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A close loss with countless silver linings for the Cyclones
2024-04-21

“Everything but the result – oh yes, and the weather.”

That was the common refrain from within the large and very boisterous crowd that braved the elements late Saturday afternoon to take in the launch of the Sudbury Cyclones “revival tour”.

The final score – a 1-0 win for visiting FC London in a League1 Ontario Cup play – was one of the few negatives to a setting that feted the return of semi-pro soccer to Sudbury, the Cyclones having last taken to the pitch some time in the early eighties (or about a quarter century prior to the construction of the James Jerome Sports Complex turf field on which they competed Saturday).

Strong winds from the south created a huge influencer to the match and the London side capitalized late on this advantage as Dante D’Oria, who was selected for an exclusive trial with the Vancouver Whitecaps MLS Academy in 2020, headed home what would be the game’s only goal in the 43rd minute.

FC London had enjoyed earlier chances and the bulk of the territorial advantage in play but Sudbury keeper Josh Bondoc (Algoma University) was equal to the challenge, coming through with at least a couple of saves that drew an appreciative and energetic response from the crowd that numbered some 500-600 strong – or more.

With the wind at their back in the second half, the Cyclones returned the favour in terms of playing much of the final 45 at the north end of the pitch. Unfortunately, the challenges that come from trying to assemble a largely post-secondary lineup with regularity any time prior to May 1st was evident as the finish for the homeside lacked precision – an element that should improve notably once multiple full side weekly practices are part of the team schedule.

“Going into it, the number one thing today was being competitive,” stated head coach Giuseppe Politi after the game. “No one likes to lose. We’re unhappy with the defeat but we competed, we showed we belong. The guys did what we asked them to do, tactically. I was proud of their effort, their resilience and their willingness to stick to the plan.”

“They believed in what the staff was preaching; they didn’t just go rogue,” Politi added.

Tackling the key assignment that is the centerback position with Rohan Henry at his side, Luke Harrop echoed the thoughts of the head coach in terms of taking several positives from a close loss. “The grit – just how hard we worked,” he said.

“Yes, we conceded one goal, but this is a new team. I’ve only been here (Sudbury) three times. We’re learning and will get better and I have no problem knowing that in the league, we’re going to win games.”

A native of England (Leeds, specifically) who moved to Canada in 2022, first to British Columbia before committing to the Algoma Thunderbirds (OUA) program in March of 2023, Harrop discussed the effect that was the wind factor.

“It changes your game massively,” suggested the 20 year-old transfer from Capilano University (B.C.). “In the first half with the ball sailing, we had to drop five to ten yards deeper than I want to be, personally. When we’ve got the wind, especially going long, the ball carries, so it helps massively as a defender.”

But for 180 ticks on the clock or so, the match may have required extra time to settle.

“They chose to take the wind (in the opening half) and we were three minutes from getting out of that half,” said Politi. “We were pinned in and Josh made some excellent saves in the first half - but they generated almost nothing in the second half.”

Perhaps the biggest takeaway came in the form of the Cyclones fans that more than filled the stands at James Jerome – including the newly-formed District 46 supporters group, complete with themed chants and a sectioned area (visit www.district46.ca).

“The fans today were brilliant in terms of creating an atmosphere,” said Harrop, noting some of the differences between a standard OUA game and the first Cyclones encounter. “The quality is, I think, a tiny bit better than OUA. But for me, it’s no different. You have to go out and work hard no matter who you play – and that’s really it.”

“The word is going to spread: this is good sport entertainment value in the city,” added Politi. “Kids are going to see this and buy-in and believe in the sport.”

Kids who may want to follow in the footsteps of Harrop and others.

“I want to take it to the next level – CPL (Canada Premier League) is the way I want to go,” he explained. “For me, personally, this is a way to keep busy. Back home, there’s no opportunity to play during the summer. This allows me to keep going, get better and improve every day.”

The Cyclones open league play on (Saturday) May 4th at 7:00 p.m., facing Alliance United FC from Markham – Scarborough before travelling to the GTA on (Sunday) May 12th for their first road encounter opposite Master’s Futbol Academy.

Along with Bondoc, Harrop and Henry, others who drew the starting assignment for the Cyclones included: Nico Patenaude, Isaac Ajani, Brandon Moxam, Hayden Lloyd, Michael Marcantognini, Cedric Devos, Timi Aliu and Jack Collins.

Northern Hockey Academy