Mississauga News: CPSL Report


CPSL report Croatia secures Conference title

Oct 13, 2002

Twice would have been nice, but the Toronto Croatia had to settle for one title.

At Memorial Park, the Streetsville-based Canadian Professional Soccer League (CPSL) club clinched the Western Conference title with a 2-1 win over the Hamilton Thunder. However, the Croatia's good fortune and six-game winning streak came to an end when the Ottawa Wizards defeated them 1-0 in the championship match of the Government of Canada Cup Tournament in London.

Needing only a tie to clinch the conference lead and get a subsequent bye past two rounds in the league's championship playoffs, Toronto opened the scoring against the Thunder in the 31st minute. Midfielder Velimir Crjlen booted the ball from 20 yards out past goalkeeper Roberto Ferrari into the bottom-left corner of the net.

After gaining momentum and dominating the second half, Hamilton was able to score the equalizer in the 73rd minute. Defender Danny Valesteghi got open in front of the Croatia's net and shoveled a short pass to forward Jason Crinic, who tapped the ball past Croatia goalkeeper George Azcurra.

With Hamilton on the verge of scoring the go-ahead goal, the Croatia caught a break during injury time. A kick bounced off the ground and high over the head of Ferrari. Croatia Josip Bucic snuck in behind and tapped in the game winner.

"[We] deserve it," Bucic said. "The whole year we've been fighting together, everybody has been behind each other's back. We want it all, we're hungry for it."

Now, the Thunder (7-7-4) and Mississauga Olympians (7-5-5) will have the unenviable task of having to beat each other and then the host team, the North York Astros, in a wild card game to play a semifinal against the Croatia (10-4-4).

In what may have been a prelude to the CPSL championship, the Wizards won a battle of tired teams to take the Government of Canada Cup, a competition that ran concurrently to the regular CPSL schedule.

Forward Kevin Nelson scored the only goal in the 66th minute when he converted a rebound off an Azcurra save.

Both teams had played a heavy schedule over the previous week, but it was the Wizards who looked to have more energy. It was Ottawa's second title this year, including one for having the best record in the CPSL (14-1-1).

"There were a lot of tired muscles but the guys stepped up for the challenge," Nelson said. "We have two titles this year, we're looking forward for the playoffs so we can try for the Triple Crown."

To get to the final, the Croatia played a thriller against the Vaughn Sun Devils, coming away with a 3-2 shootout victory.

Trailing 2-1 midway through the second half, the Croatia pressed the Sun Devils in their own end and notched the equalizer late in injury time. Crjlen was taken down in the goal area and the Croatia were awarded a penalty kick. Defender Robert Fran sent the game into overtime with his successful conversion.

Then in the shootout, matters weren't decided until Croatia midfielder Nikola Andrijevic converted on the seventh shot.

The Croatia lost their final game of the regular season 4-1 at home against the Vaughn Sun Devils. Forward Mladen Dikic scored Toronto's goal.

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