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Defense Wins Championship: Men’s Soccer Edges Undefeated Bobcats In Final

Generally thought to be unlucky, the thirteenth season turned out to be just the opposite for Men's Soccer as CMU lifted their first MCAC Conference Championship Trophy since 2005 on a 1-0 win over Brandon University on Sunday afternoon at the Ralph Cantafio Soccer Complex.

Undefeated through the regular season, with 9 wins and 1 draw, the Bobcats would certainly test the fortitude of the CMU squad and the tactics of first-year head coach Anderson Pereira. This would be the third meeting between the two teams, after the Bobcats won both previous encounters 3-2 in Brandon and 4-1 earlier this month at Ralph Cantafio.

The Bobcats weren't short of chances in the first half. Tidy passing and pin-point crosses created nine corner kicks over the course of the opening 45 minutes for the top-seeds but resulted in a mere two shots on target. The combination of Erik Correia, Diego Rodriguez and Alex Alvarado started to give CMU serious problems midway through the half. In the 23rd minute, after Kieran Baydock headed clear the Bobcats fourth cornerkick, Correia spotted Rodriguez in space only to see his effort at goal glide high over the bar.

In the 30th minute, Will Anderson attempted to break up the combination play and was cautioned for a hard and late challenge on Alvarado. When the Bobcats were successful in serving their front-men, the combination of Baydock, Daniel McIntyre-Ridd, Robbie Friesen and Aidan Beckingham were up for the challenge of defending the MCAC's most lethal attack, blocking shot after shot and pushing the Bobcats smaller strikers off the ball.

Managing zero shots on goal in the opening 45, the Blazers caught fire as the game reached the hour mark. Anderson unleashed a 30-yard half-volley that forced All-Conference Goalkeeper Dan Harrison to dive to his left to deflect the goal-bound sizzler to safety and avert the danger. The chance came moments after Nolan Melanson and Brandon's 14-goal man, Kevin Lopez came within inches of giving the Bobcats the lead.

Brandon would come even closer in the 66th minute. After Melanson's cross landed on MVP Osian Edwards foot and challenged the positional competency of Mackenzie Hildebrand in the CMU goal, Rodriguez beat the four-man wall and goalkeeper Hildebrand from a free-kick but saw his curling shot denied by the goal post.

Then in the 71st minute it happened. Yeri Concepcion, a CMU rookie who was a thorn in the side of the Bobcats all day, dribbled at goal inviting the challenge of two defenders. Brandon's clearance spun directly to the foot of Baydock who spotted Ryan Jensen charging into space behind the Bobcat's back four. The right back locked and loaded his cross, delivered the perfect pass and threw his hands in the air as he watched the fourth-year midfielder collect the pass, commit the goalkeeper and shoot back across his body, off the inside of the post and in.

The goal shocked and frustrated the Bobcats. Hopes of the program's first championship and the opportunity to come back in the game were dashed five minutes later when defender William Lopez lashed out with an elbow at a pressing CMU player. The action went initially unnoticed by the head referee but after a conference with his assistant, the official handed the former ACC Cougar his second caution of the match and his walking papers. Down to 10-men, Brandon would continue to push but come up empty. 

As the Bobcats urgency picked up in the final moments, CMU showed a new confidence to command and hold onto a lead. Jensen made two strong challenges on the ground and in the final minute of the match, dribbled at Bobcat defender Taylor Blue inviting an aggressive shoulder charge from the rugged defender and warranting yet another Brandon caution.

After 4 minutes of added time, the referee checked his watch, raised his hands and blew a final whistle, opening the field to a flood of players and coaches to congratulate each other with smiles and hugs. For Pereira, the win in an MCAC Men's Soccer Final was his first, as the former Red River Rebels captain led his team to the Championship in 2016 but were forced to watch the USB Rouges raise the trophy. 

A big part of the Blazers defensive dominance was credited to third-year central defender and Bonivital Soccer Club-product, Daniel McIntyre-Ridd. A vocal leader on the backline, McIntyre-Ridd showed his strong aerial play and shot-blocking ability to help backstop CMU to Sunday's win and earn him the Championship Most Valuable Player Award.





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