Traffic Sports-owned Portuguese club Estoril kicked off their UEFA Europa League on Thursday against Sevilla from Spain.
Estoril went down 2-1 at home to the group favorites as a 59th minute Vitolo goal was answered by a Bruno Miguel strike to put Estoril level before Kevin Gameiro won the game for the visitors.
Estoril beat FC Pasching from Austria over two legs to qualify for the group stages of the Europa League and found themselves also matched with Liberec from the Czech Republic and SC Freiburg from the German Bundesliga, who drew their opening game on Thursday. Earlier the Portuguese side had beaten Hapoel Ramat Gan 1-0 away having been held to a 0-0 draw at home.
The U.S. arm of Traffic’s international soccer business has championed the success of the North American Soccer League and in particular the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, Atlanta Silverbacks and Carolina RailHawks. And in Portugal, Traffic Sports has taken Estoril from relative obscurity to the Portuguese Primeira Liga and now to European club competition qualification.
Estoril’s season ending 3-1 win away to Gil Vicente secured the all-important fifth place finish to claim Portugal’s final Europa League spot. And they also earned local bragging rights having finished ahead of Sporting, their illustrious rivals from their home city of Lisbon.
“We assumed control and the operation of the team three years ago and took them from the second to the first division,” explained Traffic President Aaron Davidson. “The team has won a lot of admirers for how they have performed and some of the biggest clubs around the world are taking an interest in the players who have taken the club to such great heights.
Under Traffic’s control, Grupo Desportivo Estoril Praia – to give the club its full title - won promotion after the 2011/12 season after winning the Liga de Honra by a five-point margin, led by manager Marco Silva and Brazilian goalkeeper and captain Wagner.
The rise to Portugal’s top division under the guidance of Traffic marked the first time since 2005 that Estoril has spent a season in the top flight and only the second time in 20 years.
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