Portsmouth Herald: So. New Hampshire's Tsonis has provided scoring touch for Phantoms
For Immediate Release
July 25, 2011
Courtesy of the Portsmouth Herald, Written by Mike Zhe
Portsmouth, N.H. — For most of the summer, striker Chris Tsonis has given the Seacoast United Phantoms an element they've lacked recently — a scoring threat.
One more win today and the team will secure something that's been even more elusive — a playoff berth.
The Phantoms play the final game of their first regular season in Portsmouth today when they host the first-place Portland Phoenix at Portsmouth High School (5 p.m.). Their record of 6-6-3 is a testament to resilience after an 0-4-1 start, but not quite good enough for a postseason berth.
Not yet, anyway.
Only the top two teams in the Northeast Division advance to the playoffs in the Premier Development League, and the Western Mass. Pioneers could have sealed the deal — and buried the Phantoms — with a win in either of their final two games this weekend. But they could only manage a tie at Vermont and then got rolled at Portland Saturday night, 5-0.
So it becomes simple on Sunday for the Phantoms, whose 1-0 loss at Vermont Wednesday could have been a killer — win and get in.
"We played OK (against Vermont). We had chances to score," said Tsonis. "I had two right at the end of the game. I hit one hard and the goalie made a real nice save. Another one went over the net. ...; I can't stop thinking about it."
When he looks back on the summer, there will be plenty of positive images to remember, too.
Tsonis, who is headed into his junior year at Southern New Hampshire University, has scored a team-high eight goals, just two shy of the amount the Phantoms scored as a team in 2010. In the far-flung, 64-team PDL, only 18 players entering Saturday's play had found the back of the net more.
He's a big reason the Phantoms lead the Northeast Division with 24 goals scored, one year after managing just 10 the entire year.
All in all, not bad for a guy who began the summer playing for the Phantoms' lower-level NPSL squad, but whose promotion to the PDL team coincided with its turnaround.
"No question," said Phantoms GM Jim DeDeus. "He's a powerful forward. He's fast and he's strong. We didn't have that early on.
"Once we got him in it made a huge difference. You need to have someone like that, someone who always keeps the backs on the other team occupied."
The 5-foot-11 Tsonis, a Dartmouth, Mass., native, has seven goals to his name in 39 college games over two seasons, but has only been in the starting lineup nine times.
"I wouldn't say I'm shocked by it, but I am happy with the way things are going," said Tsonis. "I've been working real hard this offseason. I'm really trying to get prepared for school. The way things have gone, it's really boosted my confidence."
Making the PDL playoffs is a collective goal for the Phantoms, who haven't advanced to the postseason since accepting voluntary relegation from the USL Second Division after the 2007 season. But the individual goals for many players are to hone their games in preparation for fall college seasons at places like SNHU, the University of New Hampshire and Plymouth State.
And Tsonis has done that.
"This offseason's been a really big offseason for him," said SNHU coach Marc Hubbard. "He's really matured, turned the page as an adult. ...; As far as his role with our team, it's going to be a lot greater the next two years."
Hubbard left Tsonis with one thought when they parted at the end of the school year: finishing. Work on getting composed and creative in front of the net, and converting his scoring chances more regularly.
"Finishing is something he knows he needed to work on," said Hubbard, a Durham native who starred at Oyster River High School in the late 1990s. "Everything about him is kind of explosive and powerful. That's kind of the way he would finish, with the laces, trying to kick the ball as hard as possible."
While the Phantoms' season may not reach the playoffs, there's a sense that a foundation is being built in their new home. After last year's 3-9-2 season in Manchester, the change of scenery seems to have worked wonders.
Tsonis, for one, plans to be a part of it for years to come.
"Definitely," he said. "If all the guys come back next summer, we're going to be even more dangerous."