Durham Celtic capture bronze medal at National Championships
A storied run for Ontario Soccer League club Durham Celtic ended with them bringing home a bronze medal from the 2017 Toyota National Championships in Surrey, B.C.
Durham Celtic, who defeated the Woodbridge Strikers to advance to the national championships, was placed in a group with clubs from Manitoba, Quebec, New Brunswick and Yukon.
Durham's journey to the national championship was not an easy one. The club had to go through three OSL provincial elite clubs in G.S United, Vaughan Azzurri and Woodbridge to be crowned champions.
Their first match in B.C saw them up against the eventual winners, FC Winnipeg Lions. Durham would put in a good fight and were able to grab a point from their group leaders.
Match two would put the Ontario side up against Celtix Haut-Richelieu of Quebec. Durham forward Joseph Vaz stepped up big for his club, scoring a hat-trick and guided his team to a 3-2 win of Haut-Richelieu.
The clubs next match against Fredericton Picaroons Reds saw Vaz notch another hat-trick, but their backline struggled against the attacking power of Fredericton, who also found the back of the net three times to steal two points from Durham.
In their last match of group play, Durham needed a strong performance to guarantee them a chance to play for a medal. The club did just that, putting up their most dominate performance of the tournament, scoring eight unanswered goals against Whitehorse Yukon Selects FC.
Striker Mark Van Beek would notch three goals, followed by two from Colin Keay and three more from Jean-Pierre Marchant, Dennis Palmer and Dustin Dinis.
With their big win over Whitehorse, Durham sealed second place in Group B with a 2W-2D-0L record and would go on to face Saskatoon Husa Alumni FC for the bronze medal.
Durham player/coach Mike Hadden mentioned that playing teams from all over Canada showcased many different playing styles.
"It was a bit of a bigger range than what we were used to," said Hadden.
"But the competition itself, just the format of the tournament, makes it obviously a really difficult task."
Hadden explained that to get to the gold medal game, a team would need to grab as many wins as possible. Which meant going forward for 90 minutes.
"There were times that we did that, and relied heavily on the two or three guys that we left back and the goalkeeper."
In the bronze medal matchup, Durham would get on the board first, thanks to a strike from Van Beek in the 47th.
Saskatoon would tie it up in the 74th with a goal from Garrett Peters, but two unanswered goals from Van Beek (77') and Kailen Murphy (84') would see Durham capture third place in the national championships.
After the tournament was completed, Durham finished as the highest scoring team with 18 goals from five matches. Vaz finished as the top goal scorer with six goals in five games.
Hadden spoke about the performances that Vaz brought to his team, and said that he is a key player for them when attacking."The goals were a bonus with Joe [Vaz]. He's always capable of scoring goals, but he's also capable of opening up a defence.
"He's a very, very good playmaker and he links the defence to the attack very well."
Before the tournament kicked off, Hadden mentioned that his club was having difficulty in including their full team due to financial restrictions. However, the Celtic community stood up and supported the club as much as they could, which allowed more players to make the trip to B.C.
"It's hard on guys financially to get there [to nationals]," said Hadden.
"We are not a club that just writes a massive cheque. We are a group of guys that put's a team together year over year.
"The community and support that we got from the Celtic community was phenomenal. There was a lot of people… [that] really stepped up and helped our team a lot."
Being able to come back with a medal was something that both Hadden and the club as a whole wanted to achieve, a way to thank the fantastic support the club received from the community.
"Coming home with a medal was massively important," said Hadden.
"As much as it was a disappointment to go undefeated and to not be able to play for the gold, we had a conversation that we would regret it if we didn’t put in a maximum effort into the bronze medal game."
Hadden explained that the club is very community driven, and being able to wear the Celtic crest means a lot to them.
"[We are] really proud to represent Ontario and be the representatives out of there, but also for Celtic and the Celtic community," said Hadden
"When talking about the badge on our chest that we play for, it means a lot to the guys and it means a lot to this team that's who we represent.”