AUSTIN, TEXAS -- Sullivan Silva waited all season long to score his first goal.
And what a timely shot it was.
With the upstart Victoria Highlander FC attack buzzing Thunder Bay Chill goalie Stephen Paterson and threatening to draw even in a 1-0 game, Silva crushed the ball through a pair of defenders and past Victoria goalie Elliott Mitrou.
The goal, scored in the 87th minute, secured a 2-0 win in the all-Canadian match and clinched the Chill a spot in Sunday’s final against the host Austin Aztex, who beat the Ocean City Nor'Easters 1-0 in Friday's other semifinal.
“They were pressing and like last year, I used my skills to take people on. Fortunately I was I able to do that today it was a good result,” said Silva, the reigning PDL most valuable player who spent the majority of the 2013 season on the sidelines nursing a broken foot.
“There were two guys, so I passed in between them and there was another defender and I beat him and I struck it as strong as I could.”
The strong finish made up for a flat start that saw the Chill -- and the Highlanders for that matter -- struggle to create scoring chances.
The two sides played to a scoreless first half in the blistering Texas heat, with temperatures nearing 38 C. But in the 55th minute Sergio Campano Franco broke loose and slammed the ball home off a feed from Paul Dillon, as the Chill finally broke through.
Chill coach Tony Colistro said he told his troops at halftime to control the play in the final 45 minutes.
"I thought the first half, they settled it down and we were happy with that. Then ... we talked about some of the opportunities that we had and we said we've got to take this game. We can't wait for it. We've got to go after them and try to get those chances," Colistro said. "I think we played a little more aggressive and little more direct in the second half."
After falling behind, the Highlanders were bound and determined to tie the score, and had plenty of chances to do so. Midfielder Riley O'Neill's corner in the 63rd minute glanced off the base of the left post. Six minutes later Matt Polster launched a free kick at Paterson, who calmly wrapped his arms around it, ending the threat.
In the 77th, O'Neil broke free again, but as always, the Chill defence was not to be fooled with, booting the ball away to maintain Paterson's clean sheet.
Chill defender Zetroy Robertson came to Paterson's rescue in the 82nd, knocking away a loose ball rattln8g around loose just outside the box, just daring a Highlanders player to knock it home. Then, in the 85th, the Chill still clinging to a 1-0 lead, Cam Stokes pushed through on the left side of the pitch and went in alone on Paterson, only to fire the ball into the side of the net.
"It feels good. We're all happy that we could win this game. It was tough with the weather. We tried to stay patient. It's tough when you feel like you have the upper hand on the other team and you want to score. But we kept our patience and finished stong," said defender Axel Sjoberg, on Thursday named to the PDL's all-league team.
Paterson, who will play in his final Chill game on Sunday, said it was business as usual as far as he was concerned.
"I figured the guys in front of me were going to stand up and do their jobs, which they always do and will do in the final. I have no doubt," the Thunder Bay native said.
Silva, who relieved Campano Franco in the 63rd, said he's looking forward to Sunday, when the Chill will attempt to bring home their second PDL championship against the Aztex.
"Last year was kind of frustrating, losing the first playoff game. Now we've got to work really hard and be ready for the final."