Kingston, Ont. Tuesday, October 1st, 2013 – The most recent chapter in Kingston’s pro soccer club’s young history is certainly one to remember. As the CSL’s 1st Division regular season winds to a dramatic halt, Kingston FC has all but officially locked down the league’s coveted top spot in only its second season of operation.
Editor’s Note: The team has now officially clinched first place. You can check out the confirmation press release.
This past weekend, the title race shifted heavily in Kingston FC’s favour. The team’s 5-3 road win over Burlington SC was followed by a 2-2 tie between second- and third-place clubs York Region Shooters and Toronto Croatia on Sunday night. Now, with a six-point lead in the standings, Kingston FC can officially call itself CSL league winners after their final regular season match this Sunday, but possibly as early as Wednesday evening following York Region’s away match against SC Waterloo.
There is still a possibility that the horse race for CSL top spot could end in a three-way draw, with Kingston FC, York Region and Toronto Croatia all tied up with 50 points. If so, the CSL’s tiebreak rules would have to be imposed, and Kingston FC would be in the driver’s seat. Here’s why:
The first tiebreaker is based on total wins during the 22 game CSL season, thereby eliminating Toronto Croatia – which can win no more than 15 games – from contention, since Kingston FC already has 16 wins. For their part, both Kingston FC and York Region could wind up with 16 wins if York Region wins its last two games, including its October 6th head-to-head home game against Kingston FC.
Both Kingston FC and York Region could also be deadlocked after the second CSL tiebreaker is applied – head-to-head season record based on total league points – since a York Region win against Kingston FC on October 6th would give each club one victory over the other during the regular season, good for three points each.
The CSL’s third tiebreaker is based on goal difference over the full CSL season, a criteria that is much to Kingston’s advantage, since the local team has scored 69 goals to date and allowed 29, for a plus 40 differential. York Region has tallied only 46 goals thus far but has allowed a CSL-low 17 goals against, for a plus 29 differential. Thus, Kingston FC enjoys a whopping plus 11-goal differential in this category. Even if York manages to pull even with Kingston FC‘s goal differential, Kingston would still win the league crown based on the CSL’s fourth tiebreaker – total goals scored during the regular season.
From a 14th-place finish in their inaugural CSL season in 2012, Kingston FC is poised to wrap up a remarkable “rags -to-riches” 2013 turn-around by capturing first-place heading into the CSL playoffs.
The natural starting point to explain Kingston FC‘s remarkable turn-around is the team-wide belief in its abilities, dating back to the squad’s assembly in late March at pre-season training camp in Kingston. Club co-owner and Chairman Lorne Abugov publicly predicted a top-two finish alongside fellow co-owner and President Joe Scanlon at a media conference in April.
“This year I made a bold, yet realistic prediction, based on our new roster players and our carefully-selected returning players,” he said. “But I knew that a bunch of things had to fall into place for the prediction to pan out, and they did.”
First and foremost, head coach Colm Muldoon’s system of play had to be instilled in every player, and total buy-in to the flowing style was needed. It’s an explosive system of play, said Abugov, as the team’s offensive output statistics indicate. “These players have the will, character and talent,” Abugov said, “and in the end, with this system of play, they scored a whack of goals.”
With 69 goals scored in 21 games, averaging over three per outing, Kingston FC is the most prolific scoring machine in recent league history – no other team has even approached that level of production. In fact, new acquisition Guillaume Surot, CSL scoring leader and a prime candidate for league MVP, leads the charge with 28 tallies, individually outscoring four other CSL teams – a remarkable feat of scoring prowess.
The area of greatest improvement since May has been Kingston’s defensive game. Their three losses this season, two at the hands of defending CSL playoff champions, Toronto Croatia, all arrived between May 12th and July 6th. Kingston’s 1-0 loss to Croatia at home on July 6th marked a pivotal game in Kingston’s Cinderella season, in Abugov’s view.
It was Kingston FC’s first, last and only home defeat of the year. The team’s 10-1 won-loss record playing in Kingston is the best in the league this record-breaking season. Yet the harsh outcome of that 1-0 loss, after a well-played game, decided by a controversial game-winner that appeared to be offside, was hard to swallow. “It was a harsh result, we felt it should’ve ended in a 0-0 tie,” Abugov said. “That could’ve really deflated our guys, but it didn’t. Exactly the opposite.”
If the result was a motivator it was equally a wake-up call. Toronto Croatia’s display of defensive composure after claiming the one-goal lead that day, Abugov said, showed that club’s experience at shutting down an opponent to secure three points.
“They have a long history of winning, and they have veteran experience, and closing down an explosive team like ours isn’t easy,” Abugov said. “We’ve had to learn that skill in a hurry, because last season we got pretty good at finding creative ways to lose, and didn’t have much experience learning how to win.”
Since that game nearly three months ago, Kingston FC has gone undefeated, collecting nine wins and two draws. Amazingly, seven of those 11 games were on the road, away from the friendly confines of Queen’s West Campus Field in Kingston. Now there remains only one more league game on the road again, this time a rematch against second-place York Region Shooters this Sunday, October 6th.
A week later, on October 13th at 1:00 pm in Kingston, the playoff campaign begins with a quarter-final match at the West Campus field. Their opponent, not yet determined, is likely to be either Astros Vasas from North York or the Serbian White Eagles from Toronto, two teams battling for the 8th and final playoff spot.
If the team wins its quarter-final match, Kingston FC will host the CSL semi-final match the following week, also at Queen’s West Campus field on either Saturday, October 19th or Sunday, October 20th. Should Kingston FC win that match the team slots into the CSL Playoff Championship, which this season is being held in Niagara Falls on Sunday, November 3rd.
In the meantime, Abugov offered a short-list of thanks to the club’s growing list of sponsors and supporters. “We thank the business community in Kingston, and in particular WTC Communications our Platinum season sponsor,” he said. “There would be no Kingston FC Pro Soccer had WTC Communications not stepped up to the bar in Kingston and helped us with their two year financial commitment. We also owe a great deal to the Kingston and region soccer community, and particularly to the Cataraqui Clippers youth club, our sponsor, affiliate and training partner this season for extending to all of our players and coaches a really fine soccer welcome to the city.”
When Kingston FC’s identity as the town’s first successful Pro Sports team in recent memory caught on, crowds at their home games grew steadily. Bolstered by the team’s continuous community work this season, spear-headed by Kingston FC staffer, Catarina Macedo, a loyal and dedicated fan base has emerged. “Essentially we’ve tried to adopt a plan of organic growth. Today, we are all really proud to satisfy the group of dedicated fans who’ve taken to Kingston FC, and made us a really important and crowd-pleasing part of this city’s vibrant sporting community.”
Abugov is pleased as well that the Kingston FC 2nd Division team has also clinched a playoff spot this season, after winning only one game in 2012 and missing the post-season. He also expects both Guillaume Surot and Mademba Ba of Kingston FC to capture the league’s Golden Boot Awards in the 1st and 2nd Divisions, as they have scored 28 and 17 goals, to currently top their respective leagues.
While the regular season CSL title is still not 100% secured just yet, and the CSL’s sudden-death playoff system can mean “one and done”, which would be tough to swallow in this remarkable season, Abugov is tremendously proud of what the team has accomplished thus far and nothing that happens from here on in will taint the magical 2013 season.
Still, he and everyone else associated with the club are hungry for more. “The only limiting factor at this stage is to stay focused and push this group over the finish line,” he said. “We’ve all been at it since mid-March. By now, it’s a war of attrition, but we can win this thing for all of us, and for Kingston.”
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