Rush Canada Soccer Academy lifted the Men’s U19 Reserve Division trophy after a tense 1-1 match and dramatic penalty shootout against North Mississauga at the Ontario Soccer Centre on Sunday.
Goalkeeper Boris Berezhnoy saved a penalty for Rush as his side edged out a 3-2 shootout, where two North Mississauga kicks also hit woodwork.
Rush had a penalty of their own saved by North Mississauga goalkeeper Michael Williams earlier in the game. Patrick Aponowicz was the spot-kick taker after Harkaran Sahota sprinted down the right flank to chase a lobbed ball and crashed down in the box under Julian Srock's challenge. Williams then saved to keep the match scoreless.
North Mississauga came close to taking the lead in the 40th minute when Mateo Caride fired a missile from the top of the box, but the shot rattled off the post.
They would eventually strike gold just four minutes later. The Panthers sent bodies forward for a free kick from the halfway line, and Athol Munro floated a deep cross towards the far post where an unmarked Federico Hjorth Pellegrineschi set up a simple tap-in for Gabriel Cocoli to open the scoring.
North Mississauga kept chasing for the dagger to increase their lead and stop any potential Rush comeback, and they came close to 2-0 in the 68th minute when Caride nodded a ball for Jalen Phillip to run on to in the box. His pass awkwardly bounced past two Rush defenders and to the feet of Cedric Ngounou, but Berezhnoy stepped up to cover the space and parried the ball away for a corner.
Rush equalized with 13 minutes of normal time remaining as Aponowicz was on hand to redeem himself for his earlier saved penalty. He calmly controlled the ball around falling players in the box and buried the leveller.
Minutes before the penalty shootout and deep into added time, North Mississauga’s number 10 Michael Campoli forced a diving save out of Berezhnoy with a low free kick destined for the corner. Rush’s Kenan Hodzic was then sent off after receiving his second yellow card of the match for shoving an opponent, in what would be the last act of the second half.
Sahota and Salvatore Zappala converted their penalties for Rush and North Mississauga respectively before Williams saved Miles Gruebner’s attempt to the left.
Rush regained the lead in the shootout when Lucas DiMarco hit the post. After Michael Maslanka, Tomas Scorzafave, and Oliver Barta put their shots into the net, Rush Canada were crowned as champions when Caride’s shot hit the crossbar to finalize the result.
Despite finishing at the top of table in the regular season, North Mississauga were unable to repeat their 5-0 blowout victory in June and finish as runners-up in 2023, with Rush Academy overcoming the division’s most potent attack and limiting them to a single goal.
It was a second consecutive Men's U19 final for Rush Canada Soccer Academy, who have now won their first L1O title. North Mississauga meanwhile showed great improvement after finishing with 11 less losses compared to their previous summer. They will look to carry that momentum into 2024 as they challenge for silverware.