AUS Week 2: I Was Wrong About Everything

He's not reading the Gazette. Boo!

As soon as I hit post on the AUS season preview, I knew large parts of it would be wrong. Some of this was just my doing it rather quickly, and some of it is the nature of university soccer.

Now, I should be quite clear that there is still no place for mutiny on this ship. But sometimes you hit rough water–a lot of the rosters came out less than 24 hours before the season kicked off–and there’s no use pretending a whale’s a fish.

So let’s dedicate this week’s recap to setting the record straight.

Mount Allison (L 0 – 2 @ SMU; L 0 – 5 v. CBU)

What I got wrong

Everything!

The Mounties were late to release their roster, but they did actually haul in a pretty nice recruiting class in the end. (Thanks to Ben Peres in the comments for the heads-up!) (Hint to Mt. A Athletics: you might want to tell people you just recruited an Eygptian U17 international1The standard thing prevails with U17 internationals, which is that at that level it’s still kinda youth soccer and the number of guys who even go pro from U17 national teams is limited. Plus, Eygpt’s FA is currently in deep, deep turmoil..)

This is in line with the direction I see George Jenkins taking this team. He’s a Canadian Soccer League veteran and knows all about getting players from everywhere.

The weekend

It’s also clear that Jenkins is helping fix the defense.

They were never going to get anything from Cape Breton. The 0 – 2 on the road against Saint Mary’s is another result that suggests this team could upset someone this year. If they can keep it tight, we saw that guys like Hirokaza Hasegawa can score the odd goal, and they’re dangerous on set pieces.

I watched a bit of their game against Cape Breton (I don’t usually watch much Mt. A, for obvious reasons). You can still see the problems–bad passes, slow reads; this team is still not at the AUS level–but there are flashes from guys like Joseph Paliotti in midfield and Ziad Abdelrahman in attack.

Both of them are first-years, and neither is a local boy. Three years from now, they could be the core of a much more dangerous team.

Memorial (D 0 – 0 @ UNB; D 2 – 2 @ Moncton)

What I was wrong about

The overall level, and also I thought this team would be all-Newfoundland and then they announced posted a bunch of recruits after I posted. So six of one, half dozen of the other, here.

Erick Mathiasen Fernandez has been big. Memorial’s main improvement has been defensive–they’re not giving up goals late in the half, and Fernandez adds both positional awareness and mobility to the backline.

I know I called them a recreational team, but there is ambition here. Up front, Jacob Grant is a rookie, but he’s creating chances and that’s something the Seahawks haven’t had enough of.

The weekend

However you look at them, road draws, especially against UNB, are a big deal. I’ve written a lot in the CanPL recaps about how good teams draw on the road and win at home. MUN’s first weekend will hurt them, but the road form looks to be improving.

Cape Breton (D 0 – 0 @ Dal; W 5 – 0 @ Mt. A)

What was I wrong about?

Actually not much. Joel Eckert-Ayensa is out for the season, which is a blow, but that was evident last week. Isiah Johnston does indeed look like a stellar recruit, too.

I did manage to confuse Anesti Pejo and Raine Lyn for a while this past weekend, which takes some doing, but here I am.

The weekend

I had the privilege of calling Dal – Cape Breton, and had it as my game of the weekend. It was as good a 0 – 0 as you could want, with lots of chances, but by the end of it the Capers were visibly frustrated.

There is clearly a bit of a tactical conundrum here. I truly believe that Deano Morley’s 4-2-2-2 makes sense on a chalkboard, and the Capers have the pieces to pull it off, though Eckert-Ayensa would really help. At times, it’s more of a 4-2-4 with both Cory Bent and Charlie Waters starting wide, as they did on Saturday.

Sometimes those ideal plans don’t work quite as smoothly in practice. The problem for Waters and Bent is that neither is particularly big and it means Cape Breton lack any outlet. Johnston provided a bit of one early, but the Tigers mostly kept Cape Breton out wide and the Capers lost their first points of the season.

Dalhousie (D 0 – 0 v. CBU; L 0 – 1 v. St. FX)

What I got wrong

Kallen Heenan is gone–he had a year of eligibility left and played locally this summer, but he likely graduated from his program, which is part of the AUS set-up.

I praised Dal’s holdover defense, too, but that would almost hold if Alex Knesaurek wasn’t hurt. They’ll miss Isaiah McCullough and James Mathews, though.

The weekend

I was very right about Obaid Hedayat, of course, but unfortunately he sat out this weekend with what Pat Nearing would only term “an internal issue”. Young players, frosh week–there are distractions. Hedayat will be back.

And the backline looks pretty solid in the hands of first-years Calum Legge and Adam Murphy, along with the veteran Jeff Arkin. Shutting down Cape Breton the way they did was masterful. (Though Pat Nearing deserves a lot of credit for the team shape and playing Jacob Bolton as a defensive forward.)

If they’d kept it going against St. FX on Sunday I’d be a lot higher on this team, probably talking about them competing for the AUS title. They looked tired, which is fair, and they were missing a bunch of players, but this is three dropped points and, really, only one gained.

Bekkers did hit the bar late, but otherwise the Tigers didn’t do anything near enough to create chances–an old demon from last year.

St. FX (W 1 – 0 @ Dal)

What I got wrong

Ayoub al-Arabi is gone, which is odd–he was only in first year, had had a good youth career. I didn’t hear about an injury, but you never know.

Has the goalkeeping improved? I don’t know that I trust it, exactly, but Seamus MacDonald has looked good so far.

The weekend

Because last year, St. FX would have coughed up a bad goal in Halifax and cost themselves at least two points. Instead, they got full points from a difficult trip.

