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 fifth match-up of #L1OKickoff2019 Day Three, we will get a look at a men's 2018 Finalist and a completely reworked team from southern Ontario.
Woodbridge Strikers will host Windsor TFC at Vaughan Grove, Woodbridge on Sunday May 5 (5 p.m.).
Woodbridge Strikers have been right a the top of the men's division every year since joining the league, yet aside from winning several L1 Cups the team is still on the hunt for their first Championship.
Under long-time head coach, Peter Pinizzotto, the club has an excellent set of youth players coming through to complement a very strong core of returning players.
League1 - Every one knows that Woodbridge is a powehouse in the league, year after year. Who are some of the players in your stable that you can highlight for fans?
Peter Pinizzotto - "For us, it's very much the same as last year with some more experienced players coming back as well and some interesting young ones."
"We've had huge interest in the team and lots of players coming to trial."
"Some of the ones coming back are:
"Josh Parades-Proctor is a player that I think has a lot to offer and I think could go to the next level at CPL. Maybe it is because I work with him so much."
"Emmanuel Issac is another player that I thought would go to CPL. He had a very good year in 2018, scored a lot of goals for me."
"I've told these players to work hard and they may get another chance at that level, if a club is in need of a player immediately or with some new clubs coming in next year."
"Christian Cavallini, Francesco Sinopoli and Kyle Walton are the other main ones coming back. Matt Dos Santos is back as well. We have about six or seven coming back and the rest are new."
"Two of the new ones are goalkeepers: Tyrone Williams, who was the backup last year, and a kid by the name of Michael Markac. I think he is only 18 years old but he is a good one. He was very impressive in a friendly we had with York9. We now have two young goalies, whereas in the past we always had more experience in that spot."
"In the back we picked up Josh Kiselyov, he played for Vaughan last year and came on board with us as a left back. He's a good addition."
"We have another guy, Sam Gardner. He played in the States and is a centre-back. We have a more young guys as well, and we will see how they do."
"One other player to highlight is one that has been with our club for a while, and has been training a bit with CPL club, York9. His name is Isiaiah Johnson. He is only 17 and has played some League1 matches, but has improved and grown quite a bit. He might get signed to CPL down the road, but we will feature him this year."
"Adam LoFranco is another guy coming in with us and another one is Lucas Puntillo. We will have 11 or 12 U23s and that is a change for us. We have some promising U18s as well that will dress and play with us. We definitely have a lot more younger guys on the roster, for now anyway. It's a mix of young and some experience."
Windsor TFC comes back into League1 for their sixth season and it is with the intention of proving a point.
Under the new management of head coach, Ryan Mendonca, the focus is on presenting a united side that reflects the depth of talent in the Southern Ontario region.
League1 - Who are some of the top players you have coming through in the year ahead?
Ryan Mendonca - "I think for me things start with the keeper position. I was one myself. I think bringing back Kyle Vizarakis is massive for the squad. He has a lot of charisma and he can really lead through tough times. I coached Kyle at University level and he is just getting back into the training regimen this winter and spring after an injury. His dynamic with the guys is phenomenal. He also knows the league, the teams and level, and what is expected. He is mature enough to explain all of that to younger teammates now as well."
"Our backline is Tobi Taiwo and Rudy Popaj, who came over from Albania this winter. Toby was a rock for us at the University of Windsor last year. I think building from centre-back, I think we have a lot of pace and youth. Toby and Rudy are just a little over 20 years of age. They have intensity and composure between them, and are tremendous athletes and competitors."
"Bryce Phillips in midfield is one of our leaders. He has played in the group before and him coming back to this level just brings out his character and experience. He has a strike from distance, is slippery on the ball. He is one of the most unassuming people when you meet him and when he plays he just becomes an unbelieveable athlete."
"I think that one individual to highlight that people probably haven't heard a lot about is Tanner Paige. He was developed out of Eurostar Academy in London and he has some of the best feet I've seen. He's turned from a fullback to a central midfield or winger. He will undress defenders and if he finds his rhythm in the game, people will really sit up and notice."
"There have been hints of a few other players coming into the team, but I will leave that until we have it all confirmed."
League1 - You've always been right at the top of the standings but the Championship title has been elusive.
Will you be setting your sights on winning the title or more focused on other objectives in 2019?
Peter Pinizzotto - "I am the type of coach that hates losing. I try to put the best team on the field to win games."
"Everyone starts with zero points at the beginning and it is easy to point out objectives now about winning the league etc. It's also easy to say the objectives are about developing players. Our objectives are always both - to win and to develop the player. At this stage, players need to learn how to win. The time to develop kids is one thing, but when they reach this age they must get better in the tactical end and learn how to win consistently."
"We will always look to put a team on the field that can win the game. That is it. It won't be easy - everyone in the league has improved."
League1 - Windsor has had several iterations of the team over time, and as well through the coaching staff.
With your first season at the helm, what would you like to put into place and where are your objectives?
Ryan Mendonca - "I think change already started with the ownership group, who realized some missteps in the past. The first thing we did was be inclusive and open up opportunities to all players. We understand that different players in our team have different reasons for playing and what I am trying to teach the players how to have some perspective."
"The motivation for a 17 year old, is different than a player in his twenties, and again with a player that is in his late twenties. The goal is to have our guys integrate with a sense of perspective and this will foster a mutual respect."
"As a team, it's about changing the standard and demand of what we are looking for. We are trying to take focus away from individuals having the pressure of achieving on their own and instead we want the full side working for each other and what the unit can achieve."
"My objective for the team is simply about getting them to work for one another. When you have that culture of accountability, I think it becomes easier to move the ball and play. We want to be the protagonist in every game, dictating it with or without the ball depending on the opponent. We will look to find a way to define the game on our terms and have the tactical flexibility and perspective to do that."