Newcomer Bryce McIntyre from North Bay wasted little time making friends with the Sudbury faithful, netting his first goal in a Sudbury uniform just two minutes in and adding a second-half insurance marker as the U16 Impact boys bested Ajax FC 4-1 in first-round CSL Cup play.
Interestingly enough, it was Ajax that seemed to benefit the most from the initial McIntyre tally, taking the play to the homeside for the better part of a 15- to 20-minute stretch. They were rewarded as the Impact failed to clear the ball on a handful of occasions, with Fabio Colella connecting on a 35-yard beauty that sailed over the head of Hunter Adams and into the Sudbury net.
The equalizer sparked the locals, who came back with a vengeance. Just four minutes later, the Impact worked the ball quickly up the field courtesy of a through ball from Eric Sampson which Brandon Moxam tracked down in the left corner, rifling a perfect cross that Danish Butt headed just wide of the far corner.
It took less than a minute for Sudbury to adjust the offence just slightly, as Butt provided the centring pass to Moxam, who one-timed a deft touch off the post and in, giving the Impact a 2-1 lead in the 28th minute.
The second half provided an impressive domination from the Sudbury side, controlling the ball nicely and adding late scores from McIntyre and Butt in the 81st and 85th minutes. For McIntyre, who decided to hook up with the Impact partially on the urging of former teammates Danish and Harris Butt from Mattawa, this summer brings a slightly different approach to the game than what he has seen previously.
"We play more of a possession game here," said McIntyre. "We like to keep the ball close, make shorter passes and smarter plays. I prefer this type of game," he continued. "It's more of a mental, thinking game."
Playing primarily as a striker, though comfortable also patrolling the left outside midfield position, McIntyre knows that when the ball comes his way, time is of the essence.
"Getting those first touches, they're pretty important," he noted.
"Mandatory, really, if you want to get a good shot."
The U16 Impact boys open CSL regular-season play with a pair of road games next weekend, returning to Sudbury on June 7 to wrestle with Weston.
U16 Impact Girls 1 Richmond Hill Raiders 5
Coming off back to back strong seasons in the Central Girls Soccer League, the U16 Impact girls were given a harsh wakeup call Saturday against Richmond Hill.
The visitors struck quickly as a corner kick from Antonia Bonomo went off the hands of Sudbury keeper Josée Scott and in, giving the Raiders a 1-0 lead in the third minute of play.
The locals settled down after the slow start, with play relatively even but quality scoring chances few and far between for either side through the remainder of the opening half.
Richmond Hill put the game away for good, early in the second half, as poor marking in the box lead to back-to-back goals from Rachel Morra, finding the back of the net in both the 49th and 53rd minute.
With nothing to lose, the Impact opened up, receiving their best opportunity in the 61st minute as Morgan Melnek displayed a nice burst of speed, splitting the seam of defenders before drilling a low shot just off the outside of the post.
Two minutes later, Sudbury would capitalize on a Richmond Hill miscue, after the Raiders' keeper was whistled for wandering outside of the 18-foot box as she punted the ball upfield. A direct kick from Karly Hellstrom from the 19-yard line would not strike paydirt, but the Raiders' clearing attempt bounced off Chelsea Sargeant and in as the local ladies got on the scoreboard.
Unfortunately, coach Gio Rocca and company were unable to build on the attack, as Richmond Hill quickly regained territorial advantage. Three minutes after drilling a shot off the post, Morra completed her hat-trick, left all alone in front of Scott.
Briana Decina closed the books on the Raiders's offence, as a long shot drifted to the far corner of the net, giving the visitors a very deserving 5-1 win. Sudbury had taken a pair of games from Richmond Hill last summer, something the southern Ontario girls were keenly aware of.
"We talked, as a team, that we would be more confident and try and improve on our mistakes from last year," noted Morra after the game. "We need to talk more. As a group, we talk a lot, but not on the field. And we need to make sure we keep coming to the ball and opening up."
The 2013 season provided the first opportunity for this core of Richmond Hill Raiders to make the trek to Sudbury, with the vast majority of their games within an hour's drive of their home pitch. Morra, for one, doesn't mind the variety.
"I think it's a good experience playing other teams from other places, getting to see how they play."
The Impact will now try and regroup with a pair of road games next week, facing Scarborough and North York.
Other Impact scores:
A relatively quiet opening weekend would see only two other local teams in action on the road. The GSSC Impact U21 men earned a split the easy way, awarded a forfeited victory on Saturday when the Aurora Hearts failed to show for their Ontario Soccer League encounter.
On Sunday, Peterborough City rallied from a 1-0 first-half deficit, scoring three times in the span of 15 minutes and downing the Sudbury men 3-1. Jesse Johnson recorded the only goal for rookie head coach Stephane Legrand, who sees improved fitness as a key priority moving forward.
"Our team died in the second half, and that's when they scored their three goals against us," Legrand noted.
The U21 Impact will play their first home game in roughly five or six years this coming weekend, facing Barrie and Aurora.
Meanwhile, the Sudbury Canadians also settled for a weekend split as coach Frank Malvaso looks for healthy bodies to supplement some of the walking wounded on hand. The Canadians edged the Oshawa Kicks by a final score of 2-1 on Saturday, with Serena San Cartier and TK Rocca handling the scoring, but were blasted 6-0 on Sunday.
This season marks the Canadians first foray into the OWSL Provincial Central division, the highest calibre of soccer that is provided within the Ontario Women's Soccer League. The Sudbury ladies are also at home next weekend, as the Richmond Hill Raiders travel north for a pair of games.
This week also marks the opening of the season for some of the local recreational clubs, though field conditions might still delay the start here and there.