Rocket Robin Report: 2017 L1O Championship Final

Result and details of the Friday October 20, 2017 League1 Ontario game between Woodbridge Strikers and Oakville Blue Devils played at the Ontario Soccer Centre in Vaughan at 7:30pm.

This game involves the winner of the Eastern Conference Woodbridge Strikers against the winner of the Western Conference Oakville Blue Devils.  Tonight’s winner is considered champion of League1 Ontario and also the winner gains entry into the 2018 Canadian Championship.

10 min…Woodbridge Marcos Nunes GOAL…OBD Taylor McNamara chips ball from 25 yards down middle over players in box which WS goalie Quillan Roberts catches on bounce at 8 yards.  Roberts steps forward and punts ball downfield from edge of box and it bounces at OBD 40 yard line and Nunes has cut behind defenders Connor McNamara and Victor Gallo who whiffs on ball at 25 yards and when they can’t control it dribbles in from 22 yards and shoots low 15 yarder up middle into left corner of net past diving OBD goalie Matt George.

60 min…Oakville Brandon Duarte GOAL…OBD goalie Matt George receives defender’s pass back wide left of net and blasts high clearance from own 5 yard line downfield and OBD Stephen Ademolu flicks header forward from WS 40 yard line behind defender also jumping for ball.  OBD Filipe Vilela cuts over from middle to right to get to bouncer at 25 yard line.  He dribbles forward to right edge of box and sends low cross along 6 yard box a step ahead of charging OBD player in middle but Duarte is unmarked and charges to edge of 6 yard box in line with left post and slides to connect a roller past sliding goalie Quillan Roberts at 3 yards and nto right corner of net.

79 min…OBD RED cards to two backup players…There’s a dustup in the OBD end when WS are not awarded a Penalty kick.  Referee Fabrizio Stasolla gives out Yellows to WS Kyle Watson and OBD Brandon Duarte for their part in the play.  He sees two OBD players in pinnies (or had a WS player point them out) who had come around from behind the OBD net—players are supposed to warm up on the side of the field—and sent them off.

99 min…WS RED card…The referee orders off a WS backup player who had stepped on the field to argue a play.

99 min…regulation time ends with the score tied 1-1.  There is no extra time and so the game goes straight to Penalty kicks.

Penalty kicks:

1  OBD Filipe Vilela GOAL…blasts low to left as goalie dives right.

1  WS Emmanuel Issac GOAL…shot low to right as goalie dove to left.

2  OBD Victor Gallo shoots low and towards right and goalie dives right and bats ball away.

2  WS Luca Baldassarre GOAL…shoots low to right as goalie slides to left.

3  OBD Taylor McNamara GOAL…shoots low to right as goalie slides to left.

3  WS Michael Fayehun blasts shot well over net as goalie slumps to left.

4  OBD Stephen Ademolu GOAL…shoots to top right corner over goalie who dove to right.

4  WS Joshua Paredes-Procter shot to low left and goalie dives to left to bat ball away.

5  OBD Braden Culver GOAL…rolls shot to right corner of net as goalie slides to left.

Final Score:…Woodbridge Strikers…1…Oakville Blue Devils…1…
Oakville wins Penalty shootout 4-2.

* Some media reports/tweets have the shootout score as 4-3 but WS did not get a fifth round shot.

Attendance was about 1200 people with a large contingent of Oakville fans including their youth teams.  The grounds are only about the width of three football fields from Vaughan Grove, the home of Woodbridge Strikers, which is diagonally across from here so they were going to get a large turnout.  Last Saturday night, Toronto FC II of the USL had their home finale here and drew 1119 but that was greatly exagerated because of a non-stop hard rainstorm that night that maybe 60% showed up.  Last Saturday night was originally supposed to have been the L1O Championship L1O chair Dino Rossi answere me a few weeks ago but TFC II bumped them back in March because of their agreement with Ontario Soccer Centre. Now TFC II repays the OSC by moving next year to hold their games at Lamport Stadium and BMO Field.  Tonight’s weather by contrast was pleasant with windbreakers being enough to keep warm this late in October.  There may be another few fans show up Saturday night thanks to Duane Rollins on his Two Solitudes podcast giving the wrong date on his Thursday show.  (I tweeted him in time for his Friday morning show but he didn’t mention the game at all).

USL Ottawa Fury coach Julian de Guzman was the celebrity brought in for the coin toss. I hadn’t thought of it at game time but there is a good chance that tonight’s winner will play Ottawa in the opening round of the Canadian Championship next year. Oakville and their PLSQ champion counterpart AS Blainville will NOT face each other in the first round but one will face Ottawa and the other will face FC Edmonton of NASL.  The winners will then play each other and the next round the winner of that will join the MLS teams in the semi-finals.

The start of the Canadian Championship will be held in May from what I’ve heard which shouldn’t cause a problem as the L1O season will be into its first month by then. Since these games are usually played in midweek it will mean Oakville won’t play at their usual home Sheridan College because there are no stadium lights.  Rumour has it they will be trying to arrange to play at Tim Horton’s Field in Hamilton. Will there be a sponsor or will they have to raise funds to fly to Edmonton if that’s the team they draw?  A joke going around after the game was ‘how about a car wash?’.

Referee Fabrizio Stasollo was also the referee in last Saturday’s USL game.  Tonight he gave out three Yellow cards to each team and didn’t fall for any of the soft Penalty kick pleas from either team.  The game was ‘spirited’ with lots of close checking and injuries to both teams.

