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Game On! Men’s Soccer Prepares For 2017 MCAC Semifinal Rematch

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Once again, CMU's path to the Manitoba Colleges Men's Soccer Championship Final must go through the Providence Pilots. 364 days ago, the two long-time rivals squared off in a 120-minute scoreless thriller at the Ralph Cantafio Soccer Complex that ended with the top-seeded Pilots advancing to  the Championship Final thanks to a 3-1 penalty shootout victory.

Though the opponents are the same, much has changed for both teams. Start with new Blazers' head coach Anderson Pereira, who himself is just getting settled into the history of Providence versus CMU; "The one thing I can see within the players right now is a big desire to win," said the former Red River College player and Rebels Assistant Coach in 2017. "It might be because of the rivalry or simply because of the fact that Providence eliminated us in the semis last year. Either way, they are more than ready for this challenge."

In their first meeting of 2018 in Otterburne, it was the Pilots who would draw first blood scoring early and late in the contest and holding CMU off the scoreboard for 90-plus minutes for a 2-0 home win.

Last weekend, the Blazers appeared to have gained the upperhand. Parker Davis (pictured) lifted CMU into a short-lived 1-0 lead before Providence capitalized on a passing error to draw level after 20 minutes. Moments later, Victor Hugo's quality was on display as the pint-sized Brazilian bent a left-footed free kick around a four-man wall and past an outstretched Evan Bedard, vaulting CMU into a 2-1 advantage.

Just as it looked like the home team were up for more goals, a quick transition from the Pilots exposed a sleeping CMU backline and midfielder Will Anderson was abliged to pull down the on-rushing striker to obstruct his clear path to goal. The resulting red-card left the deft-passing rookie out of action for the remaining 60 minutes of Saturday's contest as well as Sunday's full match versus Red River, while at the same time reducing CMU to 10-men.

The Blazers fought valiantly to protect their one-goal advantage but after nearly one hour of playing down a man, Providence's Devin Vermette was first on a ball that squirted free inside the CMU six-yard box. His tying goal saved a point for the visitors and confirmed the Pilots would hold the MCAC's second-seed in what was yet another classic chapter of, CMU versus Providence.

"Providence is a great team and they will play really well as a unit," added Pereira. "They are really strong and organized defensively and can attack with lots of quality as well. This will be a great game and will be really intense from start to finish."

Though the Pilots were able to climb back into last weekend's regular season finale, fourth-year defender Robbie Friesen feels that scoring goals in the playoffs is something completely different.

"Scoring the first goal on Saturday would be a big plus for us," he said when asked about his keys to the game. "Both teams have shown their abilities to put numbers behind the ball and hold onto a lead. If we can take advantage early and score, it will be hard for them to break us down and find a goal against us in a playoff atmosphere."

CMU and Providence will take the field to write the next chapter in this storied rivalry on Saturday afternoon at 2:15pm at the Ralph Cantafio Soccer Complex. The winner of their semifinal will meet the winner of #1 Brandon Bobcats, who captured 28 of a possible 30 points through the regular season against the defending MCAC Champions and hosts, USB Rouges.

 

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