The USPORTS Gold medals, awarded to the winner of the 2018 USPORTS Men's Soccer national championships at Thunderbird Stadium. (November 11th, 2018)

Story & Photos by Alex Rodgerson/ISN

The Trinity Western Spartans came up short in their bid for Bronze on Sunday afternoon in the USPORTS national championships, falling to the Carleton Ravens by a count of 3-0 at Thunderbird Stadium. The Spartans entered Sunday’s game looking to bounce back after a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Montreal in the semi-finals, while the Ravens would be looking to do the very same having lost their semi’s match to Cape Breton.

After dropping the Canada West final a week prior to the UBC Thunderbirds, TWU began this week’s national championship by shocking the York Lions with a 3-2 win in the quarter-finals. Moving on, the Spartans would then see a crushing ET loss to the Montreal Carabins in the semi’s which would set up Sunday’s Bronze medal clash with Carleton.

The games opening minutes would see TWU Spartans’ keeper Sebastian Colyn make an unfortunate attempt on a routine goal kick, giving the ball away to Ravens’ Stefan Karajovanovic at near point blank range. Colyn would recover and make a fantastic save on Karajovanovic, before Ravens’ Gabriel Bitar would send the rebound just wide of the empty net. The Spartans, a team that plays a more possessive style, would carry the ball well in the early goings but fail to get any quality chance towards the net.

The Spartans would begin to mount some pressure around the games ten minute mark, pressuring the Ravens at the top of their eighteen yard box. However, the Spartans would have a difficult time pulling the trigger and end up without any shots on target after several minutes of sustained pressure. Trinity Western would own possession of the midfield in the game’s opening half, using open space to their advantage while keeping Carleton’s attack at bay.

The Ravens’ defence would do a good job in the first half of holding the line against the Spartans’ forwards, playing aggressively while making good reads. This would allow the Ravens’ quick strike offence to get them on the board first, as in the 25th minute Bitar would break up the field before beating his man and firing a shot top corner passed Colyn.

The Spartans would look for the equalizer late in the half, winning their second corner of the day and looking to draw even in front of a big crowd of TWU supporters at T-Bird Stadium. On the ensuing corner the ball would be crossed into the box for TWU’s Cody Fransen who would get a head on the ball and force Ravens’ keeper Nick Jeffs to make a quality save.

One of the signs of a very good team is the ability to weather an early storm, while taking advantage of opportunistic chances of their own. This would be the story for Carleton in the first half as the Ravens would spend the majority of the half either in their defensive zone or midfield, but own a 1-0 lead heading into half-time.

Up 1-0 to start the second half, Gabriel Bitar would go looking for his second goal of the day early on. The Ottawa-born forward would take a pass in midfield before using his speed to beat several TWU defenders, however his shot would be just wide of the far post. Carleton’s defence would continue to make great reads in the opening minutes of the second half, while employing some good tackling against TWU’s forwards.

Spartans’ Joel Waterman would earn a free kick in a dangerous position in the 60th minute, but would see his attempt deflected wide of the goal. The Ravens would then add to their lead in the 65th minute, after a Carleton corner kick would see Cristopher Malekos able to free himself from several defenders and chip the ball into the net. Malekos, from Saint-Hyppolyte Quebec, had earned first team all-star honours after a great regular season with Carleton.

The Ravens wouldn’t be finished there either, as in the 69th minute Bitar would secure his second of the day after some great chances at the Trinity Western goal. Bitar, once again using his great speed, would break down the left wing and fire a low shot to the back of the net as TWU keeper Colyn would have no chance on the play.

Though they would have no other choice, the Spartans push for offence in the second half would prove costly as Carleton would be up 3-0 with not much time left on the clock. TWU’s Fransen would have the Spartans’ best chance of the second half, after eight consecutive passes would set up the American-born forward right on the doorstep. However, a misplaced header would send the ball wide of the net, a costly mistake with only ten minutes remaining before injury time.

Gabriel Bitar would continue his strong play late in the game and come close to netting his third of the day, but would see the ball cleared away from danger at the last moment after his chip shot would get passed the keeper Colyn. TWU would get one last good opportunity to break the shutout late but would be unable to beat Nick Jeffs. Carleton would go on to take Bronze in the USPORTS men’s soccer national championship by a final of 3-0.

The Carleton Ravens would be very successful on Sunday afternoon utilizing a two forward formation. With only two strikers, Carleton would field four midfielders and four defence, and with forward Gabriel Bitar able to withstand single, double, and even triple coverage, this would pave the way to victory for Carleton. For TWU, despite some great possession time through the game the Spartans would struggle in the attacking eighteen yard box, failing to generate loose ball opportunities against a solid Ravens defence.

ISN Scouting Report:

Trinity Western Spartans – Josh Hardy
A stable presence on the Spartans defence, Hardy does a great job supporting a strong mid-field for Trinity Western. Good decision maker and strong on the ball.

Carleton Ravens – Gabriel Bitar
Ravens’ striker plays the game a step faster than most. Fantastic foot-speed with the ability to beat several defenders on his own, and a great finisher.