London Free Press: CPSL Playoff Picture Still Unclear
September 13, 2002
CPSL playoff picture still unclear
By KATHY RUMLESKI -- London Free Press
It will probably come down to the last game of the season before the playoff picture is decided in the Western Conference of the Canadian Professional Soccer League. Despite sitting sixth in the seven-team division, London City is still in contention.
There is only one point separating the top four teams. Hamilton Thunder, with 24, recently moved to the top of the conference. They're followed by Mississauga Olympians, Toronto Croatia and St. Catharines Roma Wolves.
London has 12 points. With five games left, the team has a potential 15 points to earn. The top three teams in each conference will proceed to postseason play.
City manager Harry Gauss says the team has the talent to make the playoffs if the squad plays to its potential. "We can only explain to them how good they actually are," he says. "All they have to do is just play the game."
If City does make it to the postseason, it will have to do it without best player Gentian Dervishi. His jaw was fractured in several places when he collided with a goalkeeper in an exhibition match last Friday.
Dervishi underwent four hours of surgery. Three steel plates were inserted to realign his jaw.
"It was a devastating blow," says Jeff Brown, City's top defender. "That's why I don't play exhibition games."
Dervishi's injury also means he'll be out of action when the Canada Cup - the CPSL's league cup - comes to London Sept. 27-29. City didn't qualify for the tournament but as host, the team will play a wild-card game on Sept. 27.
Brown says the team will rally around the loss of Dervishi, predicting: "I think we'll make a big impression at the Cup."
As far as making the playoffs, he says it's only a matter of believing.
"The atmosphere in the dressing room . . . is that no matter who we're playing against, we have just as good a shot at winning the game as the other team does. It wasn't like that at the beginning of the year. It took a couple of months for guys to realize, 'hey, we are as good as people are saying we are.'"
Brown also said individual play will not result in wins, it's how the team plays as a unit.
"If you've got three superstars, it doesn't make a difference if the other eight players on the field aren't playing well as a team."
Teams like the Olympians, who have a star-studded lineup - and who have just added Lynx players Brian Lucas, Shawn Faria, Brian Ashton, David DePlacido and Adrian Serioux - have surprisingly been faltering. The Olympians haven't won a league game since Aug. 9.
"It doesn't faze me one bit hearing the Olympians picked up" players, Brown says.
The strong Toronto Croatia team has lost three of its last four games.
City will play Croatia tonight at Memorial Park in Mississauga. The two teams tied 2-2 the only other time they've met this season.
"It's going to be a one-goal game," predicts Brown. "I'll be disappointed if we don't come out with three points."
City's last four games are against Metro Lions, Montreal Dynamites, Vaughan Sun Devils and North York Astros.
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