THUNDER BAY -- Through the first three weekends of their season the Thunder Bay Chill have been the embodiment of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde on the soccer pitch.
At times they look like the club that claimed last year’s Premier Development League regular season title before advancing all the way to the championship game.
However, at times they look like a club that will have to battle to even contend for a playoff spot.
Despite some glimpses of elite potential, the Chill brought the ugly side out on Saturday at Chapples Park, falling 3-2 to the Des Moines Menace.
With the loss, the Chill sit at 3-3-0 in the campaign, sporting two more defeats than the team accrued all of last regular season when they were the top squad in the 64-team league. It’s their second home loss of the season after previously going five years between dropping contests in Thunder Bay.
It’s starting to get frustrating knowing there is championship potential on the field but still sitting at a .500 record after six matches.
With 14 new faces many of the pieces are still trying to find their proper spot in the puzzle. Midfielder Dominic Roberts said this year’s group reminds him of the team he played with during his rookie year in 2012.
They just have to keep their heads up and take each game one at a time.
“It’s tough but we just have to keep fighting and hope that everybody is here to win,” Roberts said.
Part of that approach is ensuring a full effort throughout the entire duration of the match.
“We’re seeing signs of strong play but it’s about doing that for 90 minutes. I thought we played well but we played in moments,” head coach Tony Colistro said.
“That’s not good enough because teams will come at you and we saw that.”
The Chill came into Saturday’s match on a high note after a convincing 3-1 decision the night before where they controlled possession and played stingy defence.
It was apparent in the first 15 minutes things were going to be a lot different in the rematch.
The Menace opened the scoring in the third minute, with Ralph Lundy the beneficiary of a scramble in the goal area, blasting a loose ball past Chill keeper Mitchell Thorn.
The lead was doubled a little more than 10 minutes later, with Chris Hellman just staying onside to receive a through ball. His shot found the crossbar but Javi Lopez was able to finish the job.
“We always talk about the first 10 minutes of both halves as being keys to the game,” Colistro said. ”What we did (Friday) we didn’t do (Saturday). We found ourselves in a hole being two goals down.”
Des Moines held the lead into the halftime break with the Chill side looking thoroughly disjointed through the first 45 minutes. Completing passes and pushing the ball forward seemed arduous tasks but they began showing signs of life.
It paid off in the 54th minute when Chill striker Simon Cote-Kougnima drew a foul in the box. Menace keeper David Meves saved the initial penalty try by captain Nolan Intermoia but Declan Rodriguez converted on the second chance opportunity.
Des Moines had an answer though, capitalizing on their lone true scoring chance in the half when Chris Hellman scored on a play that originated with a corner.
Facing a tough battle, the home side pushed forward throughout the middle stages of the second half creating a host of quality looks at the goal, most notably in the 59th minute when a ball was desperately cleared off the line at the last moment by a Menace defender.
Thunder Bay clawed back to within one with reliable striker Ivan Argos Ocerin finding the back of the net in the 66th minute, set up by a strong run from Roberts.
After that goal the Des Moines backline grew stronger as the minutes ticked away, reverting back to the form that opened the season with three consecutive clean sheets.
Pitch marks: The Chill outshot the Menace by a 14-6 count...Des Moines moves into a share of the top spot in the Heartland Division table after the St. Louis Lions played to a scoreless draw against the Springfield Demize. Thunder Bay is three points back of Des Moines and St. Louis…Argos Ocerin leads the club with four goals, scoring in every one of his apperances…The Chill host fourth-place WSA Winnipeg (2-3-2) at Chapples Park next weekend.
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