The McGill men’s soccer team (0-1-0) opened their Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) regular season on home turf Sept. 10 against Laval (1-0-0). Despite the enthusiastic crowd, the Redbirds came up short, losing 2–1.
The game began with fast pace and solid movement at the back for the Redbirds. From the opening kickoff, both teams were quite physical, leading to early yellow cards on both sides. Despite a few defensive mistakes on McGill’s part in the first half, rookie goalkeeper Victor Henry made some spectacular saves to ensure the game remained scoreless.
Third-year midfielder Bouba Ouane, who came in as a substitution in the second half, felt that the team lost their composure in the latter part of the first half as a result of the early mistakes.
“After the first 20 minutes or so, I think the team got a bit nervous with the massive crowd and I felt as if we fell apart somewhat,” Ouane said in an interview with The McGill Tribune.
Third-year midfielder Jake Gerenraich, a veteran on this season’s squad, shared his appreciation for the crowd, but agreed with Ouane that the team may have not been prepared for such a loud atmosphere.
“The crowd was the largest we have had since I have been a part of the program,” Gerenraich said. “It was awesome to see for a home opener; electric. I felt that because of it though, we lost composure as the first half continued.”
Despite the loss of confidence, the Redbirds entered the locker room at halftime tied 0—0 with Laval. The momentum lost late in the first half, though, would come back to hurt the home side when the team returned to the pitch. Laval opened up the scoring two minutes into the second half on a breakaway set up by a through ball that got past the McGill back line.
Three minutes after the first goal, Laval continued to press, with forward Wassim Chaouki scoring on a tap-in in front of the McGill goal. The quick 2–0 lead out of the half completely shifted the momentum to the away side’s favour, digging a deep hole for the home side to climb out of.
In a sudden turn, however, the momentum shifted back to the Redbirds. In the 58th minute, Gerenraich received a pass off of a free kick and made a spectacular pass into the 18-yard box to fourth-year forward Florian Bettelli, who converted and opened up the scoring for McGill.
Gerenraich had a sense prior to the set piece that the opportunity for a goal would present itself.
“Although I would not say set pieces are a strong suit of the team, we have some great free kick-takers and I think the goal showed that,” Gerenraich said. “A similar play happened earlier in the match and I knew the [assist] I made could possibly come again so I felt ready for the chance.”
After the Redbirds cut the lead to one, McGill applied more offensive pressure. This was made even easier just a few minutes later, as Laval defender Vincent Lavigne was sent off with a red card for a dangerous tackle, forcing the away side to play down a man for the remainder of the match.
Despite the advantage and some quality chances, McGill was unable to convert in the final twenty minutes, ending with a final score of 2–1 for Laval.
Ouane felt that they could have had a better opportunity of tying the game if they had tactically adjusted.
“I believe we could have pressed up the pitch more to end the game, especially due to the fact that we were up a man,” Ouane said. “Maybe [we could have] even moved to three at the back to aid the midfield in supporting the strikers.”
McGill men’s soccer plays University Québec à Montréal on Sept. 16.
Moment of the Game:
Florian Bettelli scored McGill’s first goal of the game, and of the regular season, right inside the penalty box, sending the massive McGill home crowd to their feet.
An extremely physical and heated match resulted in 10 yellow cards and one red card combined for both squads.
“The crowd was the largest we have had since I have been a part of the program. It was awesome to see for a home opener; electric.” — Third-year midfielder Jake Gerengraich
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Chris Cinella-Faia was the goalkeeper for this particular game. In fact, Victor Henry played as goalkeeper. The Tribune regrets this error.