RRC men’s soccer team leaves pitch as league’s second-best team, close friends

RRC’s Awot Btseamlak protects the ball from Les Rouges’s Sami Atoui. SUPPLIED/ Norm Konowalchuk

RRC’s Awot Btseamlak protects the ball from Les Rouges’s Sami Atoui. THE PROJECTOR/ Neil Noonan

The Red River College men’s soccer team didn’t bring home a championship banner from the league finals on Oct. 30, but they came away with something.

Anderson Pereira, the Rebels’ team captain, said team members helped each other get better not just as soccer players, but as people.

“We’re more than friends here,” said Pereira. “We made a family. We go to the field and do everything for each other.”

Their team spirit helped turn last year’s fifth place team into silver medalists.

“Every tackle, every goal, every save was together as a team,” said fullback Brendan Adamo. “We didn’t do it just one by one, but as a whole.”

First-year head coach Yiannis Tsalatsidis helped usher in this attitude by building relationships with his players, according to Adamo.

Adamo said his team owes a lot to their coach.

“He took us from almost nothing to this,” said Adamo. “A team that’s not even expected to be here.”

Tsalatsidis led them to the Manitoba Colleges Athletic Conference (MCAC) championship final against the reigning champs, Universite de Saint-Boniface (USB) Les Rouges.

The game was locked at zero when the Rebels’ all-conference goaltender,

Rory Picton, collided with an opposing forward and left the game with a lower-body injury.

His backup, Shayne Pfeifer, warmed up with short notice and was beaten a moment later by USB’s Melchisedek Nkongo, who kicked in a cross crease pass from his teammate Aristide Ebrottie.

Les Rouges scored a second goal after the Rebels misplayed the ball in their own end.

The physicality of the game and cold weather resulted in multiple injuries on both sides. But the extra time from these injuries didn’t last as long as the Rebels’ sideline expected, and the final whistle blew.

Les Rouges won the championship final 2-0 and celebrated their third straight MCAC men’s soccer title. Tsalatsidis said the game was not decided by the officials or injuries. “[USB was] the better team today,” he said.

Tsalatsidis intends on returning next year for his second season as the Rebels’ coach. In the meantime, he hopes his players can pass on what they’ve learned this season and give back to youth in their community.

“That’s why I’m in the game,” Tsalasidis said. “I want to give back everything the game gave me.”

Forward Anderson Pereira, fullback Brendan Adamo and goaltender Rory Picton were all named to the 2016 MCAC All-Conference Team.