A second-half goal by Josh Banton propelled the Thompson Rivers Wolfpack to 1-0 upset win over the OUA champion York Lions in the third match of the opening day at the 2017 U SPORTS Respect Group Men’s Soccer Championship.
The game started like a prize fight. Both the Lions and the WolfPack were feeling each other out, with TRU not bending to the rich pedigree of the York program.
The first two quality scoring chances came from the WolfPack, including a reverse bicycle kick by James Fraser in the 27th minute, who entered the match with four goals in the postseason.
The teams went into the dressing room scoreless with the home crew holding a 4-3 shots advantage.
The WolfPack took the lead in the 59th minute, as USPORTS First Team All-Canadian Mitch Popadynetz took a free kick after teammate Justin Donaldson (3rd year, midfield, Kamloops, BC) was hauled down on a run. Popadynetz placed the ball into box where Canada West all-rookie Banton directed the ball into the net.
Banton earned the distinction of scoring the school’s evergoal at the national tournament in the four-year history of the program.
I knew that with Mitchy being on the ball- he is a fantastic hitter on the ball. I had a mismatch on my man. I knew if he hit me it would go in. But I thought the entire time I was heading it wide.
The match was spirited but got out of hand for York when in the 67th minute, Lions defender Francesco Sinopoliwas given a red card when he picked up the ball and hit Popadynetz in the back of the head. That forced York to play with 10 men for the rest of the match.
York had a great chance in the 77th minute, when off a corner kick, the Lions’ Omar Marzoukthe ball but Wolfpack keep Allan Connor – appearing in only his fourth match of the season – made the save in traffic.
“We didn’t execute enough in the final third,” said York head coach Carmine Isaaco afterwards.” We didn’t execute well in our transition. At nationals, it is the little things that make the difference.” Isaaco felt there was a lot of posturing in the first half.
“It took us a while to figure it out,” he said. “We kind of went the direct route a little too early and too much. We should have been more patient with the ball.”
TRU head coach John Antulov said it was “the biggest win in our history without question against one of the top ranked teams in the nation. They are well coached and fantastic. Our guys really showed what we can do on the national stage. We knew that as we continue to grow and build and once they started to believe in themselves- we can compete. We are starting to see that come to fruition now.”