Quick start keeps United unbeaten in L1O premier play
GUELPH – Guelph United used a quick start to leave Windsor TFC behind early in Saturday’s League1 Ontario men’s Premier Division play at Alumni Stadium.
United struck for a pair of goals in the first eight minutes of the game on their way to a 6-0 triumph. The lead could have been twice that two-goal advantage as the hosts also had a shot go off a post and another bound off the crossbar.
United, with the wind at their back, added another goal in the 22nd minute to lead 3-0 at halftime.
“Scoring early in any match definitely not only helps calm the team, but you’re leading 2-nil and that puts a bit more pressure on your opponent as being down psychologically,” said Justin Springer who was the bench boss for this game with head coach Keith Mason sidelined with a single-game suspension for a red card he received in the previous match.
“Just even over the course of the game it changes game management,” Springer said. “Getting on the front foot really early in the game, within the first 10 minutes, was definitely a big tactical advantage to us. Good on our boys for scoring early and doing what we asked them to do in terms of playing the playing style we wanted to play on the day. They executed the opening half very well and it resulted in being 3-nil up in the first (23) minutes. It was an excellent start for us.”
Going against the wind didn’t slow the locals down in the second half as a pair of goals five minutes apart put them up by five with half an hour to play. They added their final goal with five minutes to play.
Jared Agyemang, Colin Gander, Alexander Zis, Luke Rankin, Dylan Rennie and Tomasz Skublak each had a goal while the shutout was shared by Svyatoslav Artmenko and Leighton Jull, although Artmenko played the majority of the match.
Getting the quick start was a goal achieved for United.
“That was a target that we had coming into the game,” Springer said. “Us as coaches, we had felt that the first two games that we had it wasn’t to our standard inside of the opening half and especially within the first 15 to 20 minutes. That was something that we actually talked about inside of our dressing room before we came out here was the need and the importance of having a good start. We’ll just continue to build on this today and see where it takes us throughout the rest of the season.”
The first two Guelph goals came on hard shots from the left side while three of the final four tallies came off corner kicks.
“We’re always practising set pieces,” Zis said.
The win keeps United undefeated in its inaugural season of L1O play. They’ve outscored their opponents 13-0 in their first three games. Both being unbeaten and keeping the opposition scoreless make United pleased.
“Both are very good aspects of the game, but definitely keeping a clean sheet is something that helps you in any game,” Zis said. “If you don’t let in goals, you can’t lose a game. That’s definitely something we’re proud of.”
Heading into the season United felt they had built a competitive and cohesive unit.
“We were very proud of ourselves for the way we were able to put a good team together,” Zis said. “It’s guys we’ve played with together over the years. We all know each other and that definitely helps going into a season like this where we haven’t really played in two years so it definitely helped us have a good start to the season.”
Prior to the season, United would also have been delighted if told they wouldn’t give up a single goal in their first three games of the season.
“We would have been overwhelmed having three clean sheets in a row,” Springer said. “It’s definitely something we continue to work on. Our overall defensive organization, defending in transition, it’s definitely still high on our minds, but also balancing the overall playing style that we want to play. Definitely a big shout out to our back line here on not conceding a goal within the first three games and that’s just something we’re going to continue to work on and see how long we can keep this clean sheet stretch going for.”
Now for a little bit of context. The three teams United has beaten (FC London, Scrosoppi FC and Windsor) are a combined 3-6-0 on the season and have been outscored 25-12.
Many of the United players have worn Guelph Gryphons uniforms in Ontario university league play and that makes playing at the University of Guelph extra special for them.
“It’s huge,” said Zis who had 16 goals and 23 assists in two seasons with the Gryphons and was the OUA West Division’s player of the year in 2019. “A lot of these guys have played at the university. The coaches are part of the university and we’re even playing at the university so it’s good for the city and we’re just happy to be playing in front of these fans.”
Of course, just playing again is a great feeling after the 2020 university and summer seasons were cancelled due to the pandemic.
“Even going to practice was such a relief and something we definitely looked forward to,” Zis said. “A lot of emotions were built up over the years and we were happy to be out again.
“The only thing we could do was running outside. We couldn’t go to the gym or go to the fields even. All the parks were closed so it was just trying to stay in shape even though it was very hard sometimes. Thankfully everyone put in the work and it is showing in the early parts of the season.”
The loss was the third in as many outings for Windsor.
Next game for the locals is another home match at Alumni Stadium as they’re to host ProStars Brampton (1-2-0) Saturday at 1 p.m.
Following that match, United is to play Blue Devils FC in Oakville Aug. 27 and host Sigma FC of Mississauga Sept. 11. Both teams have 2-0-1 records and are the West Division’s only other unbeaten squads.
- Guelph Sports Journal