Although MLS has had a week off for the Gold Cup, there’s been a lot of action in the lower leagues these past couple of weeks. League1 Ontario is, as of last night, through the L1O Cup Semi-finals. The Premier Development League is also entering its final weekend of regular season play for most teams, which has seen a mad dash with up to 6 matches since the most recent update for several sides. Both NASL & USL are continuing throughout the Gold Cup, and PLSQ is continuing its 3-match weekends. There’s a lot of little movement, and a few jumps.
Despite having this past weekend off, Major League Soccer teams still managed 6 matches. On Canada Day, the only team to find victory was Montreal Impact. Le Blue et Noir defeated DC United with a pair of goals. Unfortunately, their victory was short-lived as the Wednesday match saw Impact fall to Houston Dynamo, 3-1.
On Canada Day, Vancouver was scoreless in Chicago, who managed 4 goals. The team did manage to squeak out a victory against New York City FC however, with a single goal separating the two teams. Toronto celebrated Canada’s 150 in Dallas, by losing 3-1 to the home side. They then traveled to Orlando and reversed the scoreline for a final victory before the Gold Cup break.
FC Edmonton played two very different matches. First, they lost yet again to Jacksonville Armada, 1-0. They had opened the season with a pair of losses to Jacksonville, and it seems the team is still unable to solve the Armada. In contrast, they managed a 2-1 victory over North Carolina FC. The ex-Railhawks should have been a far superior side, given their position in the table, but the Eddies managed to scrape past them anyways. This has a lot to do with how underrated Edmonton really is as a result of losing, a lot. The team is suffering from what Ottawa suffered last year: they’re good, but not quite good enough. In this match, they managed to eek out a valuable 3-points. With only 1 match remaining in the NASL spring season, we should see Edmonton looking to move players in during the break between seasons.
In USL action, there were a fair number of matches in the last couple of weeks. Ottawa Fury FC kicked off Canada Day in Louisville, losing 2-1 for the American crowd. They then proceeded to get beaten by a 1st-team strengthened TFC II, 1-0. Toronto FC II had lost, at home, to Harrisburg on Canada 150. Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 chalked up a pair of losses with a 0-2 to Seattle and an 0-1 to Swope.
There was a lot of action in League1 Ontario. I could cover it all here, but truthfully, NSXI has a lot of authors covering different aspects of this league that can do a far better job than my run-down of the numbers. Take a quick peak through the archives of Dan Baldwin, Chris Dubsky, and Robin Glover for a run-down on most teams’ performance over the past couple of weeks.
Two matches that (so far) haven’t had coverage were the L1O Cup semi-finals. Both matches ended with identical scorelines. North Mississauga and Durham United FA were both eliminated from the competition last night. This sets up an L1O final between the top 2 L1O teams on my elo-ratings: Woodbridge Strikers and Vaughan Azzurri. The two teams have just less than 1-point of difference in the elo-ratings, despite ranking 1st & 4th in the L1O’s Eastern conference with Vaughan behind by 6-points.
The Premier Ligue de Soccer du Quebec played two full weekends of matches, with every match except for 1 ending in a draw. The exception? CS Mont-Royal Outremont defeated Dynamo de Quebec with a single-goal difference. Although every win is great for a team that has been middling throughout the season, they should have been able to widen the gap against Dynamo. As Dynamo have only managed to triumph over the other expansion-side, CS St-Hubert, a single-goal difference is nothing for Outremont to get excited about. That said, it did provide the team with their 3rd win this season, boosting them to 2nd place.
In my opinion, the most concerning thing about PLSQ is how one team seems to run away with the season, while all the remaining teams see draw after draw. Last year, Outremont won the league very early and it appears as though AS Blainville will be able to lock things down shortly. In fact, Blainville has double the number of wins of their closest competitors and remains unbeaten this year. With the exception of the newcomers, the other teams all have 3-5 draws buoying them within 2 points of 2nd place. Parity leagues can be interesting, but most matches should not be draws. In the case of PLSQ, there have been 17 matches with decisions, and 11 draws, so things aren’t quite that bad yet.
On the bright side, the PLSQ Cup will be starting up on July 15th. The PLSQ Cup, although derided as a worthless distraction by some team presidents, provides the closes thing to a playoff that Quebec’s 3rd division provides. With quick, one-off matches, every match truly makes a difference and a single team that may not be doing well in the regular season, has a chance to shine. It will be interesting to see if AS Blainville decides to challenge for the Cup, or sit it out like CS Mont-Royal Outremont chose to last year.
