CSL IN RETROSPECT……Reflecting on the 2021 season
PICTURE: Wabila Wallace (right) of Atletico Sporting Toronto was one of the standout players in the ProSound Cup competition. While the league’s leading goal scorer at season end, Wallace was also consistently dangerous around goal to play an important part in his team’s overall performance to finish third in the standings.
It was not surprising that FC Vorkuta and Scarborough SC opened the 2021 Canadian Soccer League season on August 28 with victories to continue where the defending champions Vorkuta, and runner-up Scarborough, left off at the end of the 2020 campaign.
It was the beginning of another abbreviated season in the CSL with matches confined to the single venue Centennial Stadium located on the edge of Toronto’s west end, an arrangement that would accommodate the three-month long schedule for eight teams competing for the 26-game ProSound Cup competition and ending the season with the CSL Championship playoffs while meeting the local and provincial requirements of the ongoing pandemic.
Four teams, Atletico Sporting Toronto, EURU Academy, St. Catharines Hrvat and Toronto Tigers were invited to join with CSL member teams BGHC 1, Scarborough SC, Serbian White Eagles and FC Vorkuta in the ProSound Cup competition. The BGHC 1 side would represent CSL members Brantford Galaxy and Hamilton City, geographically almost adjacent to each other in southern Ontario. The single team arrangement was approved by the CSL to accommodate the many circumstances resulting from the pandemic’s disruptions in the Canadian soccer community.
The CSL followed the departed Pino Jazbec with the addition of the highly regarded Peter Kovacs to create new and meaningful competition at a time soccer organizations throughout Canada were struggling during the early times of the pandemic, not unlike business activities at all levels of society. Kovacs, who ventured into soccer management and marketing after being a player in Canada’s National Soccer League has a number of successes to his credit over the years, the most notable being the highly successful Puma League based in Toronto.
Primetime Marketing, an organization headed by former professional player and former CSL director Phil Ionadi, was also engaged by the CSL to carry out promotional and other work in the current season while also laying groundwork for an improved, future Canadian Soccer League.
ProSound Hearing Services were added as a CSL sponsor and the regular league competition would be played for the ProSound Cup.
The opening day of the ProSound Cup schedule on August 28 matched the unknown Toronto Tigers against Scarborough SC, a team which just two years earlier won the CSL Championship after being the finalist in 2017 and 2018. Scarborough appeared even more intimidating with an impressive new head coach in Mirko Medic who had developed a strong reputation as a top defender with Serbian White Eagles following a standout career in Europe. But Toronto Tigers were also confidence-driven, the origins of which came from Brazilian football by team owner Leandro Madeira and manager Raphael Silva.
There were two additional games scheduled for the opening day, which resulted in Scarborough registering its superiority with a 6-1 victory over Toronto Tigers and FC Vorkuta defeating the southern Ontario BGHC team 2-0. The third match – between Serbian White Eagles and Atletico Sporting Toronto, was washed out by torrential rain.
Silva commented following his team’s 6-1 defeat: “While disappointed by the score, we are not discouraged, it’s the opening game and there is much further to go in our attempt to win the cup.”
In the following week, Atletico Sporting Toronto’s opening match on September 4 ended in a 3-0 victory for FC Vorkuta, BGHC defeated EURU Academy 4-2 and Scarborough picked up its second victory with a 3-0 win over Serbian White Eagles.
EARLY SEASON HAT-TRICKS
Midfielder Bogdan Borovskyi struck an early season hat-trick in Vorkuta’s 6-0 rout of Serbian White Eagles on September 11 and midfielder Gregor Zugelj was on the mark with a hat-trick in a Catharines Hrvat 4-1 victory over EURU Academy three days later- the only CSL match played on Tuesday, September 14. Vladimir Strizovic led Serbian White Eagles to a recovery following three consecutive defeats when the midfielder hit a hat-trick for a 4-1 victory over St. Catharines Hrvat on September 18.
Atletico Sporting was impressive in its 2-0 win over the long standing CSL team Serbian White Eagles on September 7, a match that both highlighted the strength of Atletico Sporting with an always dangerous in front of goal Wabila Wallace. Wallace scored both goals for Atletico for the 2-0 victory and came close to scoring more until the game was abandoned at 69 minutes due to heavy rain and lightning. The score stood as final in keeping with the CSL rule that games cut short after completing the first half in these circumstances, are ruled complete.
Atletico Sporting won its next game, a 3-0 result over EURU Academy on September 11, Wallace scoring the second goal. He then found the net twice in a 3-0 victory over St. Catharines Hrvat on September 24 to put the Cameroon-born striker on the way to being the league’s leading goalscorer, which he eventually achieved.
SERBIAN WHITE EAGLES SLOW OFF THE MARK
Meanwhile, Serbian White Eagles failed to score in its first three matches, losing 3-0, 2-0 and 6-0 before a 4-1 victory over St.Catharines Hrvat on September 18 and while BGHC had victories over EURU Academy and Atletico Sporting, the combination southwestern Ontario team was not considered strong enough to prevent domination by FC Vorkuta and SC Scarborough. The 2020 CSL Championship finalists both completed their ProSound Cup schedule undefeated and the ProSound Cup winners FC Vorkuta conceded only one goal in the 7-game schedule.
