An earlier start to the USL Two regular season is not going to affect how Giovanni Petraglia puts together his new-look Thunder Bay Chill.
The club’s head coach is trusting the process after the first week of training camp. Despite waiting for five more players to come to town, Petraglia used the first sessions to crack down on the basics. It culminated with a 2-0 exhibition win Saturday over the Thunder Bay Juventus FC men’s soccer team.
“This was a week where we got to know each other,” Petraglia said. “(Next week) we’ll start to work tactically and work on details and actually prepare for the season.... Lots of technical stuff (this week) but nothing much tactically.” There’s plenty of work t do ahead of the opening games on the road in Kansas City versus Kaw Valley, May 24-25. The Chill will follow that up with exhibition games June 1-2 before starting the home USL Two schedule on June 7 against WSA Winnipeg. After going 6-7-1 last season and missing the playoffs, Thunder Bay is potentially entering a rebuilding phase of sorts. Only goalkeeper Matthew Mozynski and midfielder Marco Kuemmerle (who arrives in town today) are the two returning players from the Chill’s 2018 lineup. Petraglia said there are no star recruits or USL draft prospects on the horizon to join the roster and that’s OK — just as long as the wins come early.
“I guess this team will be a team that plays all together. We don’t have a big name. That’s my guess for now. We’ll see,” Petraglia said. “Last year one of the problems was the depth.
We weren’t very deep. This year I’m looking to have more rotation for the back-to-back games. “That’s why we tried to bring in more players,” he added. “Tactically we’re willing to change only to be more solid like we were in 2017. We were the best defensive team overall among 74 teams in the U.S. That’s what we got to be — be solid in the defence if we want to go deep (into the playoffs).” Mozynski admits the USL Two (formerly PDL) season can be a challenge with 14 games played in under two months, including travel. “It’s a short season. A lot of guys play in college so they’re used to back-to-back games. A lot of games in a couple of months,” said Mozynski, a Boston native who appeared in 13 of the Chill’s 14 games last season. “A lot of guys are used to it. It’s hardon the body, but you’ve got to manage it and that’s part of being an athlete is knowing how to manage you body. But it’s a little bit of a grind.” Mozynski was happy to be asked back this season. “The training here is top notch and that’s why so many guys want to come and play here for the professional environment and the club’s reputation,” said the Campbell University graduate.
Declan Rodriguez is making his return to the Chill after last playing n 2014. Since leaving Thunder Bay, Rodriguez played pro in Milwaukee and overseas in Holland. The Vancouver native felt comfortable coming back to Thunder Bay after being recruited by Petraglia and Saverio Lento, who were both on Tony Colistro’s staff five years ago. Rodriguez sees potential in this year’s edition of the Chill and isn’t buying into rebuilding talk.
“The goal here is to win nationals. There’s no other goal in the (USLTwo),” he said. “For me personally is to play, improve and score goals. That’s pretty much it.”
Pedro Adan and Marco Colistro scored on Saturday in the Chill’s win over Juventus FC. The two clubs meet each other again on Friday at 7p.m. at the St. Patrick High School field. The public is welcome to attend.
“We’ll most likely see a different level from us,” Petraglia said. “We’re going to see different players and we’ll go from there.” Meanwhile, Juventus FC is preparing for their own season open-er on Wednesday in the Thunder Bay Division I men’s outdoor division.
Eight teams will take part in Division I, while four clubs are in Division II.
New head coach Bill Ezzard is excited to see how this younger team (made up mostly of Chill Academy players) stacks up against the older competition.
With the arrival of summer, more outdoor fields are available compared to the winter. But competition to get playing time between all the men’s, women’s and youth leagues is as high as ever. “There’s never enough pitches,” said Ezzard, whose son Liam is on this year’s Chill. “We’re very lucky that the Catholic school board has come in and put in these two pitches here. You can see it’s incredibly hard to book time because there’s so many users that want it.”