THUNDER BAY -- The Thunder Bay Chill were in unfamiliar territory heading into Saturday evening’s match.
Coming off their first home regular season loss in five years the night before, there were questions as to how the squad would respond. Last year’s Premier Development League regular season champs answered those resoundingly, turning in a quintessential Chill performance.
Ivan Argos Ocerin netted the game’s only goal to drive Thunder Bay to a 1-0 win over the Springfield Demize in their Premier Development League regular season clash at Fort William Stadium.
The rebounding started immediately following Friday’s 2-1 loss to the St. Louis Lions, marking the club’s first home defeat since 2009. Some of the veteran players, including defenders Zetroy Robertson, Nolan Intermoia and Paul Dillon, held a late night summit to dissect the game and discover how to move forward.
They found they had to step up and provide a strong voice through to a team with plenty of new faces.
“We have a lot of technical players but at the end of the day you need players who can communicate,” Robertson said. “Having all those guys at the back is a very important part of the team because you need the direction and it starts at the back.”
It was the backline that held strong for the Chill one night after being victimized in the losing effort. Springfield received extremely limited opportunities offensively, including a lone shot directed towards the goal in the final half.
As the match progressed the victory was characterized by strong possession of the ball and stifling defence - two hallmarks of head coach Tony Colistro’s modus operandi.
“My focus has always been defence is first,” Colistro said.
“We made some adjustments in the second half and I think we were much stronger defensively (Saturday) and even though we didn’t get the insurance goals we’re used to it was important that we kept them to one shot in the second half. That was our goal coming in.”
That defensive effort started at the last line with keeper Mitchell Thorn, who was forced into action after fellow netminder Daniel Alvarado was assessed a red card Friday, resulting in a one-game suspension. The card forced Thorn into the contest cold, where he allowed the eventual game-winning goal.
While not tested often, Thorn was solid on Saturday en route to recording his first clean sheet with the club.
“I feel great right now,” Thorn said. “I know the boys were really upset after the loss (Friday) and now you can see from their faces we’re excited.”
He filled his role as last line of defence, providing his defenders with instructions throughout the game.
Robertson said it was exactly what the group needed.
“We needed players to talk to each other and it starts from him,” Robertson said. “I thought he did a great job today.”
After Thunder Bay seemed to try too hard to create the perfect play and coming up empty as a result in their loss, the team seemed to make a concerted effort to direct shots towards the goal in their redeeming performance.
That became apparent right off the opening kick, as in the first 15 seconds they launched a rocket towards the goal that Springfield keeper Kevin Wright just punched over the bar.
Thunder Bay finally found the icebreaker in the 33rd minute as Argos Ocerin was persistent, finishing a cross from Dominic Roberts on a play that looked more like a hockey goalmouth scramble than something seen on a soccer pitch.
“It wasn’t pretty…but right now they all count,” Colistro said. “As ugly as it was he stuck with it and finally managed to get it through.”
The Chill were the aggressors throughout much of the second half, controlling the ball and creating a multitude of quality scoring opportunities. Many of them were generated by mesmerizing midfielder Vitor Huvos, as he had a couple of shots and set up other chances but each time the ball went wide or Wright answered the call.
Pitch marks: The Chill improve their head-to-head record against Springfield to 19-0-0…The game was moved to Fort William Stadium after the natural grass pitch at Chapples Park was waterlogged due to morning showers… For the second straight game Chill midfielder Dominic Roberts was cautioned with a yellow card, picking it up in the 23rd minute…The Chill will be back in action next weekend when they welcome the Heartland Division leading Des Moines Menace (3-0-0) to town.
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