The sixth League1 Ontario season rolls out this weekend, featuring 15 matches across both men's and women's divisions. Come and see if you can pick out future Canadian stars!
In the second men's match of Matchday 2, we return to Quinn's Pointe, Ottawa as a strong force from the north-east of the province host a completely rebuilt side out of the north-west GTA.
OSU Force will host Aurora FC at Quinn's Pointe, Ottawa on Saturday May 4 (5 p.m.).
OSU Force's debut season was 2018, when the club took a homegrown approach to building the side and put a young group of OSU graduates.
Results weren't always forthcoming, but several players were highlighted for the individual capacities and a coaching staff of Peter Mapendere and Jay Bhindi return for 2019 with a youth and year of experience to build from.
League1 - The first year in the league is always a learning experience for teams, especially when a young group is utilized.
What players are you bringing to the league this year that you'd like to highlight?
Jay Bhindi - "Barou Junior Mbuyamba is a 2000 born player that was with us last year in League1 and has been with the club for quite a few years at the youth level. He is a player that was invited to the CPL/ League1 Combine and impressed there, making it to the final game in the afternoon. I spoke with some of the CPL coaches there and he stood out and impressed, and he is a player we are looking to showcase this season. Junior was also part of the 2018 League1 Ontario All-Stars selection and we are looking forward to him continuing to improve."
"Ali Jabara is another 2000 born player, a centre-back. He played with us last season before leaving to Acadia University. He came through our youth system and was a regular in the team until he left for University. He won Rookie of the Year in Acadia and he will be a crucial part to the team."
"Tony Mikhael is another player that was key for us last year and will be again this season. He attends Carleton University and played some meaningful minutes on their road to Nationals and was voted MVP by this team."
"Danny Asaaf is a 2001 player and was with Toronto FC Academy for some time. He is an OSU player since five years of age. Committed to Carleton for the fall and is a strong striker. We have high hopes for him this year."
"We brought in a new keeper as the one from last year went back to Alberta. Our new keeper is Horace and has been the starting keeper at PLSQ side, FC Gatineau, for the past four years. He's a '93 born player, brings experience and leadership to the group. He will help with the young team that we generally field."
Aurora FC's young group impressed in 2018, but struggled to get a consistent run of results.
For the season ahead, the club has rebuilt the team, bringing in Michael Aquino and Alex Sabatini from Canadian Championship winning College side, Humber College, to lead the black and yellow.
League1 - Your success at Humber College is well known, with multiple national titles to your name at the College level.
Who are some of the players you're planning on bringing through at Aurora now?
Michael Aquino - "First off, it's a team that myself and coach Alex Sabatini have taken over as a duo and we are leading a rebuilding process."
"I think we've only brought three to five players from last year's team, many of which are younger and will play U21 with some important League1 minutes as well."
"One of our key signings is Filipe Vilela, who comes to us from Oakville. I think he is well known to the league as a previous Golden Boot winner in 2015. We are looking to him for that veteran leadership and hopefully to put some goals in the back of the net for us. He's a key player coming in."
"We also have Michael Fayehun, who has played for a variety of League1 clubs. He comes to us from Unionville and bring experience to the centre-back spot. Both of these players have been named our captains and we look to them for leadership qualities. Fayehun is a player we know well as he played for us at Humber College and won a National Title with the program in 2018."
"Another player to keep an eye on is Niklas Bauer. He recently graduated from Laurier University, and I believe he was a USports All-Canadian in his time there. He has some League1 experience at various clubs and has a final year. I believe he scored 15-16 goals in University play, so he has a nose for goal."
"Connor O'Callaghan comes to us from the University of Guelph and was an OUA All-Star there. He's a centre-back as well and so we have some very good experience in the middle of the team."
Alex Sabatini - "Some of the youth coming through have very good pedigree but are young."
"Max Ferrarri is a 2000 born player that was with Aurora last year and I believe he scored six or seven goal. Very good in and out of possession and has an excellent mentality. Max will also be attending Humber College next year so we're excited to have him."
"Nicholas Machado is another one to highlight. He was a 2018 National Champion with Humber College and was also a member of the TFC Academy as a youth and had a look into the Canada U20 program as well."
"Aziaiah Reid is part of the Canada National Futsal program and a previous member of the Canadian National program as a youth. He as as well was a member of our National-winning side at Humber."
"The final player we will mention is Parm Singh. He's a 2001 born player and was in the top three of minutes in the team last year. He's not only in grade 11 but he will be attending Humber next year. He has great pedigree and just needs a bit more experience, but great potential."
League1 - After a debut season where you prioritized homegrown players but at times struggled to get the results, will you stick with that approach or are 2019 objectives taking a new direction?
Jay Bhindi - "We're sticking with the same theme of trying to stick with OSU homegrown players as much as possible. We want players that have come up through the club to be an example to the ones that are coming up behind them. It's a commitment to the pyramid of OPDL in every age group and then transitioning into League1."
"We will probably be the youngest team in the league again with 18 and 19 year olds. We hope to get more results this season as last year there were quite a few where we dropped two or three points in games we were more than a part of. We'd like to finish up around mid-table. We need to be realistic with our model as compared to some of the bigger clubs in the league."
"We have a number of players with a year of League1 under their belt so we are looking to them to use that experience and help bring us forward in the league table."
"We've looked to reach out the overall Ottawa market and show how the pathway with League1 to CPL is a legitimate and proven route to professional for those that have those ambitions. We are still trying to bring everyone on board, but that is the goal."
"We want to provide the League1 franchise for all Ottawa-based players of this type and are trying to do the same on the women's side. It will take time to achieve this purpose but we keep chipping away at it."
League1 - This is a new project and a rebuilding one at that in Aurora.
How have you adjusted your objectives on the season to meet that reality?
Michael Aquino - "I've been involved at Aurora for seven or eight years, in several different capacities."
"From the perspective of a team objective, it is definitely to finish in the top four. We have a high goal having rebuilt the team, but I think we are positioned to compete very well. If the stars align, we hope to finish in the top four."
"With League1 and CPL coming together, we want to see if we can push some players on into CPL. Our club has already had some success in that regard. From a club perspective, we offer the whole pathway - from OPDL, League1 and hopefully into CPL environments."
"We want to compete very well this season and make everyone in the club - players, coaches, administrators - very proud of this team and find that pathway to their objectives."
Alex Sabatini - "As coaches we are looking for our own pathway to growth. We expect we will be challenged every game and with this being the highest level available outside of the CPL, we feel it will challenge us and complement our experience at the collegiate level."
"It is exciting times for everyone involved in the game as I think we can all see this professional pathway opening up. There are so many opportunities and League1 is the stepping stone to those top levels."