The three-peat is complete. The Iron, for the third summer season on the trot, are champions of the Ultra Soccer League, winning it with a game to spare. Gastown were able to wrap things up by putting in a far better effort than the last time they squared off against Astro F.C., erasing memories of a humbling defeat earlier this summer with a convincing 4-1 victory.
Gastown came into this match knowing that a point was likely enough to earn them the trophy, but with the 3-0 drubbing still relatively fresh in their minds, there was no question that the Iron would be looking for redemption and all three points. Astro F.C. were a side struggling for consistency since their win over the Iron, but were coming off a win over title challengers HalfMan HalfFish and had their sights set on taking a second consecutive scalp of the league leaders. The game started consistent with that of many recent games the Iron have played in: plenty of possession with the occasional half-chance. Astro F.C. put in many a strong tackles early, raising the ire of a couple of the Gastown, particularly Taylor Willms and the typically ornery Swiss/Chilean/Burmese/Bahamian Silvio Ruprah. A series of crunching challenges both ways had the match boiling to a simmer.
It was Patrick Smyth, the slick Gastown phenom, whos silky touch and speed allowed him to break through these snapping tackles to cause plenty of danger early going. Smyth managed to find a bit of space on the edge of the Astro area before firing the ball off the post with virtually his first touch of the game which would be an omen of things to come. Unsurprisingly, it was Smyth who did make the eventual breakthrough later on - after picking up the ball in the middle of the Astro half, Smyth made room for himself before sliding a speculative low drive on goal. A normally routine save, the Astro keeper was doing his best "Owen Parrott the Goalie" impression and did well to get down on the knee and let the ball tease his gloves before allowing it to squirm awkwardly between his legs to nestle gently in the back of the goal. On the balance of play, the lead was well deserved by the Iron. The rest of the half was mostly a bit frantic with the two teams trading possession up until the half, the Iron going into the break the happier of the two sides.
Captain Parrott gave the Iron a rousing talk during the break, keeping their heads level only 45 minutes from glory and telling them to push on and settle the game. Clearly, Smyth took this talk to heart, and from the restart he was a man possessed, scoring his and Gastown's second goal moments after the restart. A dancing run into the Astro area allowed him the opportunity to slot home from an acute angle. The hat-trick followed shortly thereafter with more sleek footwork and a prodigious change of pace was topped off with a powerful driven finish low into the corner. Following the third goal, Astro were riled and picked themselves up to push back. With their backs against the wall, they threw caution to the wind and gave the Iron a bit of trouble with fresh legs from the bench. Their superiority in fitness was evident as they worked the ball wide and they started to ask some serious questions of a Gastown defence missing stalwart Poulsen. Their efforts were rewarded midway through the half as a botched clearance allowed a lurking Astro attacker a clear look at goal which he banged in past the other Smyth in net.
While the goal did a little bit to buoy Astro spirits, frontman Smyth was eager to dash them and avenge his brother's cleansheet. An exhausted Gastown midfield of Gladpran and Amin managed to string a few passes together under heavy pressing as the men in white looked to maintain possession and see off the game. The ball eventually found it's way to Smyth 35 yards out on the left where he swivelled past one defender, took what looked like two heavy touches and a quick third to split two others before unleashing a dipping 25 effort which left the keeper no chance as it found it's way just under the bar to cap off his four goal performance with the pick of the bunch. The fourth goal served to knock the wind out of the Astro sails and Gastown eased their way through the final stages before the whistle signalled their place in Ultra Soccer League folklore. An elated and injured Paul Rozehnal was even made a cameo do his best John Terry putting on his strip, complete with shin-guards only to find out there wasn't a trophy on hand.
With the title wrapped up, The Iron end their campaign against Ranger F.C. which is a final tune-up game before turning their attentions to their VMSL campaign. For those inspired to pick up their boots and join Gastown on the pitch, the club is currently holding open-training Monday and Wednesday nights, so send a quick email to club administrators should impulse take hold of you.
Ironman of the match: Patrick Smyth.