LYNX REACH NEW HEIGHTS IN 2008
The recently completed 2008 United Soccer Leagues season proved to be one of the finest ever for the Toronto Lynx Soccer Club. Both the PDL Lynx and W-League Lady Lynx reached the playoffs, while 4 of the 7 Lynx Juniors teams qualified for the North American Finals in the Super-Y and Super-20 Leagues.
The Lynx men returned to the playoffs for the first time since the 2000 season at the A-League level, and recorded their first winning season (8-6-2, 26 points) in the same time-frame. The club also recorded their first-ever winning road record, posting a 4-3-1 record away from home, which helped them to a solid third-place finish in the Great Lakes Division, and a trip to the post-season. The team fell to a very tough Cleveland Internationals squad in the first round of the playoffs, but distinguished themselves with a solid effort and laid a solid foundation to build upon for the future. The young players from this season’s squad gained invaluable experience along the way. They will benefit with the successes of the U17 and U20 boys adding to the bright future for the team.
The Lady Lynx recorded their best-ever season, with a stellar 11-2-1 record (34 points), with the 11 wins matching the team record established in their inaugural campaign in 2005. The team also recorded their first win over their bitter Ontario rivals, the Ottawa Fury, with a solid 2-1 victory on June 15 in Ottawa, followed by the team’s first win in Laval, another 2-1 victory on June 18. The Lady Lynx were upset by the Laval Comets in the first round of the W-League playoffs, but the loss did not put a damper on the season. The squad fielded one of the youngest rosters in the entire 41-team league, and both the highs and lows of this season will serve as integral groundwork for coach Danny Stewart’s charges to build upon next season and beyond as the team moves towards its goal of a W-League championship.
The Lynx and Lady Lynx also reached new levels off the field, through the establishment of the “Lynxfest” community festival program. This season saw the Lynx and Lady Lynx play home games throughout the GTA, with games in Hamilton (Lynx), Pickering (Lady Lynx) and Bolton (Lynx and Lady Lynx). All three inaugural events were successes, with large crowds turning out to see the teams play, and take part in a variety of soccer and community themed events built around the matches. The team intends to expand the program in 2009 and beyond, establishing a true connection to the Southern Ontario soccer community.
Following the example of the senior teams, the Lynx Juniors program experienced unprecedented success in 2008 as well. The Lynx and Lady Lynx U20’s qualified from the Midwest Division for the recently-staged North American Finals in Virginia Beach.
The Lady Lynx U20’s reached the playoffs is their first-ever season, and represented themselves well at the finals tournament. Despite being placed in a group with three of the toughest squads in the United States, the neophytes managed to place third in their group with a 1-2-0 record, and the young team gave the eventual champion Triangle FC their toughest match of the tournament.
The Lynx U20 men, who reached the North American semi-finals last season, dominated play in the Midwest Division throughout the season, and booked their ticket to Virginia Beach for the Super-20 championships. There, the team proceeded to defeat highly-regarded teams from Red Bull New York, H.C. United of Florida and Seacoast United in group play, earning a return trip to the semi-finals. A 1-0 victory over Real Maryland sent the Lynx U20’s to their first-ever final
In the final, the Lynx U20’s matched up against their bitter Midwest Division rivals, the Chicago Fire. The team found themselves in an early hole, however, with Chris Mitchell controversially red-carded in the 20th minute and a Chicago goal following soon after. The Lynx showed tremendous grit, patience and skill, and fought back from the early 1-0 deficit to equalize in the 60th minute on a great header from Jordan Webb, who was named to the All-Super 20 Finals team for his outstanding play throughout the week.
Unfortunately, the short-handed squad could not hold back the Chicago attack, and the Fire headed home a corner kick four minutes from time for the victory. Said Head Coach Duncan Wilde following the heart-breaking loss, "We have had a terrific season, with 6 or 7 of these players also competing for the PDL team. For the second straight year we are here amongst the very best teams in the USL. We will continue to work hard and bring through the next age group up through the ranks of our growing SYL program. We aim to come back in 2009 and take the next step to claim the championship."
Lynx goalkeeper Brandon Heembrock and defender Matthew Smith joined Webb on the All Super-20 Finals team announced following the conclusion of the event.
LYNX JUNIORS HEADING FOR FLORIDA PLAYOFFS
The Lynx Juniors have also qualified the U17 and U15 boys squads from the Midwest Division for the Super-Y League North American Finals, which will once again be held in Tampa Florida in November. The U17’s qualified in 2007, and went all the way to the final before losing 3-1 in extra time to the Chicago Fire.
"The competition at the finals is fierce," commented Wilde, "with state champions, MLS Academies and conference winners from across North America. This provides a fantastic platform to challenge every player and every team that participates. Our previous experiences at this level will help us to prepare this year’s teams for the challenges that lie ahead in Florida".
OPEN TRIALS FOR JUNIOR PROGRAM
In an ongoing effort to attract the very best players, the Toronto Lynx Juniors offer the opportunity for potential new players, boys and girls ages U14 to U17 to evaluate the program. "The best way to decide if the Academy route is suitable for you is to come in and experience it first-hand.” said Wilde. "We are all about developing players, providing showcase opportunities for scholarships at American universities and career guidance, together with competition against the top North American academies and teams out there." Interested players and parents are invited to contact Duncan Wilde directly at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.