October 13, 2007 CSL St Catharines Wolves Quarter Final pregame story (from St Catharines Standard)
Wolves sit two wins from CSL title game
Posted By Jim Wallace
They said it couldn't be done.
Soccer types in Niagara felt the St. Catharines Roma Wolves couldn't compete with other Canadian Soccer League teams by using local talent.
For the past few years, there have been a number of "rebuilding" programs, bringing in out-of-town players - some from overseas - to try to earn a spot in the playoffs and put the Wolves back in the upper echelon of the CSL.
Until this year, there was no improvement. During the off-season, the powers-that-be at Club Roma then decided if they were going to lose, they could at least lose with Niagara talent, still giving younger players a goal to gain and provide a showcase for that talent.
Niagara Falls resident James McGillivray, himself a former National Soccer League player, was brought in and took a new approach - no superstars, everybody is treated equally and everybody fights for playing time.
Game in and game out, as the team suffered from a few early adjustment and growing pains, McGillivray's attitude never changed. He always felt comfortable bringing in any player off the bench; there was no true set starting lineup - everybody got their change to prove themselves, and yes, indeed, they did fight for playing time.
In the past, out-of-town players were often excused from practice and simply showed up to play.
No more. Everybody got the same treatment.
And something happened along the way - the Wolves became winners. This team that hadn't made the playoffs since winning the playoff championship in 2001 clinched a playoff spot with four games to go in the 22-game season and then turned around and took first place in the National Division with a team-record 42 points and were second overall behind the Serbian White Eagles.
Anthony Stranges of Niagara Falls, who was passed over two straight years because some thought he didn't fit in, ended up the team's leading scorer with 12 goals, was seventh overall in the CSL and proved to be one of the league's most exciting players.
Veteran Carlo Arghittu also had his best season in recent memory and finished tied for ninth in league scoring with nine goals and had a couple of multi-goal games.
Sure, there are still a few out-of-towners, but players like Danny Gallagher (Ancaster), Claudio Perri (Hamilton), Geoff Attard (Burlington) and Matt Waddington (Buffalo) have all been a constant over the past few years.
They meshed well with newcomers like Nick Aragona of Niagara Falls, who suffered a serious leg injury early in the season and hasn't returned, Stefan Kamendy, Arnie Magnotta, Joe Del Priore, Welland's Marc Morrency, Thorold's Joe Conte and others to make certain the Wolves would be a tough team to play, game in and game out.
And they were. Led by Attard, the defence tightened in front of Perri and goals-against were cut almost in half.
Fitness guru Stacey Gough made certain the players were in shape even before the season began - and they stayed that way.
And, quietly but with confidence, McGillivray oversaw the whole thing, never really taking any credit for the team's turnaround, instead deflecting any praise to the players - something else he's done since the beginning of the season, praising them for their work ethic and commitment.
Somewhere along the way, the Wolves became winners and they are now three games away from repeating the championship they won on their home pitch six years ago.
The first step is Sunday when they play host to the Canadian Lions at Roma Park at 4 p.m. A win puts them into a semifinal the weekend of Oct. 27 and 28, when the championship will also be decided in Toronto.
But win or lose, McGillivray - who should be given coach-of-the-year consideration - and his squad can hold their collective heads high. More than once, they were all told it couldn't be done with local players.
But the jeers have turned to cheers at the pitch on Vansickle Road and guess what?
The Wolves are winners this season, regardless of Sunday's result, and have a right to puff out their chests just a little bit.
Jim Wallace can be reached at 905-684-7251, ext. 321. His e-mail address is email@example.com
Article ID# 733603
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