By Nelson Mahmoudi
In a year that saw intensely close matches during the playoffs, the OUA men’s soccer final saw a thriller of a match between the Carleton Ravens (1st-OUA) and the York Lions (4th-OUA), with the hosts coming home with the victory in stunning fashion, ensuring that both the men's and women's OUA Soccer Championship titles were won here in the Capital.
On a beautiful fall day, TAAG Park’s stands were filled with the fans of both Ottawa’s and York’s finest men’s footballers in action. With both teams having made it to the finals after two nail-biting semi-final victories – both of which ended with kicks from the spot – it is without a doubt that the two squads were hoping for a more secure victory on Saturday.
Unfortunately for the York Lions, their hopes for said victory would be dashed due to an unrelenting Carleton attack.
From the first blow of the referee’s whistle, the match was defined by close moments for both sides, with several nearly leading to the opening goal for either side. With several professional prospects on both sides, including former Valour roster man Tyler Attardo and Atletico Ottawa’s Omar Darwish, the intensity never ceased.
But it would only take ‘19 for the home crowd’s cheers to be temporarily silenced, as a long ball from the centre-right side of the pitch would find a d-splitting Attardo whose right foot would send it past Ravens keeper Tyler David to give the Lions a 1-nil lead.
Despite being down by one, CU Gaffer Marcelo Plada’s side would not go down without a fight and fight they did. Over the course of the 90-minute match, four yellow cards would be shown alongside a total of 26 fouls between the two teams, with one of said fouls proving fatal for York’s clean sheet.
After an aggressive tackle in the ‘31 by a York midfielder, a 35-yard free kick by Luca Piccioli would deceive the entirety of TAAG Park. From what normally should have been an arching pass to one of his teammates near the top of the penalty area would see Piccioli send the ball high, up and over the extended hand of Lions keeper Alessio Carbone, and directly into the back of the net.
Going into the half break, the two teams would find themselves neck and neck for the provincial title, but coming back to the pitch for the second 45-minute interval, the Ravens presented a whole new form to the boisterous and adoring crowd. A more uncompromising, deliberate, and skillful side would emerge from the home dressing room as Carleton began an unrelenting offensive to last the rest of the game.
Just over ten minutes in to the second half, a corner off of the foot of Luca Piccioli would end up loose in the Lions goal area, only for it to be recouped by hometown hero Darwish and tapped home.
Speaking when Darwish was signed to Atletico Ottawa earlier this year under a development contract, Atleti CEO Fernando Lopez said that “Omar has shown our technical staff that he can make the jump, and we look forward to seeing him continue to grow with this new opportunity.”
Despite not having been fully eliminated or denied a comeback, as time continued to count towards the final whistle, team morale on the York bench was clearly dwindling as attack after attack wore down the Lions' midfield and defence. This was no more present than with the final nail in the York coffin, coming in the form of an ’89 goal by Piccioli.
A relatively harmless ground pass by teammate Mohamed Bouzidi would find a sprinting Piccioli, who would easily split the York defence and dance around keeper Carbone, capping it off with a cheeky chip into the net and a celebration with the waiting Carleton fans on the touchline.
With approximately four minutes of added time being indicated by the referee, the fate of the match was determined. As the minutes wound down, the touchline began to be crowded with Carleton fans awaiting the final whistle to storm TAAG Park and celebrate with their team.
Carleton will now make the trip eastward to beautiful Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, for the 2023 USports Men’s Soccer National Championship, where they will face in the preliminary round the RSEQ runners-up, the Montreal Carabins. Alongside Carleton and UdM will be the Mount Royal Cougars (Canada West – 1st), StFX X-Men (AUS – 1st), UQTR Patriotes (RSEQ – 1st), Cape Breton Capers (hosts), UBC Thunderbirds (Canada West – 2nd), and the OUA’s York Lions.
All games will be played at Ness Timmons Field on the CBU campus in Sydney, NS, and the tournament will run from November 9th-12th. Fans can purchase their tournament passes here, via Ticketmaster.
Nelson Mahmoudi is a former match official, coach, and player who joined the Capital City Supporters Group in 2020 during Atletico Ottawa’s inaugural season. A constant presence in the ‘Dub, he is instantly recognizable by the flag of the International Brigades he flies to commemorate the Canadians who fought fascism during the Spanish Civil War. A graduate of the University of Ottawa, Nelson also writes for Northern Tribune as their League1 Canada and uOttawa Gee-Gee’s correspondent, covering the semi-pro tier of Canadian soccer for fans across the country. An aspiring labour lawyer and current union representative, he seeks to emulate the passion and knowledge of his idols like Steve Paikin, Payam Akhavan, and Ronan Farrow.