Rangers win Impact tilt
Division one showdown between St. Albert soccer teams in EDSA playdowns
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Saturday, Aug 17, 2013 06:00 am
Goldstick Park – The St. Albert Impact Rangers are climbing the ladder one rung at a time to reach the premier ranks in the Edmonton District Soccer Association.
The Rangers took a big step towards returning to premier in Tuesday’s spirited 2-1 win over the St. Albert Impact in the division one playdowns.
“The goal for this season was to get back up into premier and all of us won’t feel satisfied until we do it,” said centre-midfielder Brent Jenkins.
Last year in premier the Rangers finished ninth out of nine teams at 1-12-3, with a league-worst goal differential of minus 37, and were relegated into division 1A.
It’s not the first time in recent years the Rangers dropped down a division after finishing near the bottom of the premier table.
“We feel we belong in premier. It’s been a bit of a long road to get back there but we’ve got the squad to do it,” Jenkins, 29, one of a handful of Rangers remaining from the team’s 12-2-4 pennant-winning premier campaign and Tier I bronze-medal victory at provincials in 2007.
The Rangers (9-3-1 in 1A) and Impact (9-5 in 1B) finished second in their respective divisions for a shot at relegation and a berth at Tier II provincials, Aug. 30 to Sept. 2 in Calgary.
“We tried to put a game plan together at the beginning of the year and the team we put together is pretty new, so we felt really good going into the season with all the additions we had,” Jenkins said.
The difference between division one and premier is the quality of play.
“Going into first division you kind of have the mentality that it’s a bit tougher soccer. You have to be strong on the ball. You’ve got to expect some contact, whereas in the premier you kind of have to give guys space, give them a little more respect on the ball because they can step around you,” Jenkins said.
Monday’s winner between the Rangers and Scona Blues – the first-place (10-2-2) 1B team who lost 4-0 to AS Roma (13-0), the top 1A team, in Tuesday’s playdowns – will join Roma at provincials. Kickoff is 7 p.m. at Coronation Park.
The last time the Rangers kicked the ball at provincials was 2009 while going 0-2-1 in Tier II after finishing first in division 1A.
Wednesday’s showdown against the eighth-place premier team – S.S. Lazio (3-10-3) or DV Oldboys (2-12-3) – will determine if the Rangers play in premier or remain in division one next year. Kickoff is 6:30 p.m. at the ESA Complex.
“They’re teams we’ve played against in the past (in premier) and they’re both tough, but we have a good crack at getting out of div one,” Jenkins said.
While the Rangers are gung-ho to play again in premier, the Impact team wasn’t that enthused about making the jump from division one and it showed at various stages in Tuesday’s match, especially in the opening five minutes when young gun Giordano Morgulis finished off two tremendous passing plays for the Rangers.
“In our end we lost it in the first five minutes. We were just a little bit unprepared. We came into this game not really looking to go up so we came into it as a joke thinking we would just get squashed,” said Impact striker Evan Gallant. “They’ve been our rivals for a while so we probably should’ve taken it a little bit more seriously, but it is what it is.”
The offensive outburst was a pleasant surprise for the Rangers.
“We’ve kind of struggled with quick starts throughout the year so we wanted to come out flying right away,” said Jenkins, who had solid touches on the ball for both goals. “It’s not good to sit on our heels a little bit like we did for the rest of the game but getting those two quick ones definitely made it a little bit easier.”
The Impact cut the lead in half in the 14th minute on a shot by striker Cohen Cassidy, the team’s leading scorer this season with 10 goals.
“When we put one home we kind of got our heads up,” Gallant said.
The teams would go on to trade quality scoring chances throughout the match, as keepers Tom Wolansky of the Rangers and the Impact's Adam Pinco took turns making several stellar saves.
Before the first half ended, the Impact hit two goals posts and Emmett Keenan came close a couple of times for the Rangers.
“They took advantage of what they had and then we got unlucky a few times,” Gallant said.
The Rangers played with poise while protecting the lead, while the Impact ratcheted up the intensity with time winding down on their season.
“We really didn’t started playing until about 10 minutes left in the second half,” Gallant said.
With only a few minutes remaining, and the Impact pressing, a shot snuck past Wolansky and was on the verge of crossing the goal line when a sliding Brad Martyn got his right foot on the ball to clear it out of danger.
“It was extremely close,” Jenkins said. “They pushed everybody up the field attacking, and in a situation like that you just have to scramble and cover for each other and Brad was able to sweep in and knock it out before it rolled over the line.”
The win was the seventh in the last eight matches, and five were by shutouts.
“We put together a good second half of the season and we just wanted to keep it rolling,” Jenkins said.
Gallant, 24, said the loss was typical of the Impact’s season.
“We had a rough start at the beginning (of league play) and that pretty much sums up the game. Once we started to get our heads together we won six or seven games in a row to come into the playdowns.”
Last year the Impact placed fifth out of nine teams at 7-5-4, with a goal differential of plus-nine.