The Muskie boys’ soccer team has gotten off to a strong start this season, but they know keeping up the intensity in games is paramount to continuing that success.
After opening the NorWOSSA regular season with a 1-1 draw against the Kenora Broncos and then a 5-0 victory over the Dryden Eagles here last Wednesday, the black-and-gold battled to a sixth-place finish at the Broncos Challenge Cup tournament over the weekend in Kenora.
The Muskies were back in league action today in Dryden against the host Eagles and Broncos.
Although head coach Chris Sinclair is pleased with how his squad has fared through the first week of the season, he knows they could be better in certain areas.
“To continue to have success, we need to be focused and play with intensity each game, all game,” he stressed.
“We have learned that with both Dryden and Beaver Brae, we need to play a full 80 minutes of soccer.
“We will be focusing on our defensive game as we don’t want to give them any chances,” Sinclair added.
“We need to be aware of them putting balls over our defenders’ heads and running after it.
“When we have the ball, it makes both teams play a chase game, so we will be working on our touches with the ball and passing and moving to open space,” he noted.
The Muskies opened the Broncos Challenge Cup on Friday with a 2-1 win in penalty kicks over the St. Thomas Aquinas Saints (Kenora).
“Over the past weekend, we had a little bit of everything,” Sinclair recalled.
“We started the tournament strong by beating T.A. in penalty kicks in a game that we led for the most part.
“We had one minor breakdown which led to their goal but other than that, we had a strong showing,” he added.
The black-and-gold then squared off against the host Broncos, which they lost 1-0 in a match Sinclair referred to as “ugly.”
“[It] was kind of ugly in the sense that there was no control of the ball, especially in the first half as it was a lot of kick-and-chase,” he remarked.
“They got an early goal in the second half, which put us on our heels.
“I liked how we pushed back and played with that urgency that we need to play with all the time,” Sinclair added.
“Unfortunately, we were unable to score and lost the game, which put us in the consolation side.”
The Muskies opened the consolation side of the bracket Saturday with a dominant 5-0 shutout win against Springs Christian.
“We moved the ball very nicely through the middle, had some very nice through balls down the line, and were attacking the net, which gave us success,” said Sinclair.
That put Fort High into the fifth-place game, where a lack of execution ultimately was its demise in a 1-0 loss to the University of Winnipeg.
“I thought we played really well,” Sinclair lauded. “We ended up losing the game 1-0 but we played a very solid defensive game, not giving them many scoring chances.
“Offensively we did have our chances but again, we need to capitalize,” he stressed.
“We need to get the ball into those grade ‘A’ areas and have shots on net, rather than trying to take an extra touch on the ball or make a fancy play, or that last pass.”
Sinclair also said he was pleased with the squad’s performance for the most part.
“Obviously, we have some areas that we need to improve at but the season is still young,” he reasoned.
“We have put ourselves in a good position after the first week of league play.”
As for the games last Wednesday against the visiting Broncos and Eagles, execution wasn’t much of a problem for the Muskies.
Nick Hahkala netted the lone goal against Kenora while Cole Kowalski earned the win in goal.
Fort High then had five different goal scorers as it cruised to a 5-0 shutout over the Eagles that afternoon.
Kowalski, Cam Lidkea, Brett Allan, Hahkala, and Connor Nelson all bulged the twine to help the squad to a 1-0-1 record.
“I thought for the majority of both games, we played very well,” Sinclair recalled.
“We took about 10 minutes off at the beginning of the second half in our first game against Beaver Brae, which cost us,” he conceded.
Aside from that, Sinclair said he thought the Muskies controlled the ball well in both games, and passed around and looked very good.
“We had majority of the possession in both games, which is how we want to play,” he remarked.
“We want to have the ball and them have to chase us around.
“We were able to do that on Wednesday, which helped us have success,” Sinclair added.
“In the second game against Dryden, I thought we played our best game of the season.
“We did all those things, as mentioned, as well as capitalize and score on our chances,” he enthused.
After today’s games in Dryden, the Muskies return to action next Wednesday (May 23) when they conclude the regular season in Kenora against the host Broncos and Eagles.
Fort High then will host the NorWOSSA semi-finals and finals on May 30, with OFSAA slated for June 7-9 in Windsor.