Minnesota club gives Chill a lesson
By Matt Vis
While the scoreboard may have suggested otherwise, Thunder Bay Chill head coach Tony Colistro believes a tough exhibition match Tuesday was exactly what his club needs.
The North American Soccer League’s Minnesota United FC downed the Chill 4-0 in a friendly played at Chapples Park.
United’s NASL is two rungs above the Chill’s Premier Development League in the North American soccer pyramid, and the opportunity to play a higher-level opponent should give Thunder Bay a good tune-up for the Central Conference playoff tournament that will be held in the city this weekend.
“(Minnesota FC is) a solid side,” Colistro said. “What they did was force us to play a lot quicker, which is what we need to do. We’ll take that into training and hopefully that will help us for Saturday.”
Veteran goalkeeper and Thunder Bay native Steven Paterson added, “Coming into this game we wanted to look to take this game as precursor to the playoffs.
“I think that for the first 35 minutes we did really well. Everybody was working really hard but they’re a different level than most of the teams we have competed against right now. I think it was good preparation for us.”
The Chill just finished the best regular season in franchise history as they captured the Heartland Division for a sixth time. Also, for the first time in the 14-season history of the club, they finished the campaign with the best overall record in the entire 64-team PDL after a 6-2 thrashing of WSA Winnipeg on Saturday.
On Tuesday, perhaps for the first time all season, the Chill had to compete with a squad that was on a higher level.
Thunder Bay managed to hold United scoreless in the opening 45 minutes.
Minnesota controlled the ball on the Chill side for most of the half, but the back end played stout defence and did not concede a quality scoring opportunity.
The best chances to score in the half were generated by the home side, as striker Sunny Omeregie had a shot drift wide in the 20th minute, and Dominic Roberts outworked a United midfielder in the 32nd minute to get a clear look at the net, but his shot rocketed over the bar.
While the Chill did not have as many chances to score as he would have liked, Colistro was pleased with his squad's defensive play and said he was happy with how the starters were adjusting to the tempo of the match.
“We didn’t create as many opportunities as we have in the past, but obviously they were a stronger team . . . we did have a few opportunities to score, which is really what we were trying to do,” Colistro said after the match. “I thought as the half progressed our players picked up their speed and played a little bit quicker.”
One of Colistro’s plans for the game was to take advantage of the unlimited substitutions available in the exhibition contest, as he brought in nearly the entire active roster.
All three keepers — Paterson, Mac Pytyck and Daniel Alvarado — saw time in between the woodwork as Colistro subbed out the entire lineup.
Minnesota took advantage of the changing Chill lineup by scoring four second-half goals. Michael Reed broke the ice in the 55th minute by driving a blast past a helpless Pytyck.
Travis Wall added the second, as he beat Alvarado when the goalkeeper came out to the top of the box to try to corral a loose ball.
Nate Polak and Sean de Silva, off a free kick, added late goals to put the result out of reach.
After the game, the Chill found out who they will be facing in their semifinal match on Saturday. The Michigan Bucks beat Chicago Fire 4-0 in a two-versus-three Great Lakes Division playoff matchup. The Bucks will play Thunder Bay in the early game on Saturday.
Great Lakes Division champion Forest City London, the reigning PDL champs, will battle Real Colorado Foxes in the other semifinal match on Saturday night. The winners meet in the tourney final on Sunday.