THUNDER BAY – The road to the United Soccer League 2 playoffs just got a whole lot bumpier for the Thunder Bay Chill.
The team, celebrating its 20th season, last weekend dropped its opening two games on the road, the 0-2 hole already putting them in must-win territory in the highly competitive Heartland Division.
It’s not an impossible task, by any means, with a dozen games remaining.
But with four games against the always tough Des Moines Menace on the schedule – and four with league doormat WSA Winnipeg too – the Chill can’t afford to make many more deposits in the loss column.
It’ll be all hands on deck this coming weekend when the team opens its regular-season home schedule the aforementioned Winnipeg squad.
“We didn’t start on the right foot,” said newly minted captain Mattia Rolli on Friday, as team officials introduced the 2019 roster, a team less than two years removed from the league championship game.
“Unfortunately we are a completely new team, so there are 20 new players so it’s not that easy getting all together and knowing each other in such a short time,” said the 27-year-old Rolli, one of the few veteran returnees back with the team this summer, a group that also includes Sullivan Silva, Pedro Adan, Marco Kummerle, Evan Suwala and Liam Ezzard.
The Chill scored first in their opener against Kaw Valley FC, but surrendered three straight and lost 3-1. They followed with a 1-0 loss to the St. Louis Lions.
Adan said it all starts this weekend, when nothing less than a two-game sweep will suffice.
He added it’ll be up to the veterans to provide the spark.
“When the losses happened, we got together, we got the young guys in and we said we want to win all the games, but sometimes you can’t,” said Adan, who turned 30 late last month.
“So let’s group up again. Here we go. We’ve got exhibition games and then we hit the league again, so we’ll take it from there.”
Adan added last year didn’t exactly go as planned, but after a slow start, the team did manage to pull itself back into contention, despite falling short at 6-7-1.
“We almost made the playoffs, so it’s just a matter of us hitting the pitch again and moving forward,” he said.
Fifth-year coach Gio Petraglia said the team needs to get used to playing a different system.
But most importantly, they need to play together.
“We need to become a team. We weren’t a team yet and that’s the first thing we need to do,” Petraglia said.
“Tactically we are going to change something. We are going to try to have more identity on the last 30 yards, so we have to change a little bit, which was the Thunder Bay Chill philosophy over the last 10 years. So we have to attack a little bit more.”
The Chill and WSA Winnipeg play Friday and Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. at Fort William Stadium.