L1O Final: Breaking New Ground

League 1 Ontario will be represented in next years Canadian Championship by Oakville Blue Devils after coming out on top of a penalty shootout against the Woodbridge Strikers in the L1O Final on Friday night in front of a large crowd at the Ontario Soccer Centre. Rocket Robin has already provided his match report on the game, so I’ll just give a few of my observations on the L1 2017 season finale.

“Now we breaking new ground
Get ready for the placing of the crown”

I went into this game expecting Woodbridge to play more of a measured passing style of game and they did at times, but the match was fast paced end to end football pretty much the whole way through. Woodbridge somewhat surprisingly started the game attempting a number of long balls over the top, using the speed of Marco Nunes playing on the shoulder of the OBD defense. This must have been a game plan going into the final and it worked perfectly for them with Nunes breaking the trap a few times early on. Then in the 11th minute, the second long kick from Quillan Roberts a minute or two apart wasn’t dealt with by Victor Gallo allowing the ball to bounce in the centre circle then missing the clearance which allowed Nunes to steal in behind. His first touch took him across the defender and second slid it past Matt George in goal.

After the goal Woodbridge continued to dominate possession and continued to get in behind, but this changed after around 20 minutes when Oakville started to find their footing in the game and created a few chances of their own. The best chance fell to Filipe Velila who trapped a long cross from the right, brought the ball onto his right foot gaining a yard of space from his marker but shot straight at Roberts in goal. Around this time there was an injury to a Kyle Watson which gave OBD Manager Duncan Wilde a chance to have a word with his team and change a few things around. Al James who had started the game at left back – although playing very narrow, was moving into central defence to partner Konner McNamara. Vincent Gallo moved to the right and Hitesh Joshi to the left. The Blue Devils and especially the defence looked a lot more comfortable and solid after this little switch and was key in OBD controlling the ball better building from the back and attacking quickly down the flanks.  Woodbridge continued to try the long balls but they were not as successful as before and struggled to create any meaningful attacks and reverted to playing their usual short quick passing style.

Oakville boss Duncan Wilde made another two bold changes at halftime removing the two top scorers Matt Santos and Anthony Novak and bringing on the speedy Khody Ellis and the experienced Stephen Ademolu. Velila moved into the lone striker role with Ademolu as the ‘number10’ and Ellis on the right. The substitutions worked with Oakville the better team in the second half and both players causing problems for the Woodbridge defence, getting the ball wide and getting some dangerous crosses into the box.

Ellis flashed a couple crosses across the face of the goal that no one could get onto, another was pulled back to Vilela whose first shot was blocked and second attempt when over the bar. Within a minute of the last attempt Matt George played a long ball forward that was flicked on by Ademolu and immediately Woodbridge were in trouble. Either Vilela or Ellis could have got the flick on and only one defender was back. Vilela to it on down the right flank and fired the ball across the six yard box and found Brandon Duarte at the back post to slid in and force the ball into the back of the net sending the large Oakville contingent in the crowd to go crazy.

This is when the game got feisty with a few hard challenges going in and personal battles going on the game became very stop start. Woodbridge were really struggling to get a foothold in the game and create chances and couldn’t cope the with speed and power of the Oakville attack. Things came to a head when Duarte was played in by Ademolu who was then barged over by Kyle Watson. It was shoulder to shoulder but from my angle where I was sitting it looked like a penalty to me, but can see why some might not think so*. But this doesn’t excuse the response. Duarte got up and chased after Watson who was clearing the ball and barged him over once the ball had gone, Watson got up and shoved Duarte over. Then we had a 2 team brawl, with lots of pushing a shoving going on. In the end a couple players were booked, likely Duarte and Watson, and two Oakville subs, Christian Kusiewicz and Anthony Doran were sent off for getting involved. At the time I couldn’t believe more people weren’t sent off but looking back, not much really happened and actually the subs were unlucky to be sent off, they barely did anything, but didn’t really need to be involved. Strangely they weren’t the only subs to be sent off as Michael Scavone of Woodbridge was given his marching orders later in the game for a similar offence.

*People say shoulder to shoulder challenges are ok but after a brief search in the FIFA laws, there is no mention of the word ‘shoulder’. But ‘A direct free kick is awarded to the opposing team if a player…charges an opponent or pushes an opponent’. It’s down to the referee’s discretion whether he did either of these. In mine, it’s a penalty, but i could be wrong, meh

Woodbridge began to play a bit better but could only create half chances and shots from long range, Oakville were defending better and in numbers, and Woodbridge didn’t have the same penetration they had in the first half.

OBD could have had another penalty when Ademolu was brought down in the box, as he turned he appeared to go over the outstretched leg of the defender but I couldn’t tell at the time and can’t tell for sure from the video. The ref was in a good position so I will go with him on that.

The game ended and went straight to penalties*. I thought that Woodbridge would have the upper hand here due to having Roberts and it looked like I was right when Gallo missed the second Oakville penalty. But it was all level when Michael Fayehun put his penalty over the bar. Stephen Ademolu then put OBD up 3-2 putting the pressure on Joshua Paredes-Procter who shot to the keepers right, but Matt George was equal to it and made a great save. Then it was up to substitute Brandon Culver to secure the championship and he calmly put the ball to Roberts’ left and sent the team and crowd into raptures with fans jumping onto the pitch to celebrate with the team.

*I wonder if in future they will change to the new FIFA penalty ABBA format?

Without trying to end on a sour note, I do worry about what this team will look like next year in the Canadian Championship. I have no idea what’s happening with the CPL but say a couple of the better players leave I don’t want the league to look bad to outsiders if they get thrashed – not that I think a L1 team could necessarily win a game, but the team right now could put on a good show of themselves. Hey, if CPL is 2019 now this is moot point…for a year…we’ll see.

This was a really fun action-packed game, and could tell there was not much separating the teams in quality, but I have to give credit to Duncan Wilde who really changed the game by noticing deficiencies in the lineup and making the relevant changes early on giving his players the best opportunity to make a difference.

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Dan Baldwin

Dan Baldwin

Dan joins us to finally get involved in doing something about the sport he loves. Born in England he has played and followed the game his whole life. After moving to Toronto in 2014, he immediately began to learn about the local soccer scene and is passionate about the development of the sport in the country. However, he can still found cheering on his beloved West Ham each weekend morning at the Dog and Bear pub.

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