ball out of a corner kick scramble in the box.
MacEwan had two big chances to regain the lead, but Rakan Yassin, in alone, sent the ball bounding just wide of the right post, and Everett Orgnero's shot from five feet out in the 66th was blocked by sliding midfielder Mitch Piraux.
Just when the game seemed destined to end in a draw, Farmer played hero.
Johnstone made five saves in the game for the Griffins, but most were of the 10-bell variety. His heroics nearly lifted MacEwan to a draw.
"Seth is putting together a pretty good run right now," said Loga. "We hope he can ride the wave the rest of the year.
"We did come out slow in the first half and we battled a lot throughout the week. I know other teams are battling similar things and I can only speak for ourselves – guys sick, guys injured. We're just trying to battle through it and be as resilient as we can. Unfortunately we're three minutes away."
UBC (4-1-1) visits Alberta on Sunday (2:30 p.m., Foote Field), while MacEwan hosts UNBC (3-4-1) at the same time (Clarke Stadium).