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‘Goals change games:’ Charlotte Eagles get back on point for PDL championship

The Charlotte Eagles’ Joao Costa advances the ball against Thunder Bay in Sunday’s championship game.
The Charlotte Eagles’ Joao Costa advances the ball against Thunder Bay in Sunday’s championship game. Correspondent

Ryan Williams says his winning goal for the Charlotte Eagles in their Premier Development League championship game Saturday afternoon was a while in the making.

“Just three years of practice and watching video,” the 20-year-old midfielder said of the key to his bending corner kick from 20 yards in the 61st minute, which ended up the deciding score in Charlotte’s 2-1 victory over the Thunder Bay (Ontario) Chill.

“It’s what I’ve figured out that I can do. And we just did what we’ve done all season. We came together and played as a team.”

Joao Costa also scored for the Eagles (13-3-2), who won their first PDL title in their third season in the league.

“It’s a true team championship,” Charlotte coach Dave Dixon said. “It’s a pretty selfless group and you can’t single out one player.”

True to that form, the Eagles dominated possession in the first 20 minutes of the game. Charlotte dominated possession in the opening minutes of the game, but Thunder Bay scored the first goal.

Defender Patricio Arce headed in a cross from forward German Alfaro in the 21st minute.

But the Eagles came back with the equalizer just five minutes later. Costa netted a shot from about 10 yards out, assisted by Gio Bejarano. It was the first goal given up by Thunder Bay in the playoffs.

“Goals change games, and your reaction when you give up one is key,” Eagles coach Dave Dixon said. “We had the better of the play before that, but the guys didn’t get discouraged and got right back to the game plan.”

Williams’ goal was his second in four playoff games. “He’s one of the best in the league at the set pieces, and both of his goals were huge for us.”

▪  Notes: The Eagles were playing in a championship game for the first time as a franchise since 2009, when the club was a member of the USL Pro League.

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