The Easter weekend was a very busy one for Toronto FC's junior academy side as they not only had to deal with competing in the very tough AEGON Future Cup but they also had to deal with making sure several of their players made it to their flights in time to head down to Florida to join Canada's U17 squad.
It made for an interesting weekend which saw Toronto FC squaring off against some of the top clubs in the world including Ajax Amsterdam, Tottenham Hotpsur, Sao Paulo, and Bayern Munich. With a field of that caliber the squad finishing in 6th out of 8 teams is nothing to be disappointed with.
With their opposition in mid-season form and the event being the first competitive action in months for many of TFCA's players it was always going to be a tough ask to come away with results but much like the senior team at the Dallas Cup the squad managed to keep every game close and forced their opposition to work hard for everything they got.
TFC opened the event against the host club, Ajax. The young Canadians played the hosts, and reigning champions, tough the entire match but in the end were on the wrong side of a 1-0 scoreline with Ajax's goal coming off a corner. Toronto did well to limit what Ajax could do in possession and prevent them from creating chances by taking a very disciplined approach to defending. Ajax did hand them a bit of a lifeline in the first half when their keeper was sent off for handing outside of the box but TFC were not able to make the numerical advantage count. The chances were few and far between for Toronto FC as the attack led by Jordan Hamilton struggled to generate much of real quality to threaten Ajax's goal.
If the opening result was impressive considering the opposition the second result of the day for TFC was a complete stunner. The young reds took on Tottenham Hotspur in their second match and came away with a 1-0 win over the English side. Spurs found the back of the net first but their effort was ruled out as the ball had crossed the goal line for a goal kick before finding its way into the back of the net. Toronto scored their first goal of the event later in the first half as it was Jordan Hamilton setting up Marquis Pitts who applied the finish. Toronto got a few more good chances in the match from Hamilton but it was only thanks to the work of Mark Rogal in goal that they were able to hold on for the 1-0 win and claim all three points.
Toronto went into Sunday knowing that a win over Sao Paulo would be enough to book their place in the semifinal round and keep them in the running for the Future Cup. The Brazilian side were on a roll though having come through many of the top clubs in Brazil just to make it into the events field and having beaten Tottenham on the opening day. Sao Paulo took the lead early in the game as they found the back of the net on the half volley in the 8th minute and really controlled the game for most of the match. They would add a second goal late in the first half and despite Hamilton and Luca Uccello generating some chances TFC could not find the back of the net.
Jordan Hamilton and Derick Sequeira were both taken off in the second half and headed straight to the showers to catch their flight for Florida which left Toronto a bit shorthanded to finish the match and they were forced to settled for a 2-0 defeat to a very strong Brazilian team. The lose meant a third place finish in the group for the junior team which kept them out of the semifinals and left them to play German club Bayern Munich in the 5th/6th game.
The match with the German club was fairly even throughout the first half with both sides creating a few openings but it was a lapse just before the half that allowed Bayern to take the 1-0 lead. They would press their advantage in the second half adding two more goals and running out with a comfortable 3-0 win in the end as the shorthanded TFC had no answers in the attack for Bayerns defense.
In the end, Toronto heads home with a 6th place finish having collected just the one win from four matches but the squad can be proud of the effort they put in against some of the top academies in the world in one of the most prestigious club youth events around.
The team also took the chance to attend the Ajax game on the weekend as well as watching several other games from the Future Cup. The squad was exposed to a lot of quality soccer in a short period of time which will hopefully push them to try and reach a similar level.
They held their own in the event though with that 6th place finish as they put them ahead of both Tottenham and Barcelona in the final standings. The Future Cup went to Anderlecht who knocked off Ajax in the finals with Benfica finishing third and Sao Paulo in fourth. It was quite the impressive field and apparently TFCA still managed to catch the eye of at least one dutch legend.
#tfcacademy parallel universe - Edwin Van Der Sar complimenting TFC Academy for their play at this tournament. Testament to staff + players!— Toronto FC Academy (@tfcacademy) April 1, 2013
We are not really sure what is up next for Toronto FC's academy sides with the club pulling out of the CSL for the upcoming season but we will be sure to keep you up to date as best as we can.