By Josh Truba
It was almost two weeks ago when I last spoke to Andy Gibbs, the University of Calgary men’s soccer coach. At that point he was anxiously awaiting the start of the season despite the reality of being a true underdog in the Canada West division. Gibbs was still excited about the prospect of the year regardless of having many key players out for the season with injuries and being forced to compete with a side comprising five rookie starters. He set a modest and realistic goal for the Dinos of reaching the playoffs, and was guardedly optimistic about the chances of its achievement.
I must admit that I too was excited about the prospects for the team. As a gambler–a socially acceptable and controlled gambler–I’ve always loved a good underdog, and I was eager to see how they would perform. I was unable to attend their first game here in Calgary, but I soon discovered that the Dinos had bested the University of Lethbridge 3-0. Of course I wanted the inside scoop so I decided to give my good friend Mr. Gibbs a call. My first impressions of Gibbs were well above average. He seemed to be a dedicated and hardworking coach who would be a good guy to talk to about the Dinos and soccer in the Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union. But more importantly, for some reason, I got the impression that Gibbs was an important man. Unfortunately for me he was out of town for the week, and I would have to wait to speak with him.
Last weekend, I knew the team was on the west coast for a game against the University of British Columbia on Saturday and the University of Victoria on Sunday. These are two of the top sides in all of Canada and I knew this would be a real test for the club. A solid performance there would go along way in determining the makeup and grit of this team. Again I called my good friend Mr. Gibbs on Monday, but I was unable to contact him. Tuesday was the same story. I knew the club had lost a pair of close games on the coast and I really wanted to get the skinny concerning the matches from Coach Gibbs.
I called Gibbs one last time on Wednesday, my last chance to talk to him and still have time to write a story. This was my lucky day. "Hello Andy, this is Josh Truba calling from the Gauntlet. I’ve been trying to get in touch with you for a few days now. You are a tough guy to get a hold of," I said, somewhat exasperated.
"Yeah I’m very busy these days, Josh. You see, I’m a really important guy," replied Gibbs wryly.
I couldn’t help but concur. "Yeah you are," I agreed, "and that is just why I need to talk to you."
Gibbs’s time was limited, as is the case with all important people. So we had to make it quick.
Gibbs was very pleased with his team’s play the last two weeks. The victory against the U of L here in Calgary was a big win for the Dinos.
"They are a difficult side to play against," assessed Gibbs. "You want to always be sure and score the first goal against them, if you don’t you can be sure it will be a long day."
The trip to the coast was also a very positive experience according to Gibbs. The Dinos lost 2-1 to UBC on Saturday when UBC scored with no more than 20 seconds left in the match. While the loss was heartbreaking, the team played exceptionally well. The game on Sunday was a hard fought contest with the Dinos falling 2-0 to UVic, who scored a goal in each half of the game, just enough to claim the victory.
Gibbs was impressed with his team’s weekend performance.
"I am really happy with the teams play on the weekend. We started five rookies in each of those games and they played very well, and we played very well as a team. We still have a long way to go in trying to achieve our goals, but this weekend was a good start considering these teams are among the best in the country."
I asked Gibbs if there was one player who was stepping up and playing great for him. Without hesitation he replied, "Graham MacLennan has played absolutely super for the team and has scored some really big goals. He’s the smallest guy in the league, but he’s also playing better than anyone in the league right now."
The season isn’t getting any easier for the Dinos. They play the University of Alberta this Saturday and the University of Saskatchewan on Sunday here in Calgary. The U of A Golden Bears are arguably the best team in the country and will be stiff competition for the Dinos. But the Dinos have one thing that the Golden Bears don’t–one of the most important people around as a head coach.