Durham United Football Alliance (DUFA) entered the 2017 campaign with a legitimate chance of winning both divisions. The men, under the guidance of Coach Sanford Carabin, were playing in their fourth season while the women were in their third. Durham has been an original League1 Ontario (L1O) member and has fielded teams in both men’s and women’s divisions since their inception. An alliance between license holder Pickering Soccer Club and the West Rouge Soccer Club, DUFA plays out of the Pickering Soccer Centre and Kinsmen Park in Pickering.
April and May
A difficult start to the season saw the Durham United men open their campaign away to perennial powerhouses Vaughan then Woodbridge. The lads acquitted themselves nicely, conceding just once in a nil-nil draw with the Azzurri and a 1-0 loss to the Strikers. The boys finally found the net – and often – for their remaining May fixtures by defeating Aurora and OSU at home and Toronto Skillz at Birchmount. Their backend was solidified with the additions of Cameron Brooks, Vince Sasso and Joe Zupo and it showed with just two goals against in their first five matches. Their three shutouts were shared between goalkeepers Ben Cowman (two) while L1O elder statesman Eugene Alves picked up the Vaughan clean sheet. In Cup play, Durham took care of Oakville 1-0 in an intensely fought first round matchup.
The Durham United women entered 2017 with a mixture of returning veterans (including sisters Kayla and Brianna De Souza, Maddie Iozzi, Taylor Potts and Tamara Brown) and some Ontario Player Development League (OPDL) youth players. They had a 1W-3L start under new Coach Chris Eveleigh. Their losses came against Vaughan, Woodbridge and a new Unionville-Milliken side, who started 2017 with six consecutive victories. Their lone May win came on the road against League1 new girls West Ottawa SC, with 14 year old OPDLer Hanna Williams picking up the shutout in her L1O debut.
The DUFA men sported a 1W-1D-2L record in an inconsistent June. They dropped points at home in a draw to Master’s and an injury-time, 2-1 loss to TFC III while down to 10-men. They showed resilience in a come-from-behind win versus North Mississauga with 88’ and 90’ goals to steal a 2-1 win at Hershey Centre. They defeated OSU in Ottawa 3-1 in the Cup to advance to the semis against Vaughan.
June saw the return of Laura Gosse, last season’s leading scorer, from concussion symptoms. Her return, mixed with the squad developing chemistry, led to an undefeated June for the DUFA ladies. They finished the month with three wins and a draw in League play. Included amongst the positive results were an entertaining 5-3 win over local rivals Darby FC and a six-nil thrashing of Sanjaxx through a Gosse hat trick. Of note, a goal of the year candidate was scored by Cayla Cajilig, a 15 year-old OPDLer, in the 3-1 win over Aurora. In Cup play, they were eliminated on home turf by eventual double winner FC London.
July was the men’s busiest month with five League games and a Cup match. In League play, they finished with seven of a possible 15 points by virtue of a 2W-1D-2L record. They started the month with an impressive 3-0 road win against Oakville – blanking the eventual L1O champs for the second time in 2017 – and a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Sanjaxx on an 89’ LeRohne Young penalty. Their next two results would be considered disappointing as they lost at home to London then away to Windsor, having to play with 10-men for 60 minutes. They ended July with a notable 2-2 away draw versus then-West leaders Sigma. Their Cup run came to an end in a penalty shootout loss to the Vaughan Azzurri.
DUFA women started the month with a coaching change as Chris Eveleigh moved onto a new Club. Eveleigh was replaced by Pickering SC’s Technical Director, Ramin Mohammadi, who guided them to a 2W-1D-1L July while integrating more youth from the OPDL ranks. A knee injury to captain Kayla De Souza forced her to miss the entire month, but remained involved as a mentor to the young squad. Of note in July was a nil-nil draw to FC London, making Durham only the second team to shutout Jade Kovacevic’s side. They ended the month on a scoring high, putting seven passed Woodbridge and five in on West Ottawa in two emphatic victories.
Both squads were finally able to move outdoors as the City of Pickering made the necessary repairs to DUFA’s grass pitch at Kinsmen Park. To this point, all Durham home games were played in the state-of-the-art Pickering Soccer Centre until Kinsmen’s grass was up to standard.
Bruce Cullen represented the DUFA men at the L1O all-star game, with Stefan Lamanna serving as a reserve. The lads had a 2W-0D-1L August, with both wins coming via shutout. Michael Canam picked up the August 11th shutout versus ProStars FC giving DUFA three different keepers with a clean sheet in 2017.
August was the DUFA ladies’ busiest month with a five-game slate in which they finished 2W-1D-2L. August is typically a transitional month in L1O – especially for the women’s division – with athletes heading back to school. Durham’s women were hit hard by this exodus losing key veterans forcing Coach Mohammadi to add youth from OPDL into starting roles. Back-to-back home wins (7-1 and 2-0) salvaged the month for the young DUFA women.
September and October
Eventual leading scorer Tyrell Rayne potted a hat trick in a 7-2 drubbing of OSU as part of a 3W-0D-1L September. After losing to Woodbridge, the Durham men pulled off three wins on the hop with one coming against North Toronto—a team DUFA had yet to beat in two seasons in League or Cup competition. They ended the season with an uninspiring 2-0 loss to Master’s away as their lone October fixture. Overall, Rayne led the team with seven goals while Brooks and Zupo logged over 2,000 minutes each in both competitions. They finished with an 11W-3D-8L record and a +24 goal differential, good for third in the East Division.
A 1-1-1 September ended the women’s 2017 campaign. All three matches were on the road and involved shutouts, with the outlier being their lopsided loss to London. A rescheduled, midweek fixture in London left Coach Mohammadi with little personnel to choose from so he was forced to take unproven talent to Cove Road. Their other two September games were a scoreless draw (Aurora) and a 4-0 win (Sanjaxx). Gosse led the team in goals again, scoring a dozen times in just eight games played. Brianna De Souza played the most minutes (1440) while four goalies had shutouts—Emma Chisholm, Laura Dougall, Sara Petrucci and the aforementioned Williams. They ended up fifth in the 11-team Women’s division, sporting a record of 9W-4D-7L with a +6 goal differential.