OBD goalie Matt George was announced as the game’s MVP.  Well that was obvious with making the huge save in the Penalty shootout but he made some other key saves. George played for Woodbridge for the last few years before this season.  It was his decision to switch teams to OBD before the season started as he lives a lot closer to Oakville than the drives to Woodbridge (he answered my question earlier this season).  That was months before the Strikers signed Quillan Roberts dropped by Toronto FC to replace him.

It’s almost like both regulation time goals were rehearsed as just a moment before each goal an almost identical play was run.  WS goalie Quillan Roberts punted a ball upfield at 9 minutes and only because it turned into a 1 v 4 was the Strikers player not able to get through and at 59 minutes OBD Khody Ellis sent in a low cross from 20 yards on the right that OBD Felipe Vilela blasted from 10 yards down the middle that was blocked by a defender and he shot a rebound high and wide right.

A change at halftime brought in Khody Ellis and Stephen Ademolu up front for Oakville replacing Mathew Santos and Anthony Novak.  Their attack immediately became more dangerous.

A scoreboard problem meant there was no timer from the twenty minute mark on so the PA guy would announce the time in five or ten minute intervals.  All times after that in my report are from my wristwatch but I’ll insist that the OBD goal was at 60 minutes (not 66′) and the second half went on until 99 minutes (seven minutes announced injury time with another injury during that time).

I noticed standing behind me during the game Canadian Men’s National team coach Octavio Zambrano.  He has praised this league in the past.  I was boasting to him that this was my sixty-third L1O game this year when he asked me about OBD’s #10. Braden Culver.  Ooh I don’t know too much about him.  Zambrano called him ‘interesting’. He’d subbed in at 54 minutes.  (Zambrano’s comments were well before he took the winning Penalty kick).  After the game I said to Culver that Zambrano was interested in him but by then the coach was gone.  I mentioned it to the OBD media guy and head coach Duncan Wilde so he could forward info to Zambrano.  “Oh he graduated from University of Buffalo this year, he teaches at the TFC Academy” is what Wilde said.  I know Zambrano has used L1O players at national training camps.  Woodbridge defender Michael Krzeminski (who tonight was injured and subbed off at 60 minutes) was brought into the training camp this summer.  Whether Zambrano needed human pylons for the regular team or impressive play might earn him a place is unknown but he deserves a chance.

There was a medal presentation after the game and Woodbridge got their medals first then disappeared back to the locker room.  Oakville got theirs and then the trophy was presented.  If Woodbridge would have won I’d be dropping names on that team in this report like head coach Peter Pinizzotto who coached Toronto Lynx when they first entered the A-League in 1997 and CNSL Toronto Italia before that.  Etc etc. After something like every player and official on the Blue Devils held the trophy, a team rep handed it to me and I posed for a picture.  That was something I never yearned for but it’s the Voyageur’s Cup I want to fondle because I tell anyone who’ll listen that “I helped pay for that trophy”.

I congratulated a few of the OBD players on the field or at the food room inside the OSC building.  Captain Taylor McNamara who I reminded that I watched him play for Toronto Lynx of PDL (before Toronto FC had team for a few years), I only found out tonight he is a school gym teacher.  Stephen Ademolu who joked that now he can’t retire (age 34, because of the chance in that chance in May).  He joined OBD halfway through this season, although he was signed but injured last year, from Windsor TFC Stars (who ended up bringing undermanned rosters to the GTA).  He has five hour drives to get to the OBD home games and most of the teams being in the GTA. “Yes” he answered it was worth it.   Coach Duncan Wilde for years coaching Toronto Lynx of A-League and PDL and Blue Devils when they were the Lynx farm team and won the CSL championship in 2005.

Wilde answered me the ‘OBD Women’ have filed an application to enter a team into the L1O Women’s Division.  The league sometimes doesn’t announce decisions like that until their banquet or meetings after that.  Oakville has a history of having the best girls’/women’s teams in Canada for various tournaments over the years so should be a natural.  He said they’ll start with players from their Junior Lady Lynx roster.

Blue Devils won the league in 2015.  There’s only been four years of the league’s existance so they can say they are the first multi-time winner.  I was surprised that their 2017 name plaque had been adhesed to the trophy already but I expect the league had a Woodbridge name plate made just in case.  In 2015 the season OBD won by finishing first in the 12 team single table.

It wasn’t a lost season for Woodbridge.  They can still brag that they finished first in the East and they won the L1O Cup trophy competition this season. Hmm Woodbridge won the Cup in 2015 too!

I will say that 2018 is the best chance for the L1O representative to advance in the Canadian Championship.  This may be the only year without teams from the new Canadian Premier league which may start halfway through 2018 or by the start of 2019.  It’s not just that there will be more rounds for the L1O representative to get through but I can see the new league skimming the best five players from the better L1O teams to stockpile their own rosters.  The amateur L1O teams (just a handful of semi-pros on some teams) won’t be able to compete with retaining players to a professional league.

Holding the game Friday night will mean that many of the players won’t miss their college or university games this weekend.

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Robin Glover

Robin Glover

Robin has been writing about soccer in the Toronto area for message boards and his own website since the early 1990s in the days of 2400 baud modems to USENET sites. In the 2014 season he attended 76 games in various leagues that played in the GTA area. Follow Robin on Twitter and on his website

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