Sergio Campano Franco might not speak much English, but he’s found a way to communicate where he is on the soccer field.
On Saturday the Thunder Bay Chill forward’s voice was heard loud and clear, as the team wrapped up the Premier Development League regular season with a decisive 6-2 win over visiting WSA Winnipeg at Tbaytel Field at Chapples Park.
Campano Franco netted three goals, helping the Chill erase the hurt of a 1-1 tie the night before, a draw that could cost the team the elusive best record in the PDL, an achievement they sorely wanted to accomplish on the road to what they hope is a second championship in five years.
“I’m just happy we got the win,” the Spanish-speaking Campano Franco said with the help of an interpreter.
“We wanted to make a statement.”
A night after nursing a 1-0 lead most of the second half, but failing to capitalize on plenty of chances to add to their lead, the Chill weren’t about to make the same mistake twice.
They pounced on Winnipeg’s defenders in a hurry, scoring three times in the first 14 minutes of the contest.
“Yesterday’s game was similar to today’s, with the exception of the goals. Today we scored the goals, yesterday they didn’t go in. But that’s part of soccer. The goals go in and sometimes they don’t. We knew we had to come out there with everything, and that’s what the team did.”
With a loss and a tie in their previous three games, it was also important to turn things around heading into next weekend’s Central Conference championship, which the Chill will host for the first time since 2010.
“Today’s game was a motivation for the weekend. A 6-2 win in the PDL doesn’t happen very often. The morale of the team is going up, headed to the playoffs,” Campano Franco said.
Coach Tony Colistro, who lost midfielder Pedro Adan to a red card in the 17th minute, after a rough tackle against Winnipeg’s Jiyu Iida, said a two-week layoff probably hurt the team, but they made adjustments on the fly in Saturday’s rematch.
“Last night we played more of a possession game, whereas tonight we played a little more direct. We changed our formation, changed our look up front. Our goal was to go after them right away and we accomplished that,” Colistro said.
“Obviously you always want to finish on a positive note … We have to go after teams and we brought a lot of attackers to do that. We saw Sota (Campano Franco) have a great game. That’s why we brought him here. He’s definitely that type of player and we need to get those kind of players to continue playing like that.”
Sunny Omogorie answered that call in the fourth minute, opening the scoring for the Chill. Four minutes later midfielder Nolan Intermoia raced down the right side and blasted the ball past Winnipeg keep Tyson Faago, his first of two on the night.
Campano Franco scored his first in the 14th, added a second in the 24th with the Chill playing shorthanded, then took a delicate tap-ahead pass from Omogerie in the 60th, the tic-tac-toe play making it 5-1.
Hamza Mustapha and Ali Musse, in the 71st minute, were the Winnipeg goal scorers.
Intermoia agreed with Colistro, who said it was probably the team’s best effort all season long, heady praise for a team that finished 12-1-1 atop the Heartland Division.
“I think the work rate from everybody on the field was top of the line, 110 per cent,” Intermoia said. “I think we came out with the right game plan, more direct, more forward, trying to get behind their defence and it panned out.”
Thunder Bay can still capture top spot in the PDL, but need the Fresno Fuego (11-0-2) to lose or tie Sunday against LA Misioneros FC (6-4-3).
Pitch marks: The Chill will play a friendly Tuesday at Chapples Park against Minnesota United FC of the North American Soccer League, a playoff tune-up … Forward Sullivan Silva returned to the field in a reserve role this weekend. Silva is the reigning PDL most valuable player, who was sidelined most of the season with a foot injury … The Michigan Bucks host a 2-3 play-in game Tuesday to determine the Great Lakes Division’s second playoff seed, the Chill’s first-round opponent next Saturday at 3 p.m.
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