The X-Men needed this. Another loss, especially another heavy one, and I’m starting on their obituary. They’re not out of the woods yet–they head to New Brunswick next week–but they don’t have to play in Newfoundland this year, so there are home points available in October if this team can stabilize.

Saint Mary’s (W 2 – 0 v. Mt. A; W 3 – 1 @ Acadia)

What I got wrong

Not much, except I thought this team might struggle to make the playoffs and they’re basically already in.

The weekend

The Huskies aren’t just hot, they’re on top of AUS. They won’t stay there–they’ve had an easier schedule–but for now they have 12 points, only three off their 2018 total, and they’re more than halfway to their 2018 scoring total, too.

I haven’t seen a lot of them yet–saving it up for the first edition of the derby next week. But it’s not a¬†hugely different team. Neil Spires, who is one of the guys Mesut Mert plucked from Halifax County, has helped add some structure in midfield. Alex Black looks like he’s ready to dominate in his fourth year, though he was already pretty good last year.

There’s not even been that much of a tactical shift. It just looks like this group is this group, and they’ve bought in a little more.

Acadia (L 1 – 2 @ UPEI; L 1 – 3 v. SMU)

What I got wrong

shrug

The weekend

Not good.

Travel is part of that. AUS usually isn’t too bad, but going out to Charlottetown then coming back to Wolfville does add a little accent onto the usual weekend back-to-back.

Acadia looked lively in the UPEI game, and Gordie MacLaughlin continues to have days where he can beat anyone 1v1. Trouble is, that doesn’t make a team, and there’s just not much else there.

Joe Iatrou was involved, but never quite as dominant as you might expect him to be given the quality he does possess. He helped set up Acadia’s goal, but so did about six other guys who got some body part on it inside the six. You get a few garbage goals a year, but Acadia got precious little of their own devising.

They gave away the winning goal, too, letting the game get wide open and the Panthers, initially a little uncomfortable with that, eventually took advantage. Amit Batra will be furious with that, but ultimately this is a rebuild that’s going to take a couple years.

UPEI (W 2 – 1 v. Acadia; L 0 – 3 @ UNB)

What I was wrong about

I’ve thought Nathan Chow’s looked reasonably good. He’s crafty, and while there may be a bit of a step up, it’s less steep than I thought it might have been.

A late edit saved me with UPEI: I thought Sam Smiley was graduating but caught that at the last minute. Final year for him this year, capping off a great AUS career.

The weekend

The Panthers were perilously close to bottoming out this weekend. A home draw against Acadia would have been Bad.

They have had a ruthless schedule, with trips to Antigonish, Cape Breton, and UNB early. They play three of their next four at home now, and the road game is against the Mounties.

So home points are where it’s at. The Panthers can always surprise teams, and they kind of surprised Acadia a bit, I think. That’s far easier to do at home when you have some initiative, and I was pleased to see the Panthers open up and attack. Chow, as mentioned, was solid.

The late winner came from a lovely finish by Sam Smiley, off a smooth layoff by Mohamed Jaber, who’s been a lot better this year than last. They were still fortunate to get that break, though, and defending physical players remains a problem.

UNB (D 0 – 0 v. Memorial; W 3 – 0 v. UPEI)

What I got wrong

Did okay here. Mostly I thought they’d be good. Might have got that wrong.

The weekend

Ouch. Teams that want to compete nationally cannot be held scoreless against Memorial. At home.

The Reds did this last year when they coughed against Dal in Fredericton, but that’s Dal, and the Tigers can realistically take a point like that. This one’s just worrying.

My guess is some words were said in Fredericton on Saturday night, and UNB came out with both fire and firepower on Sunday. That has to be the level consistently, though, because a playoff bye is not a shoo-in for this group this year.

Moncton (D 2 – 2v. Memorial)

What I got wrong

Look! Jean-Michel Dako!

This one’s easy–I can’t read rosters, apparently. Just misread his year of eligibility. Like Smiley, this will be his final go.

Whether that’s a good thing for Moncton or not? Like everything with Moncton, that remains to be seen.

The weekend

They’ve been better this year about playing direct, and Dako has bought into that, scoring against Dal. He’s still not going to give you a lot of, shall we say, rigidity in midfield.

Les Aigles-Bleu led inside two minutes and trailed by the 25th, which is very Moncton. Sunday was the one-year anniversary of the Seahawks last win and they were 15 minutes away from celebrating it. But for Adrien Nagy–a midfielder–scoring a brace, this would have been disaster.

Memorial and Moncton share a similar level, so a home draw isn’t quite as big a problem here, but it’s always better to make the travel pay.

Commentary of the Week

Usually I include something silly in here, so in that spirit, why not tune in to AUStv.ca and listen to me call the Dal – Capers game? That should give you your fill.

I’m grateful to the team at Dal Athletics for giving me a chance, and I had a lot of fun working with Martin Shannon and Neil Gordon all afternoon. It was great to see so many former colleagues of Bill McLean, who got me into the whole gig back when I was at the Gazette.

What I’m watching this week

Rather a lot of CanPL as Wanderers finally return home.

AUS-wise, the league settles down a bit after a busy first couple weekends. Saint Mary’s have the biggest weekend, with tilts against Cape Breton and Dalhousie that should test just how good this year’s Huskies team is.Ga

He’s not reading the Gazette. Boo!

 

About Dylan Matthias 97 Articles
Captain of this motley crew. Formerly editor-in-chief at The Dalhousie Gazette, covering university soccer and Halifax news from a student perspective. Once a Vancouverite, always a Haligonian.

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