This year's 2019 League1 Ontario season has been all about the untried: the debut clubs and underdog sides that have more than held their own; the reworking of top clubs that have seen many of their star performers snatched up by Canadian Premier League (CPL) sides and other professional organizations around the globe.
Here are four storylines to watch as League1 Ontario nears an end to the 2019 regular season:
1. Alliance United's Men's Meteoric Rise
Coming off a successful debut men's season in 2018 that saw a trip to the playoffs, Alliance has shown last year's success was no fluke.
AUFC, led by head coach Ilya Orlov, has taken his squad to the top end of the table.
Through 11 games they sit one point behind Vaughan Azzuri and Oakville Blue Devils, respectively, who both have a history of success in League1.
The key to the success of the club known affectionately as "Orange Crush"?
Alliance leads the league in defence with just four goals against and an incredible nine clean sheets.
2. Underperforming Contenders?
With only four games remaining for the majority of men's teams in the playoff hunt, several perennial contenders are at risk of not making the final round.
FC London is one of those sides. They finished atop the regular-season standings last season but have struggled as of late, winning only two of their last six matches. They currently sit in ninth place, two points back of the eighth and final playoff spot.
Two-time League1 Cup winners, Woodbridge Strikers, are another on-the-bubble team to watch out for.
Known to be one of the top forces in Ontario, Woodbridge has had major troubles keeping the ball out of their own net - a statistic the club will be uneasy with after several years of owning the best defensive record in the league. The Strikers currently sit in 10th place, four points back of the final playoff spot.
Now to the teams currently on the inside of that eight team post-season group.
Darby FC and North Mississauga Panthers are two teams that must be closely followed.
Just like fellow east-GTA club, Alliance, Darby's men's season has been largely fruitful, as they find themselves in seventh place, tied with west-GTA counterparts North Miss for the final playoff spot but ahead on goal difference.
Notwithstanding a mouthwatering clash between Darby and North Miss that is looming (July 26, 8 p.m., Whitby Soccer Centre, Whitby), Darby will be relishing the opportunity to secure a playoff berth as two of their final three matches are against teams outside of the playoff picture. The Panthers will be happy to see three of their final four fixtures are at home in Mississauga.
These sides are competing for a spot in the top eight, which would see them seeded and put into a home and away format through the quarter finals, semi-finals and then - if all goes smoothly - advancing to the league championship, the winner of which will earn entry into the 2019 Canadian Championship.
3. 2018 Women's Champs, Durham, At Risk In Playoff Logjam
With only two games remaining for each team until the women's League1 regular season comes to a close, the fight for a playoff seed intensifies.
Durham United, two-time winners of League1 and the 2018 defending champs, currently sit ninth - tied with FC Oshawa and Woodbridge on 16 points but third of the trio based on the first tiebreaker of total wins.
A crucial match-up tonight against Hamilton, who must win tonight to have any chance at making the post-season, could very well decide the fate of both sides.
A draw gives a slim but still mathematically possible top-eight finish for Durham, but they would need results elsewhere to go in their favour.
Alliance is in tough for their final two games, as they are up against second-place Vaughan on Sunday and third-place FC London next Sunday in their season finale. Two-time winners, FC London can seal their playoff hopes with a win against long-time rivals, Woodbridge SC, on Saturday.
4. Successful Additions For Women's Division
L1O's new women's sides in 2019, Ottawa South United Force, FC Oshawa and Alliance United, are all still very much alive in the hunt for a playoff spot.
OSU have shown that their potent attack, lightning quick transition game, and well-organized defence is more than enough to take on top sides. However, a spell of poor form at end of June and July cannot be repeated with two key matches coming up against tough sides, De Ro United (July 20, 1:30 p.m., Quinn's Pointe, Ottawa) and Woodbridge Strikers (July 28, 1:45 p.m., Vaughan Grove, Woodbridge), that are still in the hunt for playoffs.
Alliance is another 2019 revelation in the women's division. Currently fourth in the league standings - the last of the top seeded positions - Alliance has shown defensive solidity and a mixture of experienced and developing players can be an effective strategy for success. The team will have arguably their hardest job of all in the final two matches, meeting powerhouse sides Vaughan Azzurri (July 21, 2 p.m., Mount Joy, Markham) and FC London (July 28, 2 p.m., German Canadian Club, London).
Last, but certainly not least, the trio of 2019 new teams is completed by FC Oshawa, who are currently just inside the playoff cut-off.
Oshawa is currently tied on points with Durham United and Woodbridge Strikers. With a single win more than Durham United FA, Oshawa has the advantage over their neighbouring club.
After beating Woodbridge Strikers 2-1 earlier in the season, Oshawa has seventh spot by the fingernails due to the second tiebreaker in regular season standings - head-to-head record.
Durham and Oshawa will face each other in the final matchweek (July 26, 8 p.m., Kinsmen Park, Pickering), possibly with all the marbles going to the winner.
Tag(s): Home News 2019 Archive July Men's Premier Alliance United FC Aurora FC Darby FC FC London Master's FA North Mississauga SC Blue Devils FC OSU Force ProStars FC Sigma FC Toronto Skillz FC Unionville Milliken S.C. Vaughan Azzurri Windsor TFC Woodbridge Strikers Women's Premier Aurora FC Darby FC DeRo United FC Pickering FC FC London Hamilton United North Mississauga SC Blue Devils FC Unionville Milliken SC Vaughan Azzurri Woodbridge Strikers Alliance United FC FC Oshawa OSU Force Pickering FC