Another game, another heartbreak as UBC men's soccer lose to Citadins in national consolation semi

After a devastating 3-2 loss in overtime against Carleton yesterday evening — which took UBC out of the running for the national title — UBC head coach Mike Mosher fielded a new-look T-Birds team for their consolation semi against the Université de Québec à Montréal (UQAM) Citadins on Friday afternoon.

Again, it wouldn’t be UBC’s day — and again, it will be one UBC likely hopes to forget both for its 2-1 scoreline and the drama that ensued.

Compared to Thursday’s roster, seven new faces found their way into the T-Birds starting lineup: defenders Jora Saran and Manraj Bains, midfielders Mitch Piraux, Sam Fletcher and Dallin Akune and goalkeeper Chris Hansen-Barkun all got the call up for the game.

For fifth-year team veteran Karn Phagura, it was no surprise that Mosher could look to his bench for today's game.

"That's been our thing all season, the fact that we've been playing 23-man deep [roster], any of the subs ... have been able to come in any game of the season and maintain the standard. [You've] see that today, you can see that any game throughout the season. we have lots of quality."

UBC's Connor Guilherme stands up to UQAM's attack.
UBC's Connor Guilherme stands up to UQAM's attack. Elizabeth Wang

That left star central defender Connor Guilherme to captain an unfamiliar starting 11 — a challenge he lived up to in the match, despite an overall lacklustre performance from the team.

Though UBC generally held possession throughout the match, two penalty kicks awarded off of tackles by Hansen-Barkun would see UQAM take a 2-1 lead by the midway point of the half. Guilherme would be UBC’s lone goalscorer on the night, with a 54th minute header goal off a free kick —his second of the nationals tournament.

On the penalties, Hansen-Barkun would get his hands to both shots.

One of two UQAM penalty goals.
One of two UQAM penalty goals. Salomon Micko Benrimoh

Mosher would opt to throw in some of the old faithfuls late in the game to try to get the scoreline back in hand, as striker Kristian Li-Hietanen, veteran central midfielder Phagura and set play specialist, Canada West player of the year and rookie of the year Tommy Gardner all made their appearance.

With more of the usual suspects back in the roster, UBC settled back into their quick, creative game and momentum swayed in their favour with 20 minutes to spare.

Another Guilherme set play header roused the fans in the 70th, though it would swing just wide of the left post.

In the 87th minute, UBC’s tournament so far would be summed up perfectly with the ref issuing an unfortunate red card to Gardner. From there, the game would take a quick downhill turn, ending in a rough challenge from UBC’s Nick Fussell, some pushing and shoving and a red card for both Fussell and UQAM’s Andre Bona.

UBC and UQAM teams come together for discussions.
UBC and UQAM teams come together for discussions. Salomon Micko Benrimoh

Things couldn’t end fast enough in a game, and tournament so far, that UBC will likely hope to leave well in their past.

"We could've played better, could've changed the game on our own, but stuff happens, you get on with it," Phagura said.

Though the game may not have reflected their season in terms of results, for Phagura it did reflect the team atmosphere they have fostered.

"It's been a good group, we've been tight-knit and we showed it until the last minute. It got a little chippy and everyone had each other's back and we fought. It's hard to play in a game like this, a consolation game, but we did the best we could and I'm proud of the boys."

~ With files from Scott Young