2016 League1 Ontario Champions: FC London (Photo: Dianna Lee)
As we reach Matchweek 23 and 24 - the final two matchweeks of the 2017 League1 Ontario season - all divisions look to go down to the wire with a set of just over half a dozen matches to decide who will hoist silverware.
One of those matches occurs in the women's division in Matchweek 23, and as luck would have it the schedule pits the top two teams against one another.
2017 North Mississauga SC Women (Photo: Martin Bazyl)
With this final match remaining in their schedule, North Miss is on 39 points and will host a Matchweek 23 fixture that should go a great distance to establishing the ultimate winner of the women's division. North Miss still has an outside chance to put London under pressure for the title, needing a result and a bit of luck to go their way.
The Mississauga side will host FC London on their home turf at Hershey Centre, Mississauga on Saturday September 30 (7 p.m.) and must get a win to draw level on points and ahead in the standings on the head-to-head tiebreaker rule.
North Mississauga put themselves in good stead for this situation by going to London earlier in the season and drawing the Southern Ontario powerhouse 2-2, which means a win in this second and final match-up between the two would force a tiebreaker scenario in which North Miss would ultimately hold advantage.
Still, FC London are not likely to feel under great pressure, as even a draw in this match is enough for them to repeat as League1 Ontario champions, and even if the Londoners fail to achieve that result - they have a match in hand over North Mississauga against tenth ranked side Darby FC in Matchweek 24. A point in this final match would, of course, negate any advantage North Miss could create by winning in Matchweek 23 and forcing the tiebreaker scenario.
(Photo: Martin Bazyl)
Players to watch:
North Mississauga has gone through quite a change in their roster in recent months, as a number of their most productive goal-scorers etc. have left for University/ College environments.
Still, North Miss have been able to hang on and gather points for the most part, albeit without a major goal threat - something that has been evident in their last two matches - and this has in large part been due to a remaining core of experienced starters.
Midfielder Cathryn Rogers, defenders Kira Bertrand and Christina White are all either current or former League1 Ontario All-Stars, and with the addition of goalkeeper Vanessa Fiore the group provides a strong spine off of which a rather young team of prospects can now pivot.
Kira Bertrand (Photo: Martin Bazyl)
Bertrand, White and Fiore have proven to be a strong central defensive trio in 2017, keeping a whopping nine clean sheets in regular season play.
Fiore has allowed only 13 goals against in 16 appearances, while Bertrand and White top the team for minutes played with 18 and 17 appearances each. Their contributions are key to the team keeping a strong defensive base.
Ahead of these four primarily defensive minded players plays Cathyrn Rogers, whose box-to-box midfield work is capable of keeping the team organized through the midfield third and providing an attacking threat. Rogers has the third highest minutes in the team, and seven goals on the season - four of those goals scored in her last four matches.
Jade Kovacevic (Photo: Martin Bazyl)
FC London has also lost a number of players to post-secondary programs, but the team is still largely intact and has numerous high-profile players that will be difficult to shut down.
The team's consistency has been the gold standard of the league, with only two losses in 18 matches and 13 goals conceded. Meanwhile, their strikers have been firing in goals for fun; the team has posted 71 goals in regular season play - an average of just under 4 goals a match for in contrast to their only .72 goals per match against.
These goals have not all come from one source, but there is one player that is undoubtedly the biggest contributor.
Defending League1 Ontario Golden Boot holder Jade Kovacevic has been a goal machine since London joined the league in 2016, with her 2017 season already a massive achievement. Kovacevic is again leading the Golden Boot race with 34 goals in 18 matches - eight more than her final 2016 tally - almost good for two per game.
Ashley Campbell (Photo: Martin Bazyl)
And Kovacevic is not the only one in the London side with gold in her boots. Former teammate with the Canada U20 program, Ashley Campbell, has eight to her name, while midfielder Marisa Oliveira has seven. Current Canada U17 player Kaila Novak has contributed six, while Chelsea Zavitz and Nicole Neilsen have contributed five and four goals respectively. London can find plenty of options in their team to get the important finish.
The team is anchored in midfield by talisman Denise Fortin, a classic deep-lying central midfielder that keeps the team organized and the tempo ticking in possession. This will be Fortin's last season with FC London, and one expects the 2017 L1 Cup Finals MVP to be on top-form in this must-win fixture.
At the back-end of the pitch, the team is also well-anchored. Goalkeeper Emily Gillet is among the top keepers in the league with a record of eight clean sheets in regular league play.
(Photo: Martin Bazyl Photography)