Canadian Victorious at US Super F Championships
By: Kris Fernandes
Canadian Men Victorious at US Super F Championships
KANSAS CITY- It usually takes a life altering experience to change a person’s attitude, but in the case of the Toronto Cruz Azul Men’s Futsal Club, it was the thought of one that was enough.
Last Thursday night, Continental Airlines Flight 3407 crashed just outside of Buffalo, New York. It was a horrific tragedy that killed 50 people, including all those on board. The same type of aircraft scheduled for flight 3408 was due to take the team to New Jersey, the city where the fatal flight had taken off from.
The shock of what could have been had unsettled the squad, which represented Canada at the 2008 Grand Prix de Futsal in Brazil, while on their drive down to the airport from Toronto, Canada.
Nobody was aware of the cause of the crash, though ice buildup now seems to be speculated as the prime factor, and players said silent prayers while at the airport. The team then committed to each other that they would win the championship in memory of those who lost their lives.
After spending a tireless night at the airport, the exhausted team arrived into Kansas City and decided to forego their Friday night training session at the Tomahawk Dome, opting for a good night’s sleep instead. They woke up refreshed to a large and healthy breakfast courtesy of the Comfort Inn & Suites, but the team’s appetite still called for a taste of hardware. Their first game was against a young Springfield (Missouri) Demize squad of the Premier Development League, the developmental division of the USL.
It was immediately evident that experience is a much more valuable asset than youth and athleticism in futsal, as Toronto frequently moved the ball around their perplexed opponents while beating them in almost all 1 v 1 situations. The team went up by a large score after the first half and were relentless throughout the 2nd half as every Toronto player netted at least a pair on route to a 17-3 wipe out. Alex Lopez was particularly outstanding with his superior footwork, complimented by a devastating left footed shot that caused Springfield all sorts of problems.
The team was able to rest for a few hours while taking in some action between opposing teams that they were hoping to face in the later rounds. Most teams that entered the mens division were from the American Mid-west and came from Oklahoma, St. Louis, Kansas City, and Olathe, among others. Toronto Cruz Azul were the first ever Canadian entry into the Super F in any division, as the tournament has been aggressively looking at expanding to the northeast where futsal is a highly popular sport. Canadian National Futsal Team Keeper Roy Blanche was initially surprised that futsal was played within the region.
“I gotta admit at first we kinda said ‘Kansas?’ Do they even play futsal down there? We thought it was the Chiefs and college sports. But we researched some more and found out that the guys at Super F really had something hot on the grill. In only a few years they built the largest and best youth futsal tournament in the US and we knew it was only a matter of time before the same success would hit the men. We just couldn’t pass this chance up.”
The team then faced off against Diprima FC, a predominantly Brazilian team from Olathe, Kansas. Cruz Azul were again dominant throughout the match as Diprima were clearly not used to the 5-man possession style that Toronto were continually executing. Blanche utilized his strong dual-foot abilities along the centre line and spearheaded the attack all game long. 19 year-old forward Matthew Rios, highly touted as Canada’s top U20 futsal prospect, caused plenty of havoc up front with many scintillating moves while showcasing his notorious goalscoring abilities.
To offset the goal difference factor Diprima were quick to adjust their formation to a deep 4-0 and although they lost this game by a 7-1 scoreline, it did secure them a spot in the 2nd round by a 1 goal difference.
The fans in attendance were amazed at the techniques that Toronto were employing in their matches and the players were more than happy to share some of their expertise by teaching fancy foot tricks and game tactics to some of the younger futsal enthusiasts.
Day 2 of the tournament saw Toronto paired up with tournament newcomers Rush FC of St. Louis, Missouri in the second semi-final. Experience was again the factor here as 32 year-old Toronto defender Alvaro Yaques completely shut down the Rush attack and led numerous counter attacks that resulted in a huge 8-1 lead at halftime. Cruz Azul continued their dominance in the 2nd half as they spread the ball across the court, opting to attack when Rush could not close off their lanes in the back. Toronto Midfielder Jonathan Bustamante was perfecting the pivot and netted a few goals in fine fashion as the team advanced to their first American championship match with a decisive 13-1 victory.
The team replenished with a short nap before the final, where they would take on Group A Winners Super F World from Overland Park, Kansas. Assigned to officiate this match were 2 of US Soccer’s FIFA certified referees, Shane Butler and Jason Krnac (the latter of which had officiated at the 2008 FIFA Futsal World Cup), who would ensure a clean and transparent game. The match was very competitive from the start as both teams exchanged goals in the first few minutes before closing down any gaps. It was clear any shot on net would have to be earned and Toronto were able to strike again in the 7th minute when Matthew Rios finished off a fine series of passes to go up 2-1. Toronto added another pair and were well on their way to opening the game much more until they ran into some foul trouble as they received their 6th accumulative with 6 minutes to go. Though Roy Blanche made an excellent save on the penalty shot he was deemed by officials to have come past his line and Super F would not miss the retake, cutting the lead down to 4-2 at halftime.
Numerous fans were treated to a fine display of futsal in the 2nd half, as Toronto’s 26 year-old defender Julio Garcia tore up the middle of the pitch by beating numerous defenders with his lightning quick speed, putting in an early pair to take the game out of reach for the Overland Park team. Garcia continued his excellent play as he landed 4 more assists, while Alex Lopez and Matthew Rios enjoyed pushing their total tournament tallies to over 15 goals each as Toronto Cruz Azul made history by becoming the first Canadian team to win the Super F Championships by a score of 11-2. The team finished with an incredible 48 goals for and only 7 against.
“This tournament has some wheels and is only going to grow bigger in the future,” said Lopez. “We can’t wait to see how many more top US futsal clubs come down to this tourney next year. Seeing top-quality organization like this along with having 2 FIFA Futsal refs shows us that the Super F guys and American futsal in general have a massive future, and we honestly can’t wait to build this sport together with our brothers down south.”
New Mexico Futsal League chief, Michael Hawkins, was very impressed with the Canadian club. “They are playing a style of futsal no one really sees down here. To see the keeper used as much as every other player was really something else to watch. I wish more kids could have come over here to watch them play as they would’ve loved to have seen this style of futsal.”
The Super F Championship is the largest youth futsal tournament in the US. They are the only affiliated futsal organization with US Soccer and have leagues in over 25 states. For more information on Super F visit www.superfleague.com.