The group stage of the Viareggio Cup comes to an end for Toronto FC III today when they face off against Czech side Dukla Prague at 10am (3pm local time).
Despite the super-complicated permutations at the tournament, TFC have a good chance to move on to the next stage with a result against Prague.
On Wednesday, in their second match of the cup, they squared off against the Juventus youth side, coached by Fabio Grosso. Once more an early goal, scored in the seventh minute, saw the side forced to play from behind.
But as they did in the first leg, TFC III overcame the deficit, equalizing in the 72nd minute through substitute Kunle Dada-Luke.
The goalscorer described his moment post-match: “Coach told me I should make my runs to the near post, that's where the balls will be. Luca [Uccello] gave me a look, [to say] get ready. I saw the play come in, the defender was sleeping, it came right to me on my left foot for an easy tap in.”
A 1-1 draw against the current Viareggio Cup holders pleased head coach Danny Dichio, though he saw there was more on the table for the young side.
“We're very proud of the team, happy with the performance, the response after having a game two days ago,” said Dichio. “But also with a tinge of disappointment. We felt we had enough chances, there were parts after the first ten minutes where we were really dominant. We shocked our opponents at times. We asked the boys to go out and believe - they did today, [they] showed they could compete against the champions of this competition and one of the best teams in the Primavera.”
Showing the spirit to twice comeback from poor starts spoke volumes for Dichio about the progress the TFC Academy has made – in speaking with WTR, Dichio said one of the aims of the tournament was to evaluate how their methods stack up against some of the best in the world.
“We know we're moving in the right direction,” said Dichio. “We're not going to get ahead of ourselves, but we felt coming across here was important to see where we're at. We can compare ourselves against other MLS academies in certain tournaments, but coming over here to play in a prestigious tournament like this gives us a good gauge of where our players are at. They showed today that they can compete against the best. We put a lot of work into our academy; the end product is to get results. I'm happy, proud.”
With the draw, TFC III enter Saturday's match sitting in third place in the group with two points from two matches and with a goal differential of zero, having scored and conceded an equal number (four).
The permutations for which teams will move into the next phase of the cup are complex. The five group winners are assured of a place, while only three of the five second-placed sides advance.
With Maceratese and Juventus, who play each other today, tied on four points atop the group, with goal differences of two and one, respectively, TFC III could move into that guaranteed spot with a three-goal win over Prague in today's match should the two Italian sides draw (the simplest sure-fire path to the top spot). Prague lost 2-1 to Juventus and 2-0 to Maceratese.
The full tie-breakers, according to the Viareggio Cup site, are as follows:
In case of equal points apply the criteria in order listed:
1. Result of direct encounters;
2. Goal difference in the direct meetings between the teams equal on points;
3. Goal difference in all the matches played in Group;
4. Greater number of goals scored in all the matches played in Group;
5. lowest average age of the list of players enrolled in the tournament;
6. Draw, which will be carried out by the SC Centro Giovani Calciatori asd at the registered office in Via V. Veneto 210 - Viareggio, in the presence of the CTD and the representatives of the teams concerned.
Should either side win that all-Italian clash, TFC will have to rely on winning and padding their differential in order to claim one of the top three second-place records to move on.
For those interesting in digging more deeply into the numbers than time currently allows, here are the group standings following the first two match days. TFC III is in one of the five groups that comprise Group A.
Irrespective of whether they advance or not, it is safe to say that the group of young players has already done their club proud with their tenacity.