A goal by Brampton Hitmen striker Kurt Mella at the 27th minute mark stood up to give his team a 1-0 win over Vaughan Sun Devils in the Rogers Cup Final for the 2003 championship of the Canadian Professional Soccer League on October 5.
Brampton captain Phil Ionadi capped a brilliant season by winning the league's MVP Award at an annual awards night immediately after the game.
The win ended a five-month long season for the CPSL, Canada’s only complete professional soccer league and it is the first major win for the Hitmen since they joined the 13-team loop three years ago.
The Hitmen showed early signs the team was much stronger than last season and during the latter stages of the campaign there was always a possibility they might hold on to the top position, but Hamilton Thunder eventually took over to win the Western Conference.
Last year Brampton had a 4-10-5 WLT record for just 17 points and that improved dramatically this year to 10-5-3 for 33 points.
Brampton Hitmen defeated London City 2-1 in a wild card game to reach the final, while Vaughan reached the final following a 2-0 shutout of Hamilton Thunder.
Hector Marinaro, the Hitmen GM and coach for the final game, himself a former professional player in Argentina and Europe, attributed Brampton’s win to an improved team spirit with hard work by players who must train several times a week while holding another job.
"Ďt's a dream come true," said Hitmen owner Steve Nijjar who throughout the season never wavered in believing his team had enough to go all the way.
“They have worked very hard for this and the win is also for the Brampton community which has been very supportive of the Hitmen since we kicked off in 2000,” he explained.
Phil Ionadi, the amiable captain of the Brampton Hitmen, received the most Most Valuable Player Award for the 2003 season at the Canadian Professional Soccer League’s annual presentation night following the final game.
Ionadi led the Hitmen to a stage where late in the season they were bidding for the conference title, he scored 12 goals and was a playmaker in a number of the 41 goals scored by Brampton in league and cup play over the 5-month long season.
Simon Eaddy of Ottawa Wizards was voted the league’s best goalkeeper with an outstanding record in which the Wizards conceded just 10 goals all season and another Ottawa player, McDonald Yobe, was judged Rookie of the Year following his eye-catching performances with the Eastern Conference winners.
The 22 year-old midfielder from the Central African nation of Malawi was one of a number of very good first year players to appear in the CPSL this season.
Carlo Arghittu of St. Catharines Wolves received the leading goalscorer award after finding the net 18 times in the season just ended and Domagoj Sain of Toronto Croatia had another outstanding season to pick-up the Defender of the Year award.
Jose Testas, head coach with Toronto Supra played a big part in the new-found success of his team which finished an impressive runner-up in the Eastern Conference following a year-long battle with Ottawa Wizards for the eastern title. This was a contrast from the sixth place finish of the west-end Toronto team in 2002.
Michael Lambert, referee of the championship final between Brampton Hitmen and Vaughan Sun Devils, was voted the best game official in the CPSL this year and the Fair Play Award for the most disciplined team went to Durham Flames.