The race for the Canadian Soccer League title could have a familiar feel to it.
Heading into the 2009 version of the CSL playoffs, the Serbian White Eagles and Trois-Rivieres Attak, who battled for the championship last season, enter the post-season as the top two seeds.
Serbia edged Trois-Rivieres on penalty kicks to win their first ever title in 2008.
The two teams each traded victories in 2009 by identical 2-1 scores.
“We expect to go on and win the championship again,” Dragan Bakoc, White Eagles president told the CSL website.
The defending champs and second seed will be in tough against No. 7 TFC Academy Sunday at Centennial Stadium (5 p.m. ET).
Toronto FC’s farm team of the Major League Soccer squad scored eight times against the North York Astros in their second last game of the campaign – the biggest rout in the CSL this season.
“We are very confident about our upcoming quarter-final series,” says Jason Bent, TFC Academy head coach. “Although we are playing against the defending champions, I think we can come away with a victory.”
TFC Academy and Serbian have played twice this season with the White Eagles winning both times, 5-2 and 3-0.
Bent wants his squad to be focused when they step onto the pitch.
“We really have to concentrate on not conceding off of set plays,” he says. “I have watched them play a few times and when they are given time to set up their plays they are very difficult to play against.”
The top-seeded Attak will face Portugal FC at Brockton Stadium Saturday (8 p.m. ET).
Tony Maia, Portugal FC spokesperson, knows his side will be in tough.
“Based on the two previous games we played against them it is going to be hard,” he says. “But, I think we have a very good chance.”
While Portugal embraces the chance to knock off the 2008 CSL runner-ups, Maia thinks the key to the series will be experience.
“If it comes right down to it and we need a goal late to advance,” he says. “I think the deciding factor will be the experience of our veterans.”
Portugal FC finished the season with eight draws, one of those against the Attak. If two of those ties crossed over into the win column, they would have finished fourth and had an easier draw.
“We fought right until the end, but I was extremely pleased with our defensive game,” he says. “I think we established ourselves as one of the best defensive teams in the league. That is evident by the eight ties.”
In the other quarter-final matchup, the fourth seeded Vaughan Italia Shooters take on St. Catharines Wolves.
In two regular season meetings, the Shooters were winless against the Wolves, 1-1 and 4-3. The victory over the Shooters on the final day of the regular season propelled St. Catharines from sixth to fifth.
This game opens the CSL playoffs on Friday night (8 p.m. ET) in St. Catharines at Club Roma.
In the final series, Toronto Croatia plays the Brampton Lions.
Croatia is ranked third, while the Lions are sixth.
They kick off their first game at Centennial Stadium on Sunday (8:15 p.m. ET).