Toronto lose 5-4 in a thrilling Gold Cup Final
(FULL RESULTS AND SCORES AT THE BOTTOM)
Baltimore-Toronto Cruz Azul woke up Sunday morning sporting an undefeated record in both the USFF Championships (4-0) and the Gold Cup tournament (1 win and 1 draw) and had earned a semi-final appearance lined up. However, the ridiculously tough schedule caught up with them as they bowed out of both events in two 2 monster North American matches.
The team started their US Championship semi-final game at 8am Sunday vs the #2 US ranked Denison Cabral Academy team from San Francisco without the services of leading scorer Alex Lopez after he pulled his groin in the quarter-final match vs North Philadelphia on Saturday. DCFA, led by US national team player whom the academy is named after, the match started off like a war with both teams going at each other aggressively which resulted in a yellow card being issued to each team. A huge blow for Toronto came only minutes after when a controversial call against Toronto keeper Roy Blanche resulted in his 2nd yellow in only the first 3 minutes as a result of a highly questionable handball call outside of his crease forced him out of the game. Backup keeper Bahar Saka came in to fill the void well but the tactical plan had changed as Saka is a shot stopping keeper as opposed to an attacking 5th player.
The match kept up its heavy contact and more than a few choice words were exchanged between the clubs. Team owner Robert Sadko was eventually ejected from the game for arguing with officials and without Blanche and Lopez it was a hard test for the Canadians who now only had 1 sub on the bench.
DCFA went up 1-0 around the mid-way point off a counter attack and possessed the ball for the majority of the 1st half aBut Saka made some key saves to keep Toronto alive. Toronto worked diligently in the 2nd half and tied it up with a smart play by Rios, Garcia and Eduardo Jaragui. However another disaster struck the team when Saka collided midair with a DCFA player and dislocated his knee which forced him out of the game. Driftwood futsal product Julio Garcia was forced to go in net and the game went back and forth until 5 minutes left when a DCFA forward blasted a brilliant top corner shot that Garcia had no chance on to go up by one.
Toronto tried hard to get back into the game by switching up their attack but some further disputes with the officials along with the absences, injuries and ejections their top players was just too much as they bowed out at the semi-finals with a heartbreaking, but spirited, 2-1 loss.
In the Gold Cup final Toronto would face off against #1 US ranked World United only 2 hours later. United were shocked in yesterday’s US Championship quarter-finals with a 1-0 loss to FC Barcelona and was the first time in seven years that they would not be in the US Championship Final. Made up of all star futsal and MISL all stars United posed a very difficult threat to Toronto and the match would turn out to be a classic.
Each team battled hard in the opening half and the referees, looking to avoid another chippy affair in this match, called every possible foul. United reached the dreaded 5 foul mark in only 8 minutes and Toronto joined them only 3 minutes afterwards which resulted in a lot of hesitant defending and wide perimeter passing as neither team wished to concede anunopposed penalty kick.
United scored first and Toronto responded back immediately with a classic Matthew Rios shot to bring the game at 1-1. Both teams missed penalty kicks in the first half and United were awarded another just at the end of the half but they could not convert and they went tied into the break.
The 2nd half turned out to be a masterpiece as each team dug in and played some brilliant passes and the goals were in abundance. Toronto went up 2-1 quickly before United responded with a clinical back heel goal to tie it up again. Rios, the best U20 futsal player in Canada, put Toronto up 3-2 another 5 minutes later when he stunned the arena with a highlight reel chip over the United keeper off a rocket pass from the corner. The game continued back and forth and they were tied 4-4 with about 5 minutes left when United converted the leading goal after a series of intelligent passes. Toronto were relentless in the attack in the final minutes of the game and Rios just missed the net 4 metres away and that was as close as they’d get as Toronto settled for 2nd place in the Gold Cup.
One could only imagine what would have been if the team had brought their full 12 player roster to the event. Nevertheless the team gained a serious amount of respect from teams from all over the United States and were invited to multiple tournaments from San Francisco to Boston and the USFF was quick to ask the boys to compete in next year’s event. The reputation of Canadian futsal without a doubt soared through the roof after this event and the team did the nation proud.
Toronto Match Scores:
Thursday: USFF Title Toronto 3 (#6) Safira FC 2 (Safira won the tournament)
Friday: Gold Cup: Toronto 4 Las Vegas Croatia 4
USFF Title: Toronto 4 (#4) Di Bufala Sport Club 2
Saturday: USFF Title Toronto 6 CMF Stars 1
Gold Cup: Toronto 4 Amway Mexico 2
Quarter-finals: USFF Title Toronto 4 North Philadelphia 1
Sunday: USFF Title Semi-Final Toronto 1 (#2) Denison Cabral Futsal Academy 2
Gold Cup Final: Toronto 4 (#1) World United 5
Total Record: 5 wins, 2 losses, 1 draw.