TFC Academy in CSL playoff chase

TFC Academy's Senior Team returns to action on Friday night against London City at Cove Road as the playoff race continues to gain momentum in the Canadian Soccer League. The young Reds are tied for second place in the CSL National Division with 14 points after playing two games last week.

Midweek action in the CSL saw a crucial game with TFC travelling to playoff chasing St. Catherine's Wolves. TFC put the home side under immense pressure from the onset. James Stamopoulos was looking very dangerous and signaled his intent immediately by scoring an early goal. He struck a brilliant shot from 25 yards that left the goalkeeper with no chance.

TFC continued to put the St. Catherine's defence under pressure but failed to convert their chances. After the half time interval, St. Catherine's came out a renewed side and immediately scored the equalizer when a long aimless ball forward caused the TFC defence serious problems. St Catharines reacted first and scored past Soitiri Varlokostas. St. Catherine's then enjoyed a 15 minute period where they threatened to score on numerous occasions.

In the 62nd minute the game changed as Daniel DiBiago was adjudged to have stopped a clear goal scoring opportunity. The referee sent DiBiago off and awarded a penalty kick. It was DiBiago's second red card in as many games, both of which resulted in a penalty kick. Varlokostas managed to save the penalty low to his right to keep the score level. Soon after, the referee showed a second yellow card caution to one of the St. Catherine's midfielders to level the playing field. TFC pushed for the winner in the last 15 minutes but were unable to break the deadlock. A very entertaining match ended in a 1-1 draw to leave both teams leveled on 14 points.

"I thought both teams contributed to a very good match," said TFC Academy Senior Team Head Coach Jason Bent. "We dominated the first half and could have scored more goals, but they put our goal under serious threat for a 15 minute period in the second half which could have seen them score several goals. We switched off mentally for their equalizing goal and it was something we talked about at half time which was disappointing. Varlokostas in goal was fantastic and really kept us in the match during an onslaught of 15 minutes to start the second half. In the end, I think it was a fair result for both teams."

TFC Academy traveled to face National Division leaders Trois Rivieres for the second match of the week. The game started very well for TFC with Stamopoulos presented with an opportunity to score in only the second minute of play but his shot was stopped by the goalkeeper.

Five minutes later Stamopoulos found himself one-on-one with the goalkeeper after a neat through ball from Matias Naalband but his attempted chip was pushed aside by the Trois Rivieres goalkeeper. Trois Rivieres created a few half chances for striker Rome-Gosselin but he failed to beat the confident Varlokostas in goal.

The referee then took over and made a decision that affected the complexion of the match. Stamopoulos was sent on a breakaway and dribbled into the box before he was barged over by an Attak defender and the referee failed to award TFC what was a clear penalty to leave the score tied at 0-0 at half time.

In the 48th minute the referee decided to take matters into his own hands and awarded the home side a questionable penalty kick. Reda Agourram stepped up and beat Garrett Cyprus, the half time replacement for Varlokostas, for the 1-0 lead. TFC had another penalty claim of their own in the 68th minute when an Attak defender clearly handled the ball in the box but the referee failed to acknowledge the offense. Both sides created a few more half chances but the game finished 1-0 despite the home team going down to 10 men in the 79th minute.

"It is an absolute shame when a referee feels he needs to be the star of the show, said Bent. "Our boys put so much effort into that football match in addition to traveling eight hours on a bus, and for the referee to influence the match was a sickening feeling. Our players were getting so frustrated and rightfully so. Unless you have played in a match where the referee is the pivotal factor you'll never know how frustrating such a predicament can be."

"I would be the first to put up my hand and say we were outplayed and deserved to lose, but our boys did not deserve what they received. On a positive note, it is great to see two organizations, Montreal Impact and Toronto FC committing resources to developing youth. The game certainly had a youthful undertone and that can ony be a positive for football in Canada."