VORKUTA WINS PROSOUND CUP – SCARBOROUGH CHAMPIONS
Vorkuta won the ProSound Cup with a 4-2 penalty kick victory over Scarborough on October 24. The result came following a cliffhanger 120 minutes of scoreless, but great soccer to watch. The victory gave Vorkuta yet another major title win following the CSL Championship in 2018 and 2019 and regular season First Division titles in 2017, 2019 and 2021.
Scarborough went on to win the CSL Championship, defeating Vorkuta, 4-1 on November 7. It was the second CSL Championship for the Toronto east end side following the 2-0 victory over Ukraine United in 2019 and the fifth time in the past five years Scarborough has played in the final.
St.Catharines Hrvat matches were disrupted by certain players requiring self-isolation after attending a wedding that later reported several positive COVID 19 cases among the guests. There was no report of a Hrvat player testing positive.
Atletico Sporting Toronto completed the season in third position in the standings, the highest of the four teams invited to take part in the 2021 competition. The team’s position was above both Serbian White Eagles and BGHC, both member teams of the Canadian Soccer League.
Wallace Leading Scorer
Wabila Wallace of Atletico Sporting Toronto, completed the season as the leading scorer in the Canadian Soccer League. Wallace, 22, learned his soccer in the Central African nation of Cameroon. Cameroon is in the Africa Nations Cup finals of 16 teams, with the opening game against Burkina on Sunday, January 9, 2022.
One Goal Starushchenko
Goalkeeper Anatoli Starushchenko, a product of high level soccer in Ukraine who signed for FC Vorkuta in 2019, must be given most of the credit for remarkably conceding just one goal during the seven-game regular season which led to his team winning the ProSound Cup. There were six shut-outs in Vorkuta’s regular season schedule with the one goal conceded during the second half of a 1-1 draw with Scarborough on September 25. That match was one of the season’s most spectacular with many yellow cards while both teams showed a determination to remain unbeaten. The match, considered one of the season’s most difficult to officiate, was superbly handled by referee Ramee Arbaji.
Soccer Can Be Cruel
John Trye, the Serbian White Eagles goalkeeper is also from the African continent and is a national team player for Sierra Leone in Central Africa which is also in the last 16 of the Africa Nations Cup. Trye was probably the unluckiest player of the CSL season when near the end of a hotly contested CSL Championship semi-final on October 17 his team led FC Vorkuta 1-0 during the late stages of added time, just one more referee’s whistle away from a championship final game the following week. During what appeared to be Vorkuta’s last chance to draw even, the 6’ 4” Trye leaped for a high ball above the Serbian White Eagles six-yard line to then come crashing down awkwardly and heavily. With an obvious injury, Trye was assisted off the field and replaced by substitute goalkeeper Nikola Postic. On resuming play, Vorkuta then gained a free kick on the edge of the box, the ball was tapped to Vorkuta midfielder Sergii Ivliev who moved in close to push the ball over the line for an equalizer. With almost no time remaining and an expected 30 minutes extra time upcoming, Vorkuta midfielder Pavlo Chornomaz took a pass from the restart to make a quick snap shot from 35 yards, dropping the ball into the back of the net for a Vorkuta 2-1 winning goal.
A documentary story of FC Vorkuta, was aired nationally on the beIN SPORTS channel on Friday, June 11, 2021. The story includes details about FC owner Igor Demitchev, who was raised in Vorkuta then emigrated to Canada where he continued to enjoy his passion for football. With fellow immigrant Samad Kadirov, they launched FC Vorkuta in 2008 in memory of and a tribute to those in Russia who suffered in brutal conditions in forced labour camps in that community just north of the Arctic Circle over a period of more than 20 years between 1930 and 1955.The team’s launch was highly successful in the amateur leagues in the Toronto area and in 2017 the club was accepted as an expansion team in the Canadian Soccer League to be even more successful while attracting the attention of many in the Canadian soccer community.
Agent Denys Yanchuk
Denys Yanchuk, a vice president and coach with FC Vorkuta, was accepted during the 2021 season as an agent by UEFA, the governing body for football in Europe.
Scarborough confirmed yet another title win despite a 3-1 defeat by FC Vorkuta and in the second game of a Canadian Soccer League Saturday double header and Brantford Galaxy won its first game of the abbreviated 2020 league campaign with a 2-1 result over Serbian White Eagles. Scarborough and FC Vorkuta ended the regular season […]
PICTURE: At Khmelnytskyi Oblast (Province), Ukraine, where FC Vorkuta striker Fadi Salback is on trial, reports suggest the team, FC Podillya Khmelnytskyi, is pleased with his play and are close to offering a contract. That’s a rare occurrence for a high level mid or Eastern European team where local talent is in abundance and opportunities […]