The job of a goalkeeper is one of the toughest in the game. There is no room for error, and if one is made - the keeper is very easily the scapegoat. To paraphrase a well known Brazilian expression, the job is so lonely and unappreciated that not even the grass grows where a keeper stands.
To deal with the pressure, and to cope with the demands of the modern game, a keeper must be able to play well with their feet, have superior leadership and match IQ, and of course - be capable of stopping everything the opponent throws at them.
There were several top candidates for Goalkeeper of the Year in the 2019 League1 Ontario season - the men's award was decided by a single vote.
Meet your 2019 League1 Ontario Goalkeepers of the Year!
FC Oshawa came into their first League1 Ontario season in 2019 with a young squad, excellent organization, strong support and backing from a group of local clubs and their community, and some experienced people in the right places.
Head coach Ron Clarke, for example, had previous experience with Durham United FA and Toronto Blizzard in League1, while a well-known top performer in keeper Sarah Forde was named in goal.
Forde first came to the attention of League1 supporters after a brilliant 2015 season with the Woodbridge Strikers, posting ten clean sheets and named to the Mid-Season All-Star Second Team. Forde then signed professionally with Swedish club Husqvarna FF, before returning to sign with Oshawa in 2019.
Forde would be a major factor in helping Oshawa into a fifth seed position in the playoffs, and Clarke speaks highly of her effect on the team throughout the entire season.
"She was a true leader in the team," he said. "There were definitely games this season that she kept us in and eventually helped us win."
"She's a natural leader and motivator of players," Clarke added. "People want to win for her and that attitude becomes contagious. She brought that into our training sessions, our games, and certainly mentoring younger players off the field as well."
"Her distribution was outstanding. She even assisted on a couple goals this season with her long, accurate and immediate service. Also, on breakaways: she saved about five or six this season, and made the impossible look possible at times."
"I think her professionalism made a big difference," Clarke concluded.
"She brought that attitude of not being fazed by anything in the game."
Lucas Birstingl, Oakville Blue Devils (Photo: Kevin Raposo Photography)
Sarah Forde, FC Oshawa (Photo: F10 Sports)
Oakville Blue Devils showed why they are considered one of the top organizations in the league after taking all three regular season titles in 2019: men's, women's and reserve divisions.
A massive piece of the jigsaw for the men's team was their defensive solidity and organization, as Oakville posted the second best defensive record in the regular season with only eight goals conceded over 15 matches.
The team maintained their stingy defensive record through the playoffs, conceding only two goals in four matches and both of those in the second leg of the Semi-Final with eventual league champions, Masters FA.
In the end, it took penalties to undo the work of their brilliant keeper, Lucas Birstingl, who on the year claimed ten clean sheets during season, and three in the playoffs.
"We knew when we brought in Lucas that he'd be a key performer," said Blue Devils' head coach, Duncan Wilde.
"I think he's only lost in two games since he joined us. We had high expectations of him and he more than lived up to it. He was a great role model for our junior keepers and he put a great run of clean sheets together. He did very, very well and I'm very pleased for him."
"[Lucas] was with me as a junior player as a 15 year old with the Toronto Lynx and came to the U.K. with us on one occasion," revealed Wilde.
"Then he spent a period playing in Scotland, which was excellent for his development. His maturity, his understanding of the game, his ability to coach the back four and keep them in shape - these are all things that he learned overseas. He brought a professional attitude to every training session and every game and was absolutely vital for us."
Congratulations to Sarah Forde and Lucas Birstingl - 2019 League1 Ontario Goalkeepers of the Year!