Inaugural League1 Alberta Champions Crowned in Weekend Showdown
Having been put together – at least publicly – within the span of a couple of months, the first ever season of League1 Alberta came to a thrilling conclusion on Friday as the top two teams from each division faced off in a winner-takes-all match.
The L1AB season – promoted as a shortened ‘exhibition series’ as League1 Canada tests the waters for a full fledged league – featured five teams in each division, each playing eight matches total from mid May to late July. Over the course of these eight match days, both the men’s Calgary Foothills FC and the St Albert Impact women’s side showed the rest of the Canadian D3 soccer landscape their prowess.
Both squads ended their seasons with impressive records with the Foothills men going 6W-0L-2D while the Impact’s women went 7W-0L-1D, winning their respective leagues and a berth in the finals. Joining them however were the Calgary Blizzard Women’s Soccer Club while St Albert’s men qualified for their final with 12 points.
Winter Comes Early
Kick off at St. Albert’s Riel Field under a patchwork of clouds brought with it a fierce match between two dominant sides as fans from both came to cheer on the girls at play. A back-and-forth momentum in play would keep it level until a haphazard cross into the box at the ’38 by the Blizzard caused chaos and confusion amongst the Impact back line, eventually leading to the defender kicking the ball into her own net.
It would only take two minutes though for the Impact to respond as a free-kick from nearly centre pitch would soar into the danger zone, onto the head of Grace Mwasalla and into the bottom right corner behind the Blizzard keeper. Late opportunities by both sides in the dying minutes would ultimately result in nothing as after 120 minutes, a 1-1 draw would head into kicks from the spot.
🟠🔵: ✅ ❌ ✅ ✅ ❌ ✅ ✅
🔵🟡: ✅ ✅ ❌ ✅ ❌ ✅ ❌
It would be the Blizzard’s very own keeper, Lauren Houghton, who would end up playing the hero as on the seventh round of kicks. Not only would she bury her attempt past her Impact counterpart, but would save the attempt by Eden Bretzer in stunning fashion to claim the league title for her side.
Champs Keep The Crown
As for the men, they decided to keep it nice and simple for their 7PM kickoff at Broadview park in Calgary as the regular season champs were able to easily claim the final’s title too. Within the first ten minutes, the Foothills were able to stake their claim in the lead as a careless foul on the Foothills’ Moe El Gandour in the penalty area led to a converted PK and a one-nil Foothills lead.
The Calgary-based side would strike twice more as with a brace by Charles Nana off of a beautiful feed in the first half and then a wonderful shot past the Impact keeper in the second half would mark the final nail in the Impact’s coffin. Although the Impact would mount a few offensives of their own, none would be enough to beat Liam Collens as the Foothills would hold out for the club’s second ever league title – the first coming from the 2018 USL2 season.
With the success of League1 Alberta, from the quality of soccer it fielded to the community support and the streamed games, there is little doubt that League1 Canada views this exhibition series as a massive success and that we will be seeing L1AB return in 2024, possibly with even more clubs.
Though there are no confirmed details as to the 2024 season, those will most likely be coming in the weeks and months to come. Until then, the Foothills and the Blizzard both return to Calgary having made history as the inaugural League1 Alberta champions.