Tue Aug 19
Written By: Fletcher, Alex
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." - Charles Dickens
The start of A Tale of Two Cities would be an apt description for the Cataraqui Clippers' feelings about the game against the visiting Windsor Stars. A bright start, a frustrating finish.
On an early Sunday kickoff, both teams were hampered by a number of missing players: the Clippers facing the opening of university training camps, and the Stars facing an eight-hour drive on their longest road trip of the season. Clippers compensated by using nine callups, including three from the Kingston men's league, while the Stars were forced to play with a short bench.
The game kicked off at noon and twenty-four seconds later, Robbie Murphy, a callup from Ottawa, scored the fastest goal in League1 play to date on a through ball that split the makeshift Windsor defensive line, as he put the ball past Kyle Vizirakis into the bottom corner of the goal, giving Clippers a dream start, and dashing Windsor coach Vancho Cirovski's hopes of getting a fast start to the game.
The Stars were forced to play a bit more defensively and try to hold the possession in order to avoid another Clippers counter-attack, and in the sixth minute felt that they had a solid call for a penalty as Dylan Kirk appeared to bring down Stephan Ademolu, but referee Justin Tasev gave a loud shout indicating that there was no foul.
By the tenth minute of play, the game seemed to have settled down as both teams were playing essentially 4-4-2 formations and they were cancelling each other out nicely. In the sixteenth minute that all changed as the Stars found themselves on a four-on-none break and Ademolu made no mistake with his pass to Gino Berardi, who simply had to pass the ball into the empty net to tie the game up 1-1. Thirty seconds later, Michael Pio put Windsor ahead 2-1 with a hard shot that just eluded Navi Sidhu.
In most of their games this year the Clippers have had trouble rebounding from such a catastrophic turn of events, but Joel Zelt took matters into his own hands and, after beating two defenders, fired a twenty-five yard shot from the corner of the penalty area past Vizirakis into the far corner to tie the game up 2-2.
A couple of wasted free kicks and some corners that amounted to nothing marked the next ten minutes. In the twenty-eighth minute the Clippers thought that they had retaken the lead as a back-post header got over the goal line before being cleared out by Vizirakis, but Tasev was quick to quiet the crowd's celebration as he made it clear that the goal didn't count due to a foul immediately beforehand.
The teams traded chances over the next few minutes with Zelt hitting the top of the crossbar with another long shot, and Ademolu tipping one just wide of the near post. In the thirty-sixth minute, OYSL U17 player Rafael Rodriguez was cautioned for unsporting behaviour as he clumsily took Erik Cirovski down, forcing his withdrawl for Luis Cortes in the thirty-ninth, once it was determined he could not continue.
Just before half-time, Brydon Caesar was cautioned for a similar tackle, but the resulting free kick came to nothing and the half-time whistle was blown with the teams deadlocked 2-2.
The second half started quickly and Clippers had a chance to grab a goal nine seconds in, but Jason Zelt's shot curled just wide of the near-post top corner. The Clippers continued to have the better chances, taking advantage of the Stars' limited bench with their best chance coming in the sixtieth as Murphy rounded Vizirakis easily, but Ciprian Codea was able to clear the ball off the line at the near post. Six minutes later, Joel Zelt's cross to the middle led to Boris Baker taking a close range shot, parried away by Vizirakis, now keeping his team in the game.
In the sixty-ninth minute, player/captain/coach Jason Massie was tackled from behind, and was clearly injured on the play, but continued on until the seventy-fourth, when Jon Zelt replaced him. During that stretch, Gabe Jones came in to replace Baker in the seventieth minute, and immediately thereafter Massie's inability to run properly led to a good chance by Pio, put just over the bar. The Clippers made their final change as Jason Zelt went down with a cramp in the eightieth and was replaced by James Tennant.
With those three changes, the Stars began to take more control of the midfield, leading to some good chances, with the best being Caesar's curling shot through traffic tipped just wide on a fantastic diving stop by Sidhu. Clippers had one final chance in the game as Tennant volleyed a cross just over the bar in front of a gaping net in the eighty-seventh. This was the moment that Clippers would rue in the second minute of added time, as Ademolu headed a cross down past Sidhu into the far corner of the net to give the Stars a last second winner, and make the drive much more manageable with all three points on the day.
Coach Cirovski was quick to praise his team for their character and commented on how, "at they end of the day, they did not give up, even though they were exhausted." He was "thrilled about the performance, the committment, the heart, and how well they played."
Massie commented on the difficulties of being a player/coach and how "it is challenging, and it is too much to be honest." He continued to say that he was "very impressed with the lads, especially the callups from the GKSSA and the two boys from Ottawa. We were up against a very good side who pop the ball around well, and it could've gone either way." He also made a point of commenting on the U17 callup Rodriguez' play, noting that, "he's almost a part of the team now."