Stratford Bentley's City FC takes positives from Ontario Cup loss

Stratford Bentley's City FC players salute the crowd at Festival Hydro Park Sunday afternoon. Cory Smith/The Beacon Herald

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There were positives to take from Stratford Bentley’s City FC’s 4-2 loss to Ottawa St. Anthony in the Ontario Cup quarter-final.

In the short-term, City FC knows it can compete against some of the top clubs in the province as it chases the Kitchener and District Soccer League men’s premier title.

Longer term, playing in prestigious matches – at home, especially – helps raise the team’s profile in the city and among youth players.

“When I started with this club this is what I wanted,” head coach Kenny Murphy said. “I wanted them competing against higher calibre (teams), and we got the opportunity to go into the Ontario Cup and we took it. We went further than we did last year when we thought that was our max, and we just keep stepping up and going further with it.

“We’ve got a good thing going in Stratford with all the facilities, and now it’s time to start putting money into the coaching and developing these players. In the 10 years I’ve been doing this we got this far, imagine if we started at the bottom and started really working up through our systems.”

Stratford advanced to the quarter-final Sunday afternoon at Festival Hydro Park after wins over the Scarboro Azzuri Blues, London Marconi and Scarborough G.S. United. Ottawa, which defeated Cambridge and Windsor, took a 2-0 lead into the half against Stratford.

“They’re a very good football team,” Murphy said. “I don’t want to say we’ve always been punching above our weight, but that’s what we are. We’re underdogs. We’re a city of 27,000 and we’ve managed to pull out 18 guys from inside the city limits that can compete against teams the size of Ottawa.”

Ashley Adams scored Stratford’s first goal shortly after Ottawa made it 3-0 early in the second half. That energized the home side, but City FC couldn’t convert on its numerous chances to make it a one-goal deficit.

Ottawa scored late, but Jacob McPhee’s tally added intrigue to the final minutes.

Any hope of a comeback ended when Jordan Hayle was taken down inside the box with no penalty called.

“These guys fight to the end, and to put two goals in … we had chances,” Murphy said. “Every time we go one round deeper it’s more experience for those guys, and those guys keep their cool heads and also keep the momentum going, and that’s so important when you’re playing well.”

Stratford will quickly shift its focus to defending the KDSL’s DaSilva Cup Wednesday in a semifinal road match against IST Serbia. City FC knocked off the first-place Serbs Friday night in Stratford.

“Whatever we can do to recoup and go, we know our opponent … and we’ll probably use the same tactic again from the start,” Murphy said.

Stratford is second in the KDSL’s top division after winning five straight. The team has two matches in hand on IST Serbia and eight matches remaining overall. Facing the likes of Ottawa St. Anthony is a valuable learning experience regardless of the result.

“Every time we play against this calibre of team you see the movement and everything else, and it only inspires me to go and teach these guys and see what they’re capable of,” Murphy said. “They always impress me every game. They never give up and that’s the fighting spirit in these Stratford players.”