Monday, August 29, 2011

Niagara United – Mississauga Eagles FC B (30-07-2011)

Although Toronto traffic can be terrible, I made the ca. 150 km (ca. 90 miles) trip from Maple to Niagara Falls with enough to spare for a quick trip across the border to gas up. Unfortunately, finding the ground of Niagara United took much more time than expected (I couldn’t find the house number and the street was veeeeeery long).

I park my car and walk to the ‘stadium’. Although Niagara United plays in the Second Division of the Canadian Soccer League (CSL), this accommodation is very amateuristic. The pitch that they play at is part of a larger complex with three senior and five mini soccer pitches. It’s a nice public facility, but has hardly any facilities for supporters.

I circle the ground and finally find the “spectator entrance;” there is no ticket office, so I can walk in for free. Unfortunately, I have missed at least 15 minutes. There are a couple of old wooden bleachers on this side of the pitch. Some 50 people are scattered along this side of the pitch, almost all seemingly family of the players, although there are virtually as many host fans as there are visitor fans.

Unlike the earlier game in Maple, almost all players here are white and they are mostly young. The local United plays the reserve team of CSL First Division team Mississauga Eagles FC. I notice that there is no fourth official (is that even allowed?) and that the visitors have no substitutes. Just minutes after I arrive, a good attack is easily finished: 0-1… I think, as so many people cheer. At the end of the game I find out that I had my teams wrong for the whole game: hence, 1-0!

Both teams try to play through very short passes, but mostly poorly. Very poor defending of the hosts leads almost to the equalizer. After another half chance of the visitors, the hosts extend their lead through a beautiful attack and a cool finish: 2-0. About five minutes a couple of good passes put a Niagara player in front of the goalie, he sidesteps him, and scores: 3-0, too easy. There are some more plays, but the most notable act of the first half is not a play, but a remark: one player says to another “The easy one is the most difficult one. Think about it.” With this pearl of wisdom, and a 3-0 lead for the hosts, we get into the half time break.

Just three minutes into the second half horrible defending by the visitors sets a Niagara striker face-to-face with the goalie: 4-0. Mississauga creates a couple of good attacks, but the finishes are poor. In the 51st minute a good pass by the hosts is met by a horrible finish. Twenty minutes later a good attack is almost successful, but the final pass is too tight.

By now the game has lost its edge, but it is still a very pleasant summer evening and the few supporters are quite involved. Everyone seems to know at least a couple of players by name. In the last ten minutes there are several chances: in the 80th minute the visitors hit the crossbar; in the 82nd minute the hosts come face-to-face with the goalie, who saves the weak shot; and in the 87th an almost own goal leads to a great safe of the Niagara goalie. This notwithstanding, the last 15 are incredibly bad. Final score: 4-0.

It was quite interesting to see a CSL Second Division game, as it allowed some comparison with the CSL First Division. Niagara United is actually one of the few non-reserve teams in the Second Division. Overall, the players in this division seem younger and the fans mostly family.

No comments: