David was feisty at times and didn’t get pummelled by Goliath, but in the end there was no miracle to be had at Alumni Stadium Tuesday night.
The Halifax HFX Wanderers of the professional Canadian Premier League scored once in each half to hand reigning semi-pro League1 Ontario Men’s Premier champions Guelph United FC a 2-0 setback in the preliminary round of the Voyageurs Cup Canadian Championship soccer tournament.
For Halifax, Akeem Ancil Garcia scored on a penalty shot in the 22nd minute and Aidan Daniels added a goal on a free kick in the 61st minute. Christian Oxner picked up the clean sheet in the Halifax net.
While United didn’t score in the match, they did press a bit in the first half and kept Halifax within reach throughout the game.
“I’m very proud of the boys’ efforts,” said United coach Keith Mason. “They gave their all, I couldn’t really ask anymore. It’s a game where we’re playing a team in a division above, we definitely went in with hopes of causing an upset so it’s disappointing that we didn’t get too many shots on target, we didn’t really connect in the final third, but I can’t fault the guys’ efforts. It was there, they tried their best, and we were in the game for a long time at 1-0. Anything can happen, and we were certainly hoping we could snatch one, but it wasn’t to be today.”
United had hoped the game would draw interest from the community and it did attract a sometimes boisterous crowd.
“It was great,” Mason said. “There was definitely a couple of thousand at least, over 2,000 Guelph people experiencing a fantastic opportunity to come watch professional soccer. You know, when we started this program that's what our dream was and to have this place buzzing and packed with soccer fans, boy, that was a pleasure to see. It was a real, real pleasure to see. A lot of people behind the scenes have done a lot of work for our club to get it to where it's come and to see everything just fall into place was just phenomenal.”
The announced crowd was 1,728.
With the win, Halifax advances to the tournament’s quarter-finals and they’ll host Major League Soccer’s Toronto FC later this month.
Had United won, they also would have hosted Toronto FC, but it wouldn’t have been at Alumni Stadium. Lines were to be painted on the stadium’s field after Tuesday’s game in preparation for the training camp of the Toronto Argos. Since the Argos’ training camp would still be on at the time of the quarter-final match, it couldn’t be held at the stadium as Soccer Canada requires a field with just soccer lines on it for the championship tournament.
“We would have loved to have had the problem of trying to find a place to play against TFC and to host them. That would've been something out of this world, but that's why I never worried about it too much. I like to focus on the next thing and if the next thing doesn't go your way, then it was a moot point worrying about it. That's why I always think of today and plan for today and not worry about what ifs and what be's. It's about what can we do now to make it the best shout of getting through to that next round. This time it didn't work for us, but we'll be back. One day we'll be back.”