With Premier Development League action coming to a close within the next couple of weeks, there were a plethora of matches.
K-W United stands alone in the Great Lakes division, and had 4 matches. They routed West Virginia Chaos with an unanswered 4 goals at the end of June. Lost twice to Michigan Bucks by a single goal in a home & away series, and then closed out the stretch with a final home win last night against Dayton Dutch Lions. K-W has had a fantastic season, and currently sit 2nd in the Great Lakes Division, 10 points above 3rd-place Cincinnati. This guarantees the team a spot in the PDL playoffs. My jersey & scarf are set to arrive in Victoria by July 18th, so I’ll be able to virtually cheer along with Grand River Union and other K-W fans.
Thunder Bay Chill and WSA Winnipeg both compete within the Heartland Division, from the opposite ends of the table. Thunder Bay secured the top spot in the Heartland Division following last night’s 4-0 victory over the St Louis Lions. This 2-week stretch started with an end-of-June draw against Saint Louis FC U23. Chill then played a double-header on Canada Day weekend against the lions, with a 1-0 & a 2-0 victory. They managed to jam 2 more matches, giving them 6 matches in a very short period, and split the results. First a 3-1 loss to Saint Louis FC U23, followed by a 2-1 victory over Chicago United.
Winnipeg, in comparison, only played 2 matches. First, they dropped a 2-0 decision against Chicago, marking their 12th consecutive match of 2017 without a win. Thankfully, their second match gave the team their first victory of the season, with a 4-1 route of Saint Louis FC U23. Although Winnipeg fans must be happy with the victory, the season has been a very big disappointment. As it does not appear as though WSA Winnipeg is involved with the new Canadian Premier League team that will be starting up in 2018 or 2019, I’m sure its owners will be asking themselves and their staff a lot of very tough questions in the off-season.
Calgary Foothills FC battle at the top of the Northwest, while Victoria Highlanders FC and TSS FC Rovers currently round out the bottom. Foothills have been near the top of the table all season, seesawing with 2nd-place Portland. In the past couple of weeks, following the draw against Lane United, Calgary had a double-header against the #2 team. In the first match, Portland came out on top with a strong 4-0 showing. The 2nd match was a much tighter affair, with Calgary coming out on top 2-1 over the Timbers. Calgary is only leading the table by 2-points, so there is some room for a last-minute upset.
TSS FC Rovers kicked off Canada 150 on the wrong side of the border, battling Seattle Sounders FC U23. They fell, 3-2, to the Americans in a scene that has become far too common for British Columbia’s newest team. We’ll skip over the next match for a moment, but last night’s rematch at Swangard against the Sounders also went to the home side, 3-2. This was the team’s final match of 2017, giving them a total of 3 wins over their inaugural season. Unless Highlanders are somehow DQed for having an ineligible player from Kitsap in their remaining 2 matches, Rovers will remain at the very bottom of the Northwest.
Victoria has been frustrating to watch this season. At the beginning of the year, they came out strong against Lane United, providing fans with lots of hope for the season. They echoed that victory at the end of June, defeating Lane by a much closer scoreline of 1-0. Much like the beginning of the year, anything resembling confidence in the team was annihilated in the following match. Sentenced to Eugene on Canada 150, we can only assume the players drank heavily prior to the match against Lane, where they were destroyed 7-1 by the American side. The road trip did not improve as first Portland, and then Seattle decimated Victoria with 4-1 scorelines.
On July 9th, Victoria had a chance to redeem themselves. Facing off against their fellow-Canadians, TSS FC Rovers, in their 3rd and final meeting of the season. There was more at stake than just who would sit at the bottom of the table. Their was the coveted Juan de Fuca Plate, brought out of mothballs now that there are 2 teams in BC. Both sides fought well, with Highlanders placing a keeper that Rovers had turned down in net for his 1st appearance for the club. The 2-0 scoreline for Victoria was only the 2nd time all season where they managed to score more than a single goal. For the first time in the plate’s history, the winner was decided on the island. The home team celebrated the only piece of silverware they could hope to grasp this season. Highlanders have 2 matches remaining. First they play Seattle at home on Friday, and then they wrap their season Sunday in Calgary
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And that’s the round-up for this 2-week period. Expect our next report on July 27th. With the US Open Cup continuing, we have seen some shifting in the league averages. I was hoping to look at the changes, but with one of the Division 2 teams advancing to the semi-finals, things may still shift further. Additionally, we’ll be seeing the start of the PLSQ Cup, which has been known to greatly shift the elo-rankings of teams in the small Quebec league. We’ll have to keep an eye on how things develop.
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