They celebrated with a trophy win, they celebrated with fireworks, they celebrated in a pack showing visible excitement in front of cameras, because they were celebrating the biggest night in team history.
Led by a hat trick from Adel Rahman, the North Mississauga Soccer Club men’s Panthers won 3-0 over local rivals Sigma F.C. in the season finale last Friday. This victory clinched their first ever playoff spot since coming into League1 in 2016, and clinched their first ever Credit River Trophy, crowning them kings of Mississauga soccer.
The win was also the first against a team currently ranked higher in the standings all year (Sigma is currently fifth in League1 standings).
After a mostly back-and-forth first half which saw Sigma control a little more of the possession and chances, the Panthers took over in the second half. Rahman scored his first of three goals in the game 45 seconds into the second half to open the scoring.
From then on in, the Panthers would land five more shots on net, two of them going in of Rahman’s foot during the last five minutes of the game, while also limiting Sigma to just one more shot on goal for three total during the game.
All three goals came from the middle of the field, just in or above the box, including a goal that rebounded off a defensive wall after a free kick to ice the game late. He certainly earned the praise of his coach.
“He knows how to find those places, to get himself to score,” said Coach Balta. “The second strike off the free kick [one of Adel’s late second half goals] was amazing.”
The victory gave the Panthers 26 points (8-5-2), putting them in sixth place in League1 standings, giving the team a playoff berth, and earning them the Credit River Cup, a trophy created by the Mississauga-based Sauga City Collective fan group which is given to the Mississauga team who does best in head-to-head competition. The Panthers beat both competitors this year: ProStars F.C. and Sigma.
One year after finishing 3-9-4 and seven points out of the playoffs, this was a big turnaround for the club in a relatively short period of time. In fact, this was a big improvement for the club in general, who managed to win three straight game on the edge of the playoff picture to get themselves in.
“It’s about stuff we’ve been working on since the beginning the year,” said Coach Balta.
But while his team was celebrating their accomplishment with Sauga City Collective and the Rogue Street Elite fan club, Coach Balta was smiling but still composed after the game. When asked how his team was celebrating after the game, he said he wasn’t really focused on that now.
“I’m looking towards next week,” he said.
Balta’s focus is his team’s first playoff game, which will come at the Paramount Fine Foods Centre Field 1 against Alliance United F.C. on Sunday at 2:30 p.m.