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Saturday 13 October 2012

First Person View - TFC Academy v Montreal Impact Academy

    Wednesday night, on a lark, I hopped on the TTC and made my way up to Downsview Park to take in the rescheduled match between the TFC Academy and the Montreal Impact Academy.

    The ride was longer than expected, those frequent pauses as the Subway cars stop, waiting for the lights to permit their passage, turned what should have been a early journey into a later one and were it not for a delay of the kickoff I would have been late for the match.

    Fortunately, due to its rescheduled nature, public permits for the pitch ran up to 8 pm – the intended kickoff time – thus delaying it some forty-five minutes while the teams warmed up and the field was prepared.

    Though there were very few folks in attendance, mostly parents, league officials, and the occasional fellow transmitting information across phone-lines, I managed to catch a glimpse of the elusive Bob de Klerk, who was there prowling the sidelines, with that same fierce, steely-eyed Dutch resolve than endeared him to so many. Tamed by the turnover at the club, it was still good to see him.

    I had hoped to catch a glimpse of some of the more well-known TFC Academy prospects, but with the playoffs looming on the weekend, the match being a bit of a dead-rubber - with each side having already assured their post-season participation – and with many former contributors off to University with the start of the school year, as well as, two underage Canada camps underway, and others being given the night off entirely,  I was unfamiliar with most of those on the pitch.

    For details of the match, check out either Rocket Robin’s report, or the official CSL one; I was rather impressed with the calibre of the play.

    The action was quick, and as crisp as the air that chilled those in attendance to the bone, forcing those with the luxury into their cars to watch the action from the safety of shelter.

    Toronto FC, still adorned in that 4-3-3 formation that many assumed had been lost, kept the ball on the carpet for the most part and found more joy in quickly switching the play to the open flank than their professional counterparts had early in the MLS season.

    Montreal was a very polished side, one quite sure of its strengths – and riding an impressive eight-match winning streak to boot.

    The referee did a great job of letting the teams play, with only the most necessary of fouls called, preferring to let the match flow, which it did. Even without the time-saver of ballboys – though to be fair they rarely increase the pace of the match, barely paying attention and seeming to not know their roles – the ball was rarely out of bounds and time-wasting was left to the final few minutes, once it was clear that Montreal had wrapped up the result.

    If you can find a clip of it – look for next week’s highlight’s program - Charles Joly’s goal is worth having a look out, as I tweeted, not quite Robert Carlos’ end-line impossible angle finish, but at full sprint a hit-and-hope from a tight angle that swerved and sunk over the head of the Toronto keeper who failed to sense the danger.

     I was very impressed with Toronto’s number thirty-five, Joshua Panello, I believe – it’s been difficult to pinpoint who was who out there. He had to be the smallest guy on the pitch, but played a massive role in the middle of the park, getting involved from box-to-box. Watch for him in the future.

    Deon Rose - again, I suppose – captained the TFC Academy side and proven a big, physical centre-back, marshalling from the back. With the turnover of the side, the Toronto defense had trouble staying cohesive and was repeatedly victimized by a more fluid Montreal side looking to spray balls behind the back-line for their quick forwards to capitalize on their disjointed opponents.

    2-4 for the Montreal Impact Academy, their ninth-straight win. All told it was a fun night out and I’m very glad I took the time to trek up there to witness it.

    There is something uniquely enjoyable about lower league football. The proximity to the pitch, being able to hear the players’ shouts and recrimination – though to be honest, those can be heard at BMO Field these days - and to watch a group of players not yet burdened by the cynicism of the professional game.

    Today, Saturday, is Non-League Day in England; a celebration of lower league football that began a few years ago when FIFA re-jigged the international calendar playing national team matches on Fridays and Tuesdays rather than Saturdays and Sundays as they had before.

    The lack of top-tier matches on a Saturday gave birth to the holiday, encouraging fans without more glamourous options to attend their local side’s match – a treat too often overlooked in these modern times.

    Today, Saturday - and tomorrow, Sunday - is just such an occasion, with the CSL playoffs, the quarterfinals to be exact, beginning on those days.

    Each round of the playoffs will be a one-game duel, with the winner moving on to the next stage, building to the final in two weeks time.

    The CSL has been in the news recently for some unsavory revelations. Ben Rycroft of the CBC and Canadian Soccer News has done some fantastic work to expose the frailties of a semi-professional league lacking the structures and finance to protect itself from the predations of an unscrupulous gambling community.

    Problems do not go away by being ignored; it is more likely that the lack of attention paid to the CSL is part of why it is so vulnerable to those who would seek to exploit it. So put aside any qualms you may have, get out there and support local football.

    There are plenty of good, honest people who have devoted a lot of their free time – and money - to create and maintain this league. Take it for what it is, warts and all, and enjoy some soccer in this excellent football weather.

    I’m debating whether to truck back up to Downsview for the TFC Academy II match at 8 pm or to head across town for the SC Toronto-Serbian White Eagles match at Lamport at 7 pm.

    Hopefully there will be some way to take in the rematch between the Montreal Impact Academy and the TFC Academy on Sunday.

CSL Playoff Schedule
Saturday, October 13th     Lamport Stadium    7 pm    SC Toronto v Serbian White Eagles
Sunday, October 14th       Saputo Stadium       2 pm    Montreal Impact Academy v TFC Academy
Sunday, October 14th       Windsor Stadium     4 pm    Windsor Stars v York Region Shooters    
Sunday, October 14th       Centennial Stadium  8 pm    Toronto Croatia v Niagara United

Second Division Championships - Quarterfinals
Saturday, October 13th     Windsor Stadium    4 pm    Windsor Stars B v York Region Shooters B
Saturday, October 13th      Kalar Park            4 pm    Niagara United B v Brampton City Utd B
Saturday, October 13th     Downsview Park    8 pm    TFC Academy II v Mississauga Eagles FC B
Sunday, October 14th       Downsview Park    4 pm    SC Toronto B v SC Waterloo B

       The Championship Day, featuring finals for both the first and second division will be held at Centennial Stadium in Etobicoke on Saturday, October 27th – the second division final at 12:30 pm and the first division final at 3 pm.

    I went a few years ago and had an enjoyable afternoon.

    Also, the weekly highlights show that airs on Rogers on Sundays is available online.

    Note – the CSL did not hold any of the playoff matches on Friday night, so as to not clash with the Canada-Cuba match, after receiving criticism for scheduling matches when Panama was in town.

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