Standard: Miracle at Roma Park
by Winnipeg Fury
Miracle at Roma Park
Wolves slip into playoffs then win championship; knock off Supra for title
St. Catharines Roma Wolves won their second Canadian Professional Soccer League title in four years on a rain-soaked field Sunday.
This time, they did it the hard way, registering three weekend wins as hosts of the league finals at Roma Park. The Wolves made it a Cinderella season with a 1-0 overtime win over Toronto Supra.
"It was very tough -- you had the top four teams in the league coming together this weekend," said Dan Gallagher, a Wolves' defender who was named most valuable player for his efforts in shutting down Supra star Samuel Afriyie.
"He's an awesome player and he's always caused us trouble," added Gallagher, who took a ball off the face late in the second half of overtime, but was never caught out of position.
John Sozio, in his fifth season with the Wolves, one-timed a clearing header under the crossbar past Supra goalkeeper Garrett Caldwell in the 117th minute to clinch the Rogers Cup CPSL championship.
"It was a clearing volley from a corner and he hit it -- it was a rocket," said Gallagher, admiringly.
It's the first time Sozio has scored a game-winning goal for Roma, although he notched five goals this season.
"I was wishing it was going to hit the net," recalled Sozio, who played the entire game against Toronto.
Sozio said it helped the Wolves "a lot" to be playing at home. Despite the groundskeepers' best efforts, both teams struggled to find their footing on the wet turf.
Gary McGuchan, who was the hero for Roma with the lone goal in their 1-0 semifinal win over Ottawa Wizards Saturday, had four chances to score in the first half, but couldn't capitalize. Sam Borgh also bounced a header off the crossbar as the Wolves dominated the first 45 minutes.
St. Catharines finished fifth among the 12 teams in the league and had to defeat fourth-place Montreal Dynamites in a wild-card playoff game Friday night (2-1) for the right to play in the semifinals. Saturday afternoon, the Wolves defeated the first-place Wizards for the fourth time this season. (The Wolves were stripped of their 1-0 League Cup semifinal win over Ottawa after the Wizards protested the eligibility of two Roma players.)
With three games over three days, Roma coaches Lucio Ianiero and Carmen DeRose had to make liberal use of substitutes throughout the weekend.
Gallagher said the tight-knit unit come together even more as a team.
"We're not just a team, we're a family," said Gallagher. "We had a couple of bad games and got a bit unlucky, but we pulled together towards the end,. We proved we're one of the top teams in the league and in Canada."
Wolves 1 Supra 0 (OT)
Standard Star of the Game: St. Catharines defender Dan Gallagher.
For St. Catharines Roma Wolves: John Sozio, 117th minute; shutout by Dino Perri.
For Toronto Supra: No scoring, but goalkeeper Garrett Caldwell was named outstanding player.
Consolation final: Toronto Olympians 5 Ottawa Wizards 2.
Semifinals (played Saturday): Toronto Supra 3 (Samuel Afriyie 2, Michele LiLuca) Toronto Olympians 2 (Courtny Denis, Elvis Thomas) OT; St. Catharines 1 (Gary McGuchan, 42nd minute) Ottawa 0.
Rookie of the year: Kevin Nelson, Ottawa Wizards.
Best defensive player: Kurt Ramsey, North York Astros
Goalkeeper of the year: Brian Bowes, Toronto Olympians and George Azcura, Toronto Croatia (tie).
Most valuable player: Abraham Osman, Ottawa Wizards.
Coach of the year: Zoran Jankovic, Montreal Dynamites
Top scorer: Nelson, 23 goals.
Best discipline record: Durham Flames
Best referee: Amato De Luca, Toronto.
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