Wizards claim CPSL's Rogers Cup at Astros' Expense
Ottawa powerhouse captures third title of 2002; Astros finish season with distinction
October 20, 2002, North York - The turning point of the Rogers Cup final may have occurred as early as the second minute. The North York Astros, with the wind at their backs, had a glorious opportunity to take an early lead when forward Guillermo Compton Hall crossed the ball through the Ottawa Wizards' penalty area to an unmarked Lukasz Krakowiak who tapped the ball a few feet wide of the goal.
The Astros would not receive another clear-cut opportunity to score in the remaining 88 minutes of the final playoff match. The Wizards would score two goals late in each half on their way to a sweeping all three of the team competitions in the 2002 Canadian Professional Soccer League season.
Ottawa Wizards 2 North York Astros 0
The Astros failed to take advantage of the wind in the first half of the finals, and paid the price on the stroke of half time when the Wizards left midfielder Robin Hart nodded a long pass over the onrushing Astros goalkeeper, Luciano Miranda into the net. Until that point, the match had been evenly contested. The harsh wind and bumpy field did not permit either club to string together many passes or sustain any pressure until Hart's goal.
Tension between the two teams increased toward the end of the match as North York began to push forward in search of an equalizer. An Astros player did finally score in the 85th minute, but the inadvertent, well-placed shot by Slobodan Ilic found the back of his own net, behind a horrified Miranda.
Ottawa proved to be unquestionably the finest team in the 2002 CPSL season. The Wizards easily won the Eastern Conference and in mid-September won the inaugural Government of Canada Cup (League Cup) by defeating Toronto Croatia 1-0 last month.
"I can't describe how good I feel today," said an exuberant Wizards GM Jim Lianos immediately after the final whistle blew. "The guys deserve all the accolades they receive. It's all about them. Next year, the league is going to have to come up with a fourth trophy, because we already have three! We're weren't going to let anyone take the trophy away from us. When it's David vs. Goliath, sometimes Goliath wins."
Astros defender Slobodan Ilic, who played nearly impeccable defense for North York throughout the playoff tournament, described his miscue that led to the Wizards' second goal. "We were all tired, playing three games in three days," said Ilic. "I was struggling to get back and I had two guys around me. I tried not to hit them with my clearance…and I hit the net.
"We gave it our best shot, though. The schedule was tough on everyone."
Miranda was also proud of his team's effort. "We fought until the 95th minute," he observed. "I'm looking forward to next season."
Veteran Kurt Ramsey is hoping that the 2003 Astros will be able to build upon their late-season success. "Our guys really started to play together in the last month of the season," Ramsey observed, "and we reduced the simple mistakes we had been making."
General Manager Bruno Ierullo will likely make it his first order of off-season business to convince Ramsey not to retire from the CPSL. The steady sweeper won the inaugural North York Astros XS Soccer Man of the Match Award, given to the player who garnered the most 'selection points' throughout the season. The runner up was midfielder Gabriel Salguero and third place was awarded to Guillermo Compton Hall.
On Sunday evening at the CPSL Awards Banquet, Compton Hall was selected as the Rogers Cup playoffs Most Valuable Player.
Later in the awards ceremony, Ierullo received the Owner of the Year award in recognition of his diligent work on behalf of the CPSL.
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