Weekend Review: League1 Ontario Men’s Premier Division
A drama-filled weekend took place across the League1 Ontario Men’s division. There were games with massive playoff significance, as well as crucial matches in determining who will remain in the Premier Division next season.
Here is a look back at what took place over the weekend, and what it means for the rankings.
Guelph United, Vaughan Azzurri with big wins on Saturday
Saturday saw five games take place. In what was probably the biggest match of the day, Guelph United topped Electric City 3-0 in what was a huge result regarding the playoff push.
In what was a tight game overall: Jared Agyemang put Guelph in front with a smart finish. The visitors doubled the lead shortly after the restart, which sent them on their way. The result saw Guelph jump back into the playoff spots, as Electric City now has extra work to do in their last two games.
Vaughan Azzurri claimed an impressive 4-0 success over ProStars, solidifying their chances at not only making the playoffs, but receiving a first round bye. A three-goal first half showing did the trick, as the defending champions moved into second spot after the result. The ProStars had a chance to secure their Premier Division status for next year had they won, but they were outclassed by the visitors and ultimately fell short. They still have a chance to do so next week.
Alliance United – who had a thirteen goal haul two weeks ago – was pegged back at home to FC London, having to come from two down to earn a point. Two goals within the space of just two second half minutes saw them storm back to claim a draw against a spirited London side. In mind, the result did damage for Alliance’s playoff push as they fell out of the top six at the conclusion of the weekend. There are still two games left, but now they are the ones doing the chasing.
Sigma wasted plenty of opportunities in their match at home to Darby. They could have been up by several goals within the first 10 minutes. While they did take the lead via a penalty, Darby pushed back, scoring twice shortly after the restart to take the lead. Sigma did equalize, but could not find a winner. It ended 2-2, a result that did not bode well for either team.
Not only did Sigma fail to officially claim a spot in L1O Premier for next season, but their playoff hopes look all but over now as they are five points behind with two games to play. As for Darby, their stalemate, combined with other results, now means that they will officially compete in League1 Ontario Championship next season.
Finally, Master’s FA managed to hold off Unionville Milliken, winning 3-2 away in a bottom of the table clash. While not much is really left to decide for either side, the competition was still evident in this game. In just half an hour, Master’s FA stormed to a 3-0 advantage. Not to be outdone, the home side got a goal back before the interval, adding a second with 15 minutes to play. It would not be enough, as the away side claimed just their second win of the season.
Simcoe County Rovers, Burlington with crucial wins
Sunday saw three massive games take place, with five of the six teams playing for something if note.
In what many would consider the match of the week, Simcoe County Rovers travelled to Oakville to meet Blue Devils FC. This game did not disappoint, with the first goal coming just four minutes in. It was the only goal of the first half, with the second stanza bringing true drama.
After the Blue Devils responded early on in the second period, Rovers retook the lead at the hour mark. It forced the hosts to go back to chasing the game, and that would ultimately cost them. SCR scored a third in the last minute of normal time. Although the Blue Devils got one back instantaneously, a break-away goal deep into stoppage time sealed the deal as Simcoe County claimed a monumental 4-2 win away. They are now in fourth spot, just two points behind Vaughan and the Blue Devils.
Woodbridge Strikers went into their game with Windsor FC knowing a win would do them wonders regarding their hopes of staying in the Premier Division. Remarkably, the away side jumped in front after just seven minutes. Although Woodbridge did score an equalizer shortly after the restart, it was the best they got. The match finished 1-1, with the hosts losing a huge chance to solidify their Premier Division status. They did jump up to twelth in the two-year ranking, but still have more work to be done.
The weekend ended with Burlington SC hosting Hamilton United Elite. In what was a direct clash between teams fighting for a Premier Division spot next year, so this game was always going to be intense. The hosts took the lead shortly before halftime, only to double the lead immediately after the restart. Hamilton United did get a goal back with four minutes to play, only for Burlington to score a third in stoppage time from the spot, Augustus Oku completing the hat-trick.
Burlington prevailed 3-1, increasing their chances of a Premier Division stay going into 2024. Furthermore, Burlginton jumped into sixth spot and the last playoff spot.
Standings after the weekend, and what is to come
After an entralling weekend of play, the full table can be found below.
Scrosoppi remains alone at the top of the standings, and is on the cusp of winning the regular season. Vaughan Azzurri is still chasing them and is just three points back. While the Blue Devils also have 39 points, they have only one game left versus three for both Scrosoppi and Vaughan.
Simcoe County Rovers is just two points out of be top two, looking good for a playoff spot. Guelph and Burlington, on 35 and 33 points respectively, close out the top six. Alliance, Electric City, and North Toronto Nitros are all within three points of the final playoff spot, while Sigma still has a mathematical, yet unlikely, chance of finishing in the top six.
Here is a look at where things stand regarding promotion and relegation:
As mentioned earlier, Darby’s fate is now officially sealed – they will be in L1O Championship next year. That was the only thing confirmed this weekend.
While neither managed to assure a top 12 finish this weekend, both ProStars and Sigma are virtually safe in this race. A point in their next games will see them join the eight already confirmed sides in L1O Premier next year.
In essence, only three teams do not know which division they will be in next year : Burlington, Woodbridge, and Hamilton United. While Burlington and Woodbridge currently occupy the final two spots, Hamilton is only half a point behind with a game in hand on both sides. That could very well prove to be handy. With Woodbridge and Hamilton meeting on the final day, this could go down to the wire.
Going into the next week of play, midweek action sees both Vaughan Azzurri and Scrosoppi taking the field. Both will be favourites going into their respective ties against BVB IA Waterloo and North Mississauga.
Acdross the 10 games this weekend, the match of the week will undoubtedly be Blue Devils and Vaughan. In what is a repeat of last year’s final, these two powerhouses will jockey it out for playoff seeding in a match where no love will be lost.
Elsewhere, Hamilton United welcomes Alliance in a pivotal game for both sides and their respective ambitions. A similar game will take place later in the round as Guelph United hosts Woodbridge.
Sigma will welcome FC London to Tim Hortons Field as part of the last L1O-CPL double-header of the season. Following that game, Forge FC will square off against York United in the latest 905 Derby.
Playoff hopefuls North Toronto Nitros (home to St. Catherine’s Roma Wolves), Burlington (versus Windsor), Electric City (versus Unionville Milliken), and Simcoe County Rovers (at Darby) will also be part of the action.
In what will be the penultimate week of the regular season, expect more twists and turns to occur in this fascinating L1O season.
Header Image Photo Credit: Martin Bazyl / League1 Ontario