Written by Matt Vis
Thunder Bay Chill beat writer for The Chronicle-Journal
Thunder Bay Chill
Manager: Tony Colistro 2013 Season: 1st Heartland Div, 1st in PDL (12-1-1)
Best offseason signing: Stephen Paterson (CAN)
Player to watch: Sergio Campano Franco (ESP)
The Thunder Bay Chill, playing out of Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada was formed in 2000 and is in their 14th season of operation. The club has emerged as a pillar of both the city of Thunder Bay and the region of Northwestern Ontario’s summer sports landscape. The PDL program has helped spawn many youth programs that have not only increased popularity and participation in the sport, but have also served as a feeder program to the big team. The club plays their home fixtures out of Tbaytel Field at Chapples Park, a facility that has been renovated and adapted to suit the needs of the club.
The Chill has developed a near monopoly on the Heartland Division crown, as 2013 marked the sixth division title in the past seven years for Thunder Bay. Thunder Bay was also the first Canadian club to win the PDL championship after prevailing with a penalty kicks victory in the national final over the Laredo Heat. The Chill returned to the national final two years later, but fell to 2010 champion Portland Timbers U-23s.
This year Thunder Bay rolled through the regular season, coming away with a 12-1-1 record which was tops in the entire league. The Chill joins the 2001 Calgary Storm to be the only Canadian squads to accomplish the feat. In the playoffs, Thunder Bay opened with a 1-0 victory over the Michigan Bucks, a perennial playoff foe. Thunder Bay completed their fourth Central Conference title with a 3-0 victory in the final against reigning PDL champion Forest City London.
As evidenced through their first two playoff matches, Thunder Bay proved to be one of the top defensive teams in the league. The Chill posted eight regular season clean sheets and only conceded 10 goals on the season to be in the top-five in that category. Keeper Stephen Paterson, of Thunder Bay, is the club’s stalwart last line of defence, as this is his 10th year with the team. He proved his merits once again in the playoff run, as he stymied two potent attacks in Michigan and London. Playing in front of him is a solid line of defenders, anchored by 6’6” Swede Axel Sjoberg. Sjoberg is pivotal to disrupting aerial attacks, as there are very few long balls that he fails to win and then develop into a counter. His height is also used on the attacking end when brought forward, as his presence has the potential to make any corner dangerous. Fellow defender and collegiate teammate at Marquette University, Paul Dillon (pictured below) is also a threat on the attacking end as he possesses a lethal left-footed strike. Veteran defender Zetroy Robertson is quick and strong on the ball, and plays steady on the right side.
(Possible Starting XI v Victoria)
Adding versatility is team captain Nolan Intermoia, who depending on the formation, has the ability to play both defending and midfield positions. Intermoia plays all over the field for the Chill and he frequently serves as the club’s spark plug. Pedro Adan, awarded the team’s MVP award, plays a critical role in assisting the defenders in clearing the lines, and his support stabilizes the back.
In recent years Colistro has favoured to play a quicker tempo and enabling that philosophy is a pair of nimble and speedy midfielders. Abraham Villon and Jose Altamirano are critical to the Chill’s quick transition counters and capitalizing on any space in the mid. Both display tremendous vision which frequently creates chances up field to serve as the offensive catalysts of the team. Adding a dynamic element up front is first year player Sergio Campano Franco. He is the most skilled player on the team and has a deft touch and a sense of wizardry with his ball handling.
At the front line of the attack, the Chill has been able to weather the loss of reigning PDL Player of the Year Sullivan Silva. Silva has been sidelined for most of the season with a foot injury, but currently is a threat coming off the bench. The loss has been mitigated by the player of first year Nigerian striker Sunny Omeregie, who led the club in goals this past season.
The biggest factor for the Chill this weekend will be their versatility. Colistro often adapts his formations on a game-to-game basis to match up against the opposition. Against Michigan he emphasized defence and preferred to limit the intensity of the attack. However, one day later against London he brought forward a more aggressive attack that pushed the ball up-field through to the final whistle. The outcome of the weekend will depend upon the trio of Campano Franco, Villon, and Altamirano and whether they were able to control possession and make plays to spark an attack to take pressure of the backlines.