Guelph United Wins League1 Ontario Championship In Debut Season
Guelph United’s has won the League1 Ontario Championship to cap off an exhilarating debut season.
The newly-formed side had been in hot form throughout the regular season, finishing top of the west before dispatching former title holders Master’s FA through penalties in the semi-final.
Last night the club took to the pitch against a Blue Devils FC side that had tasted some success against them in the regular season, with Guelph stepping up to the proverbial plate to put in a thrilling 3-1 victory, land the trophy, and secure a spot in the 2022 Canadian Championship.
That’s certainly not bad for a team that was announced just under eleven months ago, with head coach Keith Mason bringing Guelph a lot of glory from the club’s debut campaign.
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It was a tough night for the Blue Devils and in-form striker Leaford Allen, who had scored a brace to sink Vaughan Azzurri in the semi-finals and had enjoyed an otherwise successful campaign for the side. He had a big chance to bring the Blue Devils ahead in the 16th minute after a slip-through pass saw him clear of any defenders, but Guelph goalkeeper Svyatik Artemenko moved quickly to close him down and boot the ball away.
Guelph United then found itself on the attack for the majority of the match, sending in crosses aplenty as the final unfolded. The club got its breakthrough courtesy of golden boot winner Jace Kotsopoulos, who poked home a gift after a straightforward cross was mid-judged by the Blue Devils backline.
Next to score was former Halifax Wanderers striker Tomasz Skublak, who found himself on the receiving end of a nice ball from Dion Stergiotis. Making space for himself between two defenders, the six-foot-two forward was able to fire in Guelph’s second on the 26th minute marker.
With veteran players like Brandon Duarte and Khody Ellis leading the way, the Blue Devils squad kept a strong mental resolve to up their own attacking intensity as the second half progressed. Forced to push men forward, the tactical gamble from head coach Duncan Wilde showed warning signs after Skublak nearly saw a low shot nearly sneak in beyond Lucas Birnstingl, with Kotsopoulos striking the post in the 66th.
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With time slipping away, things went from bad to worse for the Blue Devils after the side conceded a penalty at the edge of the box just eleven minutes from time, with dangerman Jace Kotsopoulos stepping up for the spot kick. The ball would soon coast into the back of the net, with Kotsopoulos sending Birnstingl the wrong way to finish his eighteenth of the season quite comfortably.
The Blue Devils kept pushing men forward in a desperate effort to break through a resolute Guelph United backline, with the side’s no-quit attitude earning a late consolation goal through Leaford Allen deep into added time after some chaos in the box. It would be too late for an improbable comeback, however.
With the referee blowing the final whistle moments later, Guelph United’s first-ever League1 Ontario season officially ends with the team at the top, hoisting the trophy in jubilation at the conclusion of an exhilarating debut campaign. With the club scoring an astounding 47 goals after 14 games played with an average goals against of just 1 per game, the expansion side has set a high standard for ambitious newcomers.
It was also no surprise to see Jace Kotsopoulos handed the Finals MVP award, which arrives as a nice compliment to his golden boot.
With the 2021 League1 Ontario season now wrapped, there will be questions as to how many key Guelph United players will be back next season: club talisman Jace Kotsopoulos has consistently proven that he’s more than ready for a third stint in the CPL, with Tomasz Skublak and Svyatik Artemenko also having experience in the professional ranks, and Alex Zis surely beckoning for a chance in the top flight.
For now, however, Kotsopoulos is more than happy to help establish the city of Guelph as a soccer powerhouse – and he says the team will be confident should it play any CPL or MLS opposition in next year’s Canadian Championship, too.
I said a couple weeks ago to the team and to the whole franchise, we want to be winners and we want to start a legacy for Guelph where teams not only fear us but they know us as winners. That’s what we want to start here today, and we succeeded today. We look forward to the future.Jace Kotsopoulos
The Blue Devils will need to regroup after a tough end to an otherwise excellent campaign, with head coach Duncan Wilde knowing that his side is a consistent title challenger. It was a similarly tough night for the Blue Devils women’s team, who succumbed to a slim 1-0 loss to a Woodbridge Strikers side the rode a Serena Dolan goal all the way to the cup.
The PK was Jace’s 18th of the season not seventeenth (15 in RS, 1 in the SF, 2 in the final)
Quite right! He’s making them hard to keep track of!