Article by Djuradj Vujcic

The Serbian White Eagles starting line-up

Top row: Aleksandar Krivokapic (assistant coach), Arthur Zaslavski, Uros Stamatovic, Gabriel Pop, Milan Janosevic, Mirko Medic, Niki Budalic and Sinisa Ninkovic (head coach)

Bottom row: Osni Neto, Alex Braletic, Milos Scepanovic, Sasa Viciknez (captain) and Nenad Stojcic

Continuing our newly founded tradition of finding and posting interesting finds from the archives (of which most have never before been seen), we now travel over fifteen years back in time to July 25, 2007 to the second round of that year’s Open Canada Cup.

In front of a predominantly Serbian crowd, on a late Wednesday night at Birchmount Stadium in Scarborough, the Serbian White Eagles (wearing blue socks instead of their usual white) faced the North York Astros in what might have been the greatest Open Canada Cup match ever. After tying up the score in the dying seconds of the match, the Serbian White Eagles unfortunately ended up losing 5–4 on penalty kicks to the North York Astros.

In the 75th minute of the match, Serbian White Eagles centre-forward Gabriel Pop was tackled in the 16-yard-box and a penalty kick in favour of the Serbian White Eagles was whistled. Serbian White Eagles captain Sasa Viciknez stepped up to the line and his spitfire kick went into the top-left corner of the net past North York Astros goalkeeper Ratko Ivanovic giving the Serbian White Eagles the go-ahead score of 1–0.

Almost immediately after the Serbian White Eagles scored, the North York Astros tied it up at 1–1 on a Selvin Lammie goal in the 78th minute.

Instantaneously after the North York Astros scored, Serbian White Eagles midfielder Osni Neto was hauled down in the 16-yard-box and another penalty was whistled in favour of the Serbian White Eagles. The penalty was once again taken by Serbian White Eagles captain Sasa Viciknez. Viciknez scored on a majestic strike for his second goal on the night making the score 2–1 for the Serbian White Eagles.

In the twilight of the second half, the Serbian White Eagles had three scoring opportunities – one after the other. In the 83rd minute of the match, Serbian White Eagles goalkeeper Arthur Zaslavski went to punch the ball away but accidentally hit a North York Astros player. As a result of the accidental hit, Zaslavski received a yellow card and a penalty kick was awarded. North York Astros midfielder Paulo Astorga scored from the penalty spot tying up the match at 2–2 in the 92nd minute.

The match then went into overtime where a silver goal rule was used meaning that the team leading by the end of the first overtime wins.

The first overtime ended with the score remaining 2–2.

With the North York Astros attacking in the 16-yard-box, panic-stricken Serbian White Eagles defender Dragan Radovic (who entered the match earlier instead of Milos Scepanovic) tackled a North York Astros player and received a red card. A penalty kick was whistled for North York. Paulo Astorga converted giving North York a 3–2 lead. In the dying seconds of the second overtime, Serbian White Eagles all-star defender Mirko Medic scored an excellent goal tying up the score at 3–3 taking the match into a penalty shootout.

Before the penalties, the excellent but tired Serbian White Eagles goalkeeper Arthur Zaslavski was replaced with fellow goalkeeper George Radan.

The tenth and final penalty kick was taken by North York Astros midfielder Paulo Astorga who was player of the match on the night. His kick beat the out-stretched hands of Serbian White Eagles goalkeeper George Radan and the Astros won by a score of 5–4.

Serbian White Eagles head coach Sinisa Ninkovic shared his thoughts on this memorable marathon of a match: “Going into tonight, we expected a tough match against a very good team. We didn’t have much luck in capitalizing on the chances we had and on penalties… well, I don’t have much to say about penalties except that the better team doesn’t always win – as was the case with tonight’s match.”

Here is what Serbian White Eagles goalkeeper George Radan had to say about the match: “In my opinion, we were the stronger team – we just couldn’t capitalize on some of the chances we had. They had fewer chances than we did but they managed to send it into overtime. I think we were the superior team, but as has happened throughout this year, we just couldn’t finish on some of our plays. So, I feel like we gave the game away and deserved a better result.”

The referee on the night was Joe Fletcher who would go on to ref at both the 2014 and 2018 FIFA World Cups.

Experienced Mexican defender Ricardo Munguia was set to debut in this match but wasn’t able to because, although his international transfer did arrive, the Ontario Soccer Association’s rule stated that once the release is received, their must be a wait of 24 hours before the player can make his debut. He debuted for the club on August 10, 2007 in a 6–3 win over the North York Astros.

It is always nice to reminisce and review some Canadian soccer history – in this case the now-defunct Open Canada Cup which was a precursor to today’s Canadian Championship (founded in 2008).