October 22, 2007 CSL St Catharines Wolves vs Toronto Croatia (from St Catharines Standard)

Roma Wolves fall short in semifinal; Best season in years ends with loss to Toronto Croatia

Toronto Croatia did exactly what they wanted Saturday. Toronto jumped out to an early lead and forced the St. Catharines Roma Wolves to play catch-up. The Wolves fell just short, dropping a 3-2 decision in their Canadian Soccer League semifinal game Saturday afternoon at Esther Shiner Stadium in Toronto.

Like they did in their two regular-season meetings, Croatia took a one-goal victory and will face the Serbian Eagles, who defeated the Trois-Rivieres Attak 2-1 in the other semifinal Sunday, in the league championship game next weekend.

"It was a tough fight," said Wolves goaltender and captain Claudio Perri. "It was a bit windy out here. They had the wind in the first half and our game plan was to hold them off."

Instead, Hayden Fitzwilliams and Thomir Maletic scored at 13 and 30 minutes respectively to put Croatia up 2-0. Danny Gallagher put the Wolves to within one at 42 minutes, but Maletic added a second goal in extra time and St. Catharines was down 3-1 at halftime.

Arnie Magnotta had the other Wolves goal, on a penalty kick, at the 60-minute mark.

Once again, head coach James McGillivray wasn't impressed with the way Croatia ran off the clock once they had the lead, much as they did in their 1-0 and 2-0 regular-season wins.

"It was a crappy way to end it," he said. "They're just ruining the game, diving all over the place and wasting time.

"The ball was out of bounds more than we played."

McGillivray, who didn't have sniper Anthony Stranges and defender Matt Waddington in the lineup, said the Wolves "blew a couple of coverages," which led to the early deficit. Marc Morrency and Dan Mazzucca were also not available, while Nick Aragona took a red card while on the bench in the second half and was not available for substitution.

Still, McGillivray was proud of what the team accomplished, setting a record for points with 42 and posting a 12-4-6 record after missing the playoffs for five straight years.

"This is a good foundation," McGillivray said. "They've got a lot to be proud of.

"We created a team, more than anything, a bunch of guys who like each other, guys who will fight for each other. We would have liked to have finished it off."

And the Wolves did it with players based in Niagara, rather than using imported players.

"We've been saying we don't need any imports and we should rely on the local guys to take us there," Perri said.

McGillivray, in his first year as head coach, said he took a great deal of satisfaction from helping put the team together this year.

"It's more than I thought it would be. It was really good becoming part of a group of guys who liked being with each other so much."

McGillivray also said he wasn't sure about his future with the team, noting "we have a banquet coming up and will talk about it then.

"I definitely enjoyed it - it was a good ride."

jwallace@ stcatharinesstandard.ca

Article ID# 744541

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