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RECAP: Guelph United downs Blue Devils 3-1 to win 2021 L1O Men's title, qualify for CanChamp

By Jonathan Cheng, 11/07/21, 10:30PM EST


In their inaugural season, Guelph United hoisted the championship as League1 Ontario men's division champions after a 3-1 victory over Blue Devils FC.

True to their attacking form all season, United added to their 42 regular-season tallies with a brace from captain Jace Kotsopoulos and a goal from striker Tomasz Skublak while limiting the majority of the Blue Devils' attempts on goal. Guelph maintained possession to start the afternoon at the Ontario Soccer Centre. The Blue Devils held strong with their central defenders blocking incoming crosses and preventing chances. Guelph kept knocking at the door and eventually someone answered after an uncharacsteric mistake in the box from the West division's best defence. Kotsopoulos, the league's leading scorer in the men's division, put the ball away into the net, opening the scoring after 19 minutes.

United kept throwing jabs to find openings in the Blue Devils' guard, and Dion Stergiotis found joy with a centering pass from the left flank.

Skublak muscled his way in, breaking through between defenders to wrestle for control, finishing his chance past Lucas Birnstingl in the 26th minute.

After scoring a brace in the semi-final, Leaford Allen struggled for chances as Guelph cut the Blue Devils support from the supply. He broke through in the 16th minute for a breakaway, but the proactive Svyatoslav Artmenko came off his line to meet the forward to poke the danger away. Otherwise, chances were fairly limited for most of the match.

Late in the match, Guelph earned a penalty after a foul just inside the area was given by Referee Scott Bowman. Kotsopoulos put the final nail in the coffin with 10 minutes to go, tucking his spot kick into the corner, as Birnstingl dove the oppposite way.

The Blue Devils threw players forward as they tried to cut the deficit, but Guelph maintained composure and held their shape to clear anything headed towards their box. The introduction of Cyrus Rollocks in the 2nd half to bolster the Blue Devils attack did not have the desired impact, as the team was missing that finishing touch for the majority of the game. The Blue Devils did earn a consolation goal in added time after Leaford Allen put away a chance after a scramble in the box.

Kotsopoulos earned the Finals MVP award to cap off his golden-boot season. Guelph United finished the campaign with a 10-2-0 record, and have earned a berth in the 2022 Canadian Championship tournament.

Two-Time title winners Blue Devils FC will have to recuperate after the heartbreaking loss while reflecting on a wonderful campaign with a 9-1-2 record. Their veteran roster and experienced staff, combined with top young talent will return from universities and colleges next spring,  should ensure a bounce-back season in the future.