The Dalhousie University men’s soccer team settled for a draw against the Mount Allison University Mounties on Sept. 10 at Wickwire Field, failing to record a goal for the second time this season.
The Tigers, who were looking to avenge a pair of close losses to the Memorial University of Newfoundland Sea-Hawks last weekend in St. John’s, N.L., came out of the gates eager to score, dominating possession of the ball along the flanks.
Dal nearly found the goal in the 43rd minute when Luke Berryman, striker and team captain, lobbed a shot just out of reach of Mounties keeper Matthew Kiropoulos. The attempt missed the goal by mere inches, ensuring an even sheet through halftime.
In the second half, the Tigers continued to pressure the Mounties’ back line but were unable to release a game winning shot, settling for a 0-0 draw at the final whistle.
Lack of goals are a familiar tune for Tigers
Scoring was a concern for Dal entering this season and has been since Alan Jazic, the team’s head coach, took over four years ago.
“Goal scoring has always been a problem,” said Jazic. “Our offseason recruiting was catered to that. When you look at our new players, a lot of them are in the attacking positions to help with that.”
The Tigers’ class of new recruits features four young midfielders and strikers who Jazic says are all “very attack-minded.”
Despite Sunday’s result, Jazic remains confident that his group will find their form. In addition to recruiting talented scorers, he has been working with his team on attacking patterns, preparing them for a variety of offensive situations.
“I think you’ll see a big improvement this year in our goalscoring,” he said.
Berryman echoed a similar sentiment, emphasizing his team’s need for intensity on their offence.
“There’s a huge emphasis in our group with defending,” he said, “so I just think we need to do a better job of matching that intensity that we have without the ball, [when we have the] ball.”
Defence remains Dal’s calling card
What the Tigers lacked in offence, they made up for in defensive play. The back line put a stop to the Mounties’ attack, only permitting them a pair of shots.
One standout was Jack Ellis, a central defender who used all 6’2” of his frame to win many headers in the middle of the pitch, barring the door on any aerial attack. Another was Michael Trim, a Tigers right back, who controlled the pace on the right side and created multiple offensive chances.
Emmett Workman, a first-year goalkeeper who got his first start of the season against the Mounties, sang the praises of his defenders.
“Our back line was phenomenal,” he said. “We were taking everything out of the air, nothing was coming over top. Our back line is certainly our strong point.”
Exciting young keeper core
With the departure of Aiden Rushenas, a standout Tigers keeper, to the Halifax Wanderers FC, Dal’s goalkeeper slot is being filled by a trio of exciting prospects .
Jazic is optimistic about his young goalkeeping core, which includes Emmett Workman, Sinclair Astridge and Connor Johnston.
“Those kids have a great mindset where they just come ready to work hard in practice,” he said. “They have great values, and they just want to get better every day. We’re really excited about our goalkeeping core.”
However, even with the influx of young recruits, Jazic thinks his team is experienced enough to be contenders.
“We feel that a lot of our players are in the stage of life where their maturity level is exactly where it needs to be for our team to be successful,” said Jazic. “They’re in the perfect demographic of life where they can actually lead and have a huge influence on our young guys.”
A long road ahead
Going forward, the Tigers’ maturity will be put to the test. After three games, they sit at the bottom of the standings with a single point, a long way from where they want to be.
The match against Mt. A marked the beginning of a four game home stand for Dal, which should come as a relief to a team who hasn’t lost at home since the start of last season.
Berryman said that the Tigers derive a lot of confidence from playing on their home pitch. “There’s a certain attitude and approach that you have when you play at Wickwire where under no circumstances are we going to be beat,” he said.
The Tigers will need to tap into that confidence as they take on the Cape Breton University Capers on Saturday, Sept. 16 and start their climb back up the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) standings.