Soccer success means little rest

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 9:03 AM ET

A busy team in soccer usually means that team is also successful.

There's no doubt London AEK Olympic of the Western Ontario Soccer League's Premier Division is really busy.

"We play two, sometimes three times a week," said manager Tom Kouzounas.

"We have to squeeze practices in as well."

A successful soccer team plays in numerous cup tournaments.

And the farther one goes in those tournaments, the busier things get.

AEK is involved in their WOSL play, League Cup, Ontario Cup and the Open Canada Cup, the Canadian Soccer League tournament open to Ontario men's teams.

Last Sunday, AEK got over a big hurdle in Ontario Cup play, beating rival London Portuguese 1-0.

In mid-week, they defeated First Division St. Columban 3-0 in League Cup play in a rain-shortened game.

Tonight at 8:38 p.m. at Cove Road Field, they play a first-round Open Canada Cup game against Hamilton Argentina 78 of the Hamilton and District Soccer League.

If AEK wins that contest, they play Sunday in St. Catharines against the Wolves in a second-round game.

On Tuesday, they have a regular WOSL game.

"It's a lot, especially since you want to get some practices in," said Kouzounas.

The Open Canada Cup gives AEK a chance to see how they stack up not only against teams who play at their level, but against CSL teams, so-called semi-professional teams.

The Open Canada Cup winner takes home $10,000. If one of the amateur clubs wins the competition, it earns an extra $1,000.

"Every game is big for us," said Kouzounas when asked if playing CSL sides gives his club extra incentive.

Kouzounas doesn't know much about Argentina 78, but he's heard they are fast and skilled.

That would mean the game tonight could wind up as a track meet, because AEK is also skilled and very quick.

AEK has several fast, young players like Ryan Avola, Harris Cekic and especially forward Todd Rutledge. Kouzounas expects to sign another young, quick player before this weekend.

With the heavy schedule this team plays, depth is something that's a necessity.

The AEK-Argentina game is just one in a busy soccer weekend.

London City of the CSL are not playing a league game this weekend, but have an Open Canada Cup contest against CSL rival Caribbean Selects.

That game is at 8:38 p.m. Monday at Cove Road. With the CSL's unbalanced schedule, London City and the Caribbean Selects don't meet during the regular season.

"They are very fast," said London City coach and manager Harry Gauss.

London City won the inaugural Open Canada Cup in 2003. Windsor Border Stars have won it the last two years.

In women's play, the W-League London Gryphons play a 4 p.m. game tomorrow against the Cleveland Internationals at North London Stadium.

The Gryphons split a pair of home games last weekend, winning 4-0 over the Western Michigan Firewomen and losing 3-1 to the Minnesota Lightning.

After their game against the Internationals, they hit the road for games in Detroit, Cincinnati and Cleveland.


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