Timberwolves tie Cascades in home debut
The new-look UNBC Timberwolves made their 2019 season home debut Friday night at Masich Stadium and if they perform the rest of the season like they did in a highly entertaining 1-1 tie with the Fraser Valley Cascades, soccer fans in Prince George are in for a treat.
These T-wolves are fast, and as they showed the Cascades they like to own the ball, and they have the type of shooters that can strike fear into opposing goaltenders.
With a healthy crowd watching, they certainly put the pressure on Cascades ‘keeper Ethan Duggan, a first-year player from North Vancouver, who held his team in the game when the T-wolves came out firing in a dominant first half.
Parman Minhas for the Cascades, and Abou Cisse, for the T-wolves, accounted for the scoring.
The tie was the first of the U Sports Canada West men’s soccer season for both teams. The T-wolves are now 1-1-1, while the Cascades’ record stands at 0-2-1.
Trailing 1-0 with 75 minutes gone, the T-wolves finally converted on one of their many chances. Reid Adams put on a burst of speed to get the ball deep on an impressive rush and the ball came out to Cisse and from 25 yards out he launched a rocket high into the net for the tying goal.
“In the first half I was really nervous and when I got the ball I just wanted to put it in the back of the net and it didn’t end up like that,” said Cisse, who shot just wide in the opening minute.
“In he second half Steve (coach Simonson) wanted us to be more ruthless and that kind of paid off. Reid gave me the ball and I was going to shoot it with my left foot but it was pretty tight and I couldn’t do it, so I just brought it to my right foot and shot it.”
Cisse, 20, has been in Prince George five years since moving to Canada from Mali. The Duchess Park secondary school graduate had one goal last year in his rookie season. Pressing for the go-ahead goal, the Cascades hit the goal post twice with less than 15 minutes to play. Rajan Bains put one off the iron on a penalty kick and about a minute later Trevor Zanatta’s foot-flick roller was stopped by the post.
The T-wolves fell behind 1-0 three minutes in but played well enough to get out of the first half with a lead. On the shot that counted, Minhas took a feed from Brady Weir just outside the box and fired off a low shot that found a seam through a crowd in front of UNBC goalie Rob Goodey.
The T-wolves went right back to the attack after that but goalie Duggan was ready for them. Owen Stewart probably thought he had his first goal of the season when he launched a bullet from close range but Duggan, the Cascades, first-year ‘keeper leaped up to get his fingertips on the shot and deflect it away. Not long after that, Michael Henman unleashed a bicycle kick that was saved by Duggan.
“It was difficult for sure, they were pounding lots of shots and crosses in and luckily I was able to keep them out,” said the 18-year-old Duggan.
“It felt good to be out there.” Rookie UNBC midfielder Kensho Ando, an import from Japan, came close 35 minutes in with a dangerous deflection that sailed into the hands of Duggan. He and midfielder Hussein ‘Suka’ Behery, who transferred to UNBC from Vancouver Island University, set the tone with their ball handling skills and that led to quality chances.
“The intensity was good and I loved the attendance (about 300 spectators were watching), I’m not used to that to be honest,” said Behery, a 23-year-old native of Egypt. “That’s more than we ever had at VIU in a league game.
“I thought we worked really hard. Our final product should have been better from all of us, but it’s a new team and lots of new players. I thought we were the better team and we deserved to win there. Steve wants us to be an attacking team and to control the game possession-wise and I think we did that very well today, we just need to stop conceding (early goals).”
Henman was probably the most snakebitten T-wolf shooter, missing high on a couple of golden opportunities later in the half.
Outshot 12-6 in the opening half, the Cascades had a chance to add to their lead a few minutes before the intermission when their most fearsome shooter, Gurmaan Jhaj, got free on a breakaway. But Jahj, coming off a 13-goal conference first-team all-star season, elected to pass rather than shoot and the ball rolled harmlessly to the sideline.
“Their goalkeeper made some key saves and we also had some chances that we missed,” said Simonson. “If we bury the chances we could have scored four or five today.”
The young UNBC back line did a great job bottling up the Cascades and two of those rookie defenders, Demian Dron and Luke Brbot, were sporting UNBC colours on a home field for the first time.
“You saw their inexperience early in but Jonah (Smith) was back there trying to settle them down and Luke and Demian, as the game went on, just got more solid,” said Simonson. “They’re two local boys out of high school in their first year and they’re going to be great.”
The same teams meet again Sunday at 1 p.m. at Masich. The T-wolves got some bad news this week when an MRI confirmed fourth-year midfielder James Stephens is out for the season after suffering ligament damage when he made a block seven minutes into the T-wolves’ opening game a week ago Friday in Kelowna. He joins thirdyear midfielder Cody Gyspers (ankle injury) on the sidelines for the rest of the season.
UNBC Timberwolves forward Hussein Behery does a fancy little move to get the ball by UFV Cascades defender Trevor Zanatta on Friday evening at Masich Place Stadium during the men’s soccer team’s home opener.