Men's Soccer Bolsters Playoff Position With Road Win

Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON — Set pieces continued to be the Achilles' Heel for the MacEwan University Griffins men's soccer team on Saturday. 

The Saskatchewan Huskies scored three of their four goals off free kicks or corner kicks and romped to a 4-2 victory that keeps them in a playoff position in the Canada West standings.

"When you're sitting one point up on Lethbridge and you've got four games left, every point counts," said Saskatchewan head coach Bryce Chapman. "In Canada West, it doesn't matter if you're playing a team in last spot or not, they're all tight games. 

"We definitely respect MacEwan, they're well coached and got a good group, so we knew it was going to be tough today."

Saskatchewan opened the scoring in the 29th minute when Marcello Gonzalez beat keeper Dylon Powley from 20 yards out. 

But the rest of the Huskies' offence came off set pieces, an area that has dogged the Griffins all season long. 

"If I knew why then we wouldn't be conceding them, to be completely honest," Griffins head coach Adam Loga said when asked about their struggles. "That's something the boys need to answer.

"I know as a staff, as a unit as a team, we work on them a ton in sessions. It's nothing that we shouldn't be able to handle."

MacEwan tied the game in the 33rd minute when Christian Hernandez converted a Samuel Foster cross by heading it past Huskies goalkeeper Greg Buckley and inside the left post. 

But the Huskies went back on top just three minutes later when Griffins defender Jared Day, camped out at the far post, watched helplessly as Bryce Marinus' corner kick ticked off his shin and in. 

Saskatchewan stretched its lead to 3-1 just three minutes into the second half when Gabriel Buatois' free kick from 25 yards out brushed off the head of Carson MacDonald and past Powley.

MacEwan pulled within one when Hernandez scored his second of the contest on an inspired strike from 25 yards out past Buckley into the left side of the net. Hernandez, who joined the Griffins midway through the season was the big bright spot on another tough day for MacEwan, now 1-9-3 on the season. 

"I think this is his third game and he has two goals," said Loga of the freshman, who was initially too busy with classes to play soccer early in the season. "He's a special player that we were able to get our hands on. It's better late than never and he'll be a great player for us in the future."

MacEwan began looking for the tying goal after that and came close, particularly in the 74th minute when Andrew (Toba) Adeniji's header from the middle of the box went wide.

But another set piece put the game away late. In the 87th minute, Marinus scored his second of the game, spinning a header from the short side inside the left post off a Buatois' corner kick. 

For Chapman, the four-goal effort was the type of response he was looking for from his squad. 

"Conditions aren't ideal," he said of the zero-degree temperature with snow lining the field. "Everyone's a little cold out here today, but to get four goals, that's positive. We were disappointed in our last road trip where we only generated one goal over two games, so it was a good response by the guys today." 

Saskatchewan improved to 6-5-2, moving four points ahead of Lethbridge for the final playoff spot in the Prairie Division. The Pronghorns were set to play at Alberta later in the afternoon before visiting MacEwan on Sunday (12 p.m., Jasper Place Bowl). The Huskies will be at the Golden Bears on Sunday (2:15 p.m.).