A golden goal winner by forward Ryan Gamble right on the stroke of 100 minutes ended the game to give Oakville Blue Devils a 2-1 victory over Vaughan Shooters for the Canadian Professional Soccer League championship at Esther Shiner Stadium Monday.
The winning goal came following a 1-1 tie at the end of regulation 90 minutes on goals by Vaughan midfielder Stalin Cardenas who caught the net with a drive from 30 yards at the 37th minute mark and the tying goal by Oakville’s Sergio De Luca one minute after the interval.
While the first half was an even end-to-end contest, Vaughan had most of the play in the second half, failing with several opportunities to win the game handily. There were near-misses by Matthew Palleschi, Frankie Bruno and Darryl Gomez. Goalkeeper Sa Brahima Traore was outstanding in the Oakville net making several key saves to keep his side in the game.
A goal appeared certain at 90 minutes when a ball pushed to the open net by substitute Jason De Thomasis was about to roll over the line when cleared by Blue Devils' Jaimie Fairweather and Marko Bedenikovic.
Brian Bowes in the Vaughan nets had less to do most of the time, but had little chance to stop Gamble's drive for the winner.
It was Gamble's last game. The veteran forward has also played at at a high level elsewhere, gave Blue Devils' coach Duncan Wilde the news recently that he would stop playing at the end of this season.
"He has been great and what a way to say goodbye," said a jubilant Wilde at the end of the championship win commenting on Gamble's sudden strike that gave the team from just west of Toronto the game.
"But all the lads came through and while we have had a tough end of the season, I knew we could do it--everybody has been so supportive including the Oakville club, and our owners."
Wilde said he didn't want to play defensively and wait for penalty kicks to win and that was a gamble that paid off.
This is the third year in succession Vaughan Shooters have fought their way to the championship final, only to lose. Shooters were defeated 1-0 by Brampton Hitmen in 2003 and suffered a 4-0 loss in the hands of Toronto Croatia in 2004.
A downcast Angelo Pollastrone, captain of the losing team said today's loss was disappointing. "I thought we did enough to win, we outplayed them at times and we had the chances, but you have to take them to win," he said after the game.
Oakville defeated Border Stars 3-1 in the quarterfinal, then Hamilton Thunder 2-0 in the semifinal, while Vaughan blanked Toronto Croatia 4-0 in the semifinal Saturday.
Monday’s game ended a five-month long season for Canada’s only professional soccer league.