Earlier today, the Premier Development League held their Championship final. Thunder Bay Chill faced off against Charlotte Eagles in a fast-paced and competitive match. The “National” Championship has been fought for by Canadian teams on numerous occasions. Calgary went down to the wire in 2016, and K-W United won it for their 3rd time in 2015. Chill have a great history of making the post-season since they first entered the PDL in 2000. They’ve won 7 Heartland Division titles, 5 Central Conference titles, and have won the PDL Championship before (in 2008).
Unfortunately, if you were in Canada like those of us at NSXI, you missed the first 36 minutes of play and the first goals for either side. A few minutes late is something with which we’ve become accustomed, and usually nothing happens in the first 5 minutes so it isn’t horrific. Poor form, but not horrific. But 36 minutes? Like many angry Canadians, I took to twitter to voice displeasure. At half-time, PDL provided an apology & excuse:
“The broadcast team didn’t have the right YouTube credentials.” Really? And that took 36 minutes to correct? Checking to make sure you’re properly logged in is one of the first things you check in the case of a streaming problem, but perhaps that’s just me. Generally tech services usually go like this: Is the power on (is it plugged in)? Do you have internet access? Are you logged in properly? Reboot your machine. Check your cables (reboot). Check for lens cap. Check for software updates (reboot)… Or maybe that’s just my experience. Of course, in my experience, you know you aren’t logged in (or don’t have credentials) very quickly, but hey, maybe things are more complicated in the USA, and maybe they took Trump’s trade advice, “Don’t worry about Canada”, and applied it to the live stream. I don’t really know, but Canadian PDL teams and their fans have a legitimate reason to be pissed off about this (and numerous other things).
As for the 12 minutes including injury time that played out in the 1st half, it was pretty competitive between both sides. There were a few times the ball was in a dangerous spot for either side, and the ball moved swiftly from end-to-end. I found that Charlotte was spending more time on the attack, which is pretty standard if you’ve had the chance to see Thunder Bay play. With Chill playing a very defensive game usually, it was pretty normal to see them relying on turnover and breakthrough runs to get back to the other end.
With half-time whistle blown, Canadians finally got to witness a replay of the goals. Thunder Bay opened the scoring with a great shot toward the net that bounced off a Charlotte player and past the keeper. Charlotte’s goal, in comparison, came from a long cross made from just barely on the field to Costa, who leapt both legs in the air and managed to kick it straight in the net. Both goals were very good looking, and both goals had at least as much luck as skill.
Despite all the trouble of the 1st half, the 2nd half streamed smooth & clear. Both teams fought hard. There were a lot of dangerous shots on, or close to, either net. In the 60th minute, a free kick for Charlotte would give the American side the lead. The ball sailed clean over the wall, the keeper made a slight side-step in the right direction, but the ball sailed well clear of any obstacles. Thunder Bay almost tied things up again right away, zipping back to the other side, but were unable to make any headway. It was very back and forth and despite a number of really close shots, Thunder Bay would be unable to close the gap.
In the 82′, following their final change, Thunder Bay suffered a scare as Mattia Rolli would slide to kick the ball safely out of a potential 2-on-1 and either get his ankle run over by the Eagle’s player, or injured on the grass & sand. Rolli was helped off the field while the Chill played out several minutes of play with only 10-men. Although short-handed, Thunder Bay made a few great plays that nearly tied the game. Rolli made his way back on the field and was able to play out nearly 6′ of injury time before the final whistle.
From what could be seen, it was a great match. Many of these players can look forward to taking the next step for 2018, whether it’s to NISA, USL, NASL, or even to round out one of the first Canadian Premier League teams. Those that don’t take the leap to pro, will certainly get to play some solid NCAA or U-Sports during the off season before we see them back next summer. Here at Northern Starting XI, we hope to have someone to specifically cover Thunder Bay, and all of the other Canadian teams, so if you or anyone you know may be interested in writing about Canadian Soccer, please contact us.