After our first two women's #playoffs2019 Quarter-Finals last night - Woodbridge and Oakville Blue Devils emerging as 3-0 and 2-0 winners over OSU and Darby - we turn our attentions to the final two Quarter-Final match-ups this weekend.
1) Vaughan SC (2nd) v Alliance United SC (7th)
Vaughan took it to the brink in 2019, missing out on first spot by a point, and finished the season with the best defence in the league: only 10 goals conceded in 13 matches, with only two narrow losses in the mix.
The squad put on a show this season under the stewardship of new head coach, Jorden Feliciano. New faces mixed with some of the ones we've been used to seeing suit up for the Azzurri to make a potent mix of youth, experience and team chemistry.
Former McMaster player Jessie Faber led the way for the north GTA club, scoring 15 goals in 12 appearances, with Kiyani Johnson and Colleen Beesley knocking in seven and five goals respectively.
Leah Pais emerged from the Vaughan ranks this season as a genuine young talent coming through, her pace and ability leading to nine goals in ten appearances.
Katrina Haarmann did a great job between the sticks, allowing only ten goals in 13 appearances.
All of the above represented a core of the Vaughan side that was so irrepressible in the regular season, along with Courtney Douglas, Teniola Odetoyinho, Christina Morelli, Claudia Piazza, and the very skilled Sami Falkenstein.
Alliance United arrived as an x-factor in 2019, registering a first season in the women's division, but very quickly established themselves as a new force from the east side of the GTA.
Alliance beat 2018 champions, Durham United FA, and the 2018 finalists, Woodbridge Strikers, in the early stages. In their first match, they showed their class - dropping a very tight result to eventual 2019 regular season leaders, Oakville Blue Devils.
The team's goalscoring was led by player-coach Laura Gosse, a figure well known to followers of League1 for her ability and goal-scoring exploits in the last four seasons. Alongside Gosse, new faces were introduced by head coach Tommy Bianchi, representing a deep talent pool coming out of the Markham area.
The team spread around the minutes well, with high-minutes players such as Miranda Reiger, Vanessa Pasqualitto, Jessica Friend and Emily Andrus standing out from the pack.
But a big question remains about Alliance following disappointing late season results - how many key players have they already lost to college and university?
Previous result: A late season 10-0 away result in favour of Vaughan puts the competitiveness of this match-up in question. But is it possible Alliance already had their focus on the post-season at that point and still have a few tricks up their sleeves? We'll soon find out...
Sat Aug 3 (4 p.m.) Vaughan SC v Alliance United @ North Maple Regional Turf, Vaughan
Sun Aug 11 (7 p.m.) Alliance United v Vaughan SC @ Mount Joy Turf, Markham
4) FC Oshawa (6th) v FC London (3rd)
The last of our Quarter-Final offerings gets up to speed on Sunday, and this should be a burner of a match at the Oshawa Civic Centre Stadium.
Yet another new face on the block in 2019, FC Oshawa recovered from a rocky beginning to show genuine class in their ranks as the season progressed.
Highlight goals arrived from Sona Makulova and the side began to turn around results early in June, eventually beating Woodbridge SC and Vaughan SC, dropping only a narrow loss to FC London, and drawing the 2018 champions, Durham United FA, in their last match of the season. It seems head coach Ron Clarke has the side hitting form at the perfect time.
Megan Arsenault led the side in goals with seven in her column, while Makulova arrived just in behind with six to her name. Genuine class was evident at the other end of the pitch as well, with former professional Sarah Forde in between the sticks for the Oshawa side. From there the team had minutes divided up fairly evenly between 15 odd players, demonstrating that Clarke has assembled a talented group that can fill in for each other without the team losing a step. This versatility should bode well for the side in the post-season period.
FC London is a team that arrives in the 2019 playoffs with serious expectations.
The club has won the league every year of it's involvement, with the exception of 2018 - when a home defeat to eventual champs, Durham United FA, must have caused wide-spread heart-break among players and supporters alike.
Led by the impossibly talented Jade Kovacevic - League1 MVP for three years running, the 2019 regular season Golden Boot winner, and fresh off a professional stint in Italy with Roma CF - FC London is a tight-knit side that can kill opponents with their passing game and organization.
Head coach Mike Marcoccia goes into the 2019 post-season knowing that his side have had some stutters - home defeats to Woodbridge and Oakville were very uncharacteristic - but perhaps a 7-1 final regular season result over Alliance United suggests the team has saved their best for last?
The team has quality in all positions - the outstanding Julia Benati, Marisa Oliveira, Daniella Strano, Meghan Scott and Morgan Blair just a few coming to mind - as well as some younger attacking players that have shown they can step up. Can the team banish memories of 2018 with two strong performances against one of the team's top new additions?
Previous result: A 1-nil win for London at home - clearly not a lot between these teams.
Sun Aug 4 (7 p.m.) FC Oshawa v FC London @ Oshawa Civic Stadium, Oshawa
Sat Aug 10 (7:30 p.m.) FC London v FC Oshawa @ German Canadian Club, London