THUNDER BAY – The starting 11 looked nothing like the night before, but the final result was more of the same.
The Thunder Bay Chill, with 27 players on their roster and just six days to decide who deserves the bulk of the playing time in their 2023 USL 2 regular-season debut, provided plenty of opportunity for the rest of their roster to show their worth.
The result was a 3-0 win on Sunday afternoon to cap a two-game friendly series against the visiting Winnipeg Lions, three fewer goals than they scored in Saturday’s 6-0 win, but still plenty for the coaching staff to digest over the next several days.
Karim Pare, who scored the Chill’s third goal of the afternoon, taking a cross pass in the 55th minute and slamming it past Winnipeg keeper Jean Michael Ngenzi, said it was a great chance for the rest of the roster to stake’s its claim to minutes.
“It was a good game to get minutes in, to get ready for the season and learn how to play together because we’ve only had two weeks together,” Pare said.
“We need to learn how to play together and I think overall we did good.”
Pare said he’s seeing plenty of cohesion already, as the team prepares for a visit next Saturday to FC Manitoba.
“I think we are ready for the season and we have a good quality team, with good depth.”
It was also a chance for several local players to have their chance to impress the coaching staff, with Devan Joregenson, Jag Arena, Nick Phyllis and Alex Pike in the staring lineup, playing big minutes, and under-17 Thunder Bay Chill hopeful Matteo Bosch coming on as a second-half substitute.
Jorgenson, a veteran with the team, said it felt good to contribute to the pre-season win.
“We’re coming off the win yesterday, but we had to reset and just come out strong, keep the communication up and I think that’s what we did,” he said.
“It was a good start. I think there’s little things we have to work on in the locker room and just keep that communication and our tactics on the field. But we’re excited about the upcoming season.”
One player who doesn’t have to worry about a spot on the roster is longtime Chill stalwart Sullivan Silva, whose role will be more of a relief one this summer. However, Silva showed he can still be a force in the USL 2, opening the scoring in the 24th with a blast from outside the box that sailed high out of Ngenzi’s reach.
“He’s at another level when it comes to talent. He’s getting a little bit up there in age, so we’re really looking to see how he recovers and try to manage his load so we can use him as effectively as we can, because we know what he’s able to bring to the field,” said Chill coach Tony Colistro.
Elliott Cutts doubled the Chill lead six minutes later, bouncing the ball off a Lions defender and into the Winnipeg net.
Colistro said there was plenty to like about Sunday’s effort, but admitted the team got a little sloppy in the second half. Winnipeg’s best chance to score came in the 70th, when Caelan Budhoo stripped the ball from Bosh and had a clear shot on the Thunder Bay net, only to be turned aside by Nathaneal Sallah, who took over in goal after the half from starter Andre Schlaefli.
Thunder Bay takes on FC Manitoba on Saturday night and host Rochester FC on June 2 in their home opener.