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!
It's our first men's match-up of #L1OKickoff2019 Day Three, it's a two-time League1 title winner taking on an original league club that is bouncing back after a year of hiatus.
Oakville Blue Devils will host Durham United FA at Sheridan College, Oakville on Sunday May 5 (4 p.m.).
A perennial leader in the men's division, Oakville Blue Devils have two League1 crowns in their trophy cabinet and will doubtlessly be looking to add another in 2019.
Head coach Duncan Wilde always has a squad full of experience and quality, and with 2019 ushering in a changing of the guard Oakville is likely to feature some new talent as well.
League1 - With some of the familiar faces from previous seasons now out of the side, who are some of your players to highlight going into 2019?
Duncan Wilde - "Following the retirement of several senior players, the Blue Devils have been in a rebuilding mode over recent months."
"Long term captain Taylor McNamara and his brother Konner have both decided to hang up the boots, together with Stephen Ademolu and Anthony Doran."
"Anthony Novak has signed a professional contract with Hamilton Forge of the CPL and Filipe Vilela has moved on to find a new challenge with Aurora this season. Al James will also not return for 2019."
"Players to highlight are:
Raj Kahlon joined us following his college career in 2018 and had an excellent season. That was very important knowing that we faced this current re build for 2019. He is one of the most creative midfield players in the league and also chips in with a decent goal return which is always an added bonus.
Khody Ellis has been our MVP for the past 2 seasons and is a regular League1 All Star player. His ability on the ball together with his change of pace makes him a threat in every single game. He's been with the Blue Devils all four seasons to date.
"Lucas Birnstingl is probably the most experienced goalkeeper in our league following his experience playing overseas in Scotland. From joining us mid season last year he never lost a game with exception of the very final playoff game. His organization skills provide excellent guidance for our defensive players."
"Judah Hernadez has assumed the role of new club captain for 2019. Again one of the most experienced players in League1. His creative midfield role and mentorship for our young players is very important to our team chemistry."
"Zak Drake is a new addition for the Blue Devils in 2019. A championship winner last season with Vaughan and a former professional player in the USL, Zak will quickly become an important asset for our 2019 ambitions. He capacity to play several roles in the team again is an added bonus."
"Spencer Barber is a developing talent from within our academy system. He has been with us for several years and already has had some League1 appearances as a part of that development. A strong attacking player in the mould of an Anthony Novak. This can be his break out year in League 1 with continued hard work and desire."
Pickering Soccer Club's Durham United FA project took a break from League1 men's play in 2018, but is back in full force for 2019.
A new look squad with a new head coach in Paul Martin, Durham United will be a team that has the x-factor of both experience in the league and brand new quantity.
League1 - Durham is one of the original teams in League1, but of course with a year off and a brand new look - nobody knows what to expect of your side.
Who are some players to highlight?
Paul Martin - "Maleik DeFreitas is a midfielder that has played in League1 for a few years. He also played for me in my men's program for five years previous to that period."
"Jay Lee is a player coming to us from University of Toronto and also played for Waterloo. He was an OUA All-Star and joins our team up top. We are looking to him to be a major part of our attacking force for the season."
"We also have another player named Marcus Malcolm, who also played in League1 for a number of years, and played in Sweden in one year. He played with Masters and Unionville and is familiar with the level."
"Andrew Gordon is a player that has also been in League1 for some time and was an All-Star in his first year. He played in the Canada U20 team and had some tryouts in England with some EPL clubs. His career didn't blossom but we are hoping to reignite that and with the CPL here we hope he can show his pedigree."
"We have another player, Mitchell Wong, that used to play with Toronto Skillz. He goes to Cape Breton University, who won a national title in 2017 and I think went quite far in 2018 as well. He is another young player coming into our program that has had some League1 experience and we hope he has another good season this year."
"Our captain Terence Linatoc will not be playing in our opener but I will mention him as he is a very important piece. We are just waiting on his international transfer to come through. He is someone that played professional and for the national team in the Philippines. He played in my program as well so I have some experience with him and he is coming back to mentor and guide the team after the professional and international experience he has had."
"Geudei Djimi played for me for a couple years and then went to play in the second and third divisions in France. He had a trial in Sweden for a few months and then came back and signed with Alliance but didn't get a lot of games. We are hoping to make him a mainstay."
"Derek Mankwa played for me for a few years and played for Windsor for a couple years as well. He's an older player, 27 years of age."
"Dre Gordon comes to us from Sanjaxx and was one of the main players at Seneca College in recent years. I had the pleasure of coaching him there and when he was a young player. A very good defender."
League1 - A rebuild situation is not one you have faced in some time at OBD.
With this in mind, what are your objectives on the season?
Duncan Wilde - "The last major rebuild we undertook was in 2015."
"Back then, we made the transition from the USL/PDL (Former Toronto Lynx) relocating to Oakville and joining League1 Ontario as the Oakville Blue Devils FC."
"We were successful with that process and the core of that squad has brought two League1 Championships, an Inter-Provincial Championship and qualification for a National Championship during the past four seasons."
"These are challenging periods and it is vital that we bring in the correct mix of youth and experience to maintain our Blue Devils culture and desire to win football games."
League1 - It's obviously a new beginning at Durham and at the same time you have the benefit of knowledge in the club and with some players that have been in the league before.
Where do you put your ambitions and objectives for the year ahead?
Paul Martin - "Your objectives are always to be competitive and defining that can be difficult. People see competitive as making playoffs and we see that as reasonable - that is our goal."
"We know it's not going to be easy. The league is getting a lot better, and players and teams are getting a lot better. With that being said, we want to still develop players. I came in her to develop a reserve program as well and we've left no stone un-turned in beginning that task. We're building a U21 and U17 program as well, and our goal is to showcase some of them as we establish a base."
"Although Durham has been in League1 for four years, we took a year off and it is like a full restart now. It's a fresh start and our basic goal is to be one of the best clubs, reaching beyond our borders and community, and enriching the lives of those within it."
"We reached outside and inside the community to look for players. We invited back players from all across Durham Region and neighbouring communities. We're really reaching out to try and develop a strong program that is competitive in years to come."