By Ned Bekavac
They didn’t score, and they didn’t win, but it was a huge victory in the end for the Guelph Rangers.
In their first season of Ontario Soccer League play, the squad has earned promotion.
The locals played Wisla United to a scoreless draw at the Centennial Bowl on Saturday.
That, combined with league results elsewhere over the weekend, made Guelph a lock for top spot in the OSL South Region Division. The title gives Guelph the right to move up to the South Premier Division.
Rangers manager and player Vince Pugliese was asked if he expected such big success to come so quickly for the team in the OSL.
“No, not at all,” said Pugliese.
The Rangers competed in the Kitchener and District Soccer League last season, and earned the right to play in the OSL by winning the KDSL league title. Pugliese says at the end of the day, the KDSL success last season was huge.
“The KDSL is more competitive than people give it credit for,” he says.
While on-field business is taken care of – the first-place Rangers have one league game left and cannot be caught in the standings – next comes the off-field stuff.
The team must decide if they want to make the jump to an even more competitive division.
“We’re in an interesting position,” says Pugliese.
Going up to that division can be daunting, and there can be a fear of suffering some rather lopsided losses, says Pugliese. He, personally, says he’s in the let’s-go-up camp.
“You won’t know (how you’ll do in that division) unless you try,” he says.
Whether they go up or not, the player/manager says he’s keen to have an all-for-one vision with the decision.
“We have a good group of guys, a good atmosphere,” says Pugliese. “We don’t want to break that up just to go up a division.”
With one game to go, Guelph is 13-3-3 on the season, for 42 points. Second place Mississauga Portofino has 36 points with no games left, and third-place Brampton Portuguese has 35 points with two games to go.
In those 19 games, Guelph has conceded just 15 goals. The team’s top scorer, Frank Luzi, has more goals than that himself.
Luzi, a former Guelph Gryphons soccer captain who is currently Gryphons assistant coach, has a league-leading 17 goals, which is six more than anyone else in the league.
Goalie Justin Guy, who is relatively new to the world of goalkeeping, has 10 shutouts this season, including five straight.
The Rangers club this year has three teams – the OSL side, a KDSL team, and a squad in the South West Region Soccer League.