After two weeks on the road, the University of Toronto Varsity Blues men’s soccer team marked their Varsity Stadium return with a straightforward 4–0 victory against the Royal Military College (RMC) Paladins. Even with four goals scored, the Blues were not at their attacking best, but they still managed to make everything look easy. Fluid play and a robust midfield effectively slammed the door on an RMC team that certainly didn’t have the key to unlock the Blues’ defense, let alone a chance to try to pick the lock.
The Blues’ dominance was such that midfielder Nicholas Osorio and centreback and captain Nikola Stakic were withdrawn after 29 minutes, with the Blues leading 2–0.
The first goal of the game came in the 21st minute, after a long ball forward from defender Kenny Lioutas unleashed winger Koosha Nazemi down the right flank. Nazemi used his pace to easily brush off the RMC defense and venture into the opposition box. He directed a pass across the face of the goal for onrushing striker Jack Wadden to put past the keeper.
Two minutes later, Toronto fed the ball to midfielder Anthony Sousa 25 yards away from goal. An outrageous backheel flick split the RMC defense, allowing Wadden to slam the ball into the upper left corner with aplomb. Sousa’s assist was a moment of pure class, and Wadden’s alertness to the ball is equally worthy of plaudits.
MSOC: Jack Wadden has led the Blues to a 2-0 lead over @RMCPaladins at the halfway mark, scoring both of the game’s goals including this beauty! WE ALL #BLEEDBLUE pic.twitter.com/5sWkgNDi0F
— U of T Varsity Blues (@Varsity_Blues) 29 September 2018
Sousa continued to terrorize RMC with moments of brilliance, and he almost notched another assist after a great run down the flank, but his delivery fell just behind Wadden.
Despite adding two shots on target, Sousa also lost the ball on a few occasions when trying to be too fancy, and he showed no desire to track back and regain possession. Still, with a tricky Queen’s Gaels fixture the following day, Sousa was perhaps smart to conserve energy against poor opposition.
In fact, the Blues’ game plan seemed to centre around remaining focused and rested for the Queen’s game, with a lower intensity press and players freely attempting numerous tricks and dribbles that made the game seem more like a friendly than an OUA regular season clash.
It was clear before the match that RMC lacked the personnel to seriously challenge the Blues, and head coach Anthony Capotosto would have undoubtedly considered that, as he gave defender Dumebi Iheanacho his Blues debut and kept top scorer Jin Jae Lee off the matchday squad entirely.
Early in the second half, defender Josh Bowyer neatly split the RMC defense, but his pass was too heavy for Wadden to reach.
Moments later, Toronto’s third goal would come, following an attacking onslaught in the RMC box. A woefully out-of-position RMC leftback provided Kristopher Gamache space on the right side of the box, and he laid the ball off to Wadden, whose shot was returned to the danger area by the goalkeeper.
Gamache’s follow-up shot was blocked by one of a trio of RMC defenders who had congregated in front of goal, and his shot from the rebound was blocked again. Wadden received the rebound but likewise shot straight at a defender. The ball fell to Sousa, who, intent on not extending the series of blocks, curled his shot into the top corner to make it 3–0.
The Blues continued to torment the Paladins, and even though they didn’t constantly press, they chose their moments to press smartly. In the 63rd minute, they stole the ball in the attacking third and spread the ball to defender Nicola Russo on the left flank. Russo’s cross was too high but the referee pointed to the spot after deciding Gamache had been fouled in the box.
As soon as the whistle blew, it was clear that Wadden would take this opportunity from 12 yards out to earn his hat-trick. Wadden coolly dispatched his spot kick to the bottom left corner, beyond an outstretched goalkeeper.
Immediately after celebrations, he was substituted off, presumably to rest for the Queen’s game. Despite his lowered pressing intensity this game, Wadden’s positioning was a constant threat and will surely lead to more scoring opportunities in the remaining games this season.