In the week ahead the 2015 men's L1 Cup will move forward to the quarter-final round, with a series of highly intriguing match-ups on offer.
In the first of the four matches, Woodbridge Strikers will have home pitch advantage when taking on Windsor Stars at Vaughan Grove on Sunday July 19, 7 p.m.
Woodbridge didn't allow more than one goal against in their two group stage matches vs. Durham United and Sanjaxx Lions, and in league play the Strikers are hot; although fifth in the League1 Ontario standings, they hold one or two games in hand on teams above them, and are only four points out of second. Woodbridge has the stingiest defence in League1, conceding less than .5 goals per match.
Windsor Stars are sixth place in League1 - just behind the Strikers - and although their goals against average is one of the worst in the top ten, the Stars conversely have one of the best strike rates in the league, averaging nearly three goals for per match.
The southern Ontario representatives have a staggering four players in the top ten scorers list (Michael Pio, 8; Bret Holmberg, 7; Noah Pio, 7; Stephen Ademolu, 6), so quarter-final #1 would appear to be a classic battle of offence vs. defence.
In the second contest, Sigma F.C. hosts Kingston Clippers on Wednesday July 22, 7 p.m. at the Hershey Centre. 2014 finalists, Sigma is currently third place in League1 standings, and squeaked through the Group B "Group of Death" at the top of the table, in spite of losing their first match to the League1 leaders, Oakville Blue Devils, who were ultimately eliminated in the group stage. In terms of goalscorers, Sigma is led by Alex Halis (5) and Evan James (5), and rarely concede more than one or two goals per match.
Kingston Clippers lost their first L1 Cup match to Vaughan Azzurri 4-1, but then defeated Masters in an entertaining 4-3 match. Relying on the understanding between striker duo Ryan McCurdy and Eric Koskins, the eastern Ontario reps always threaten their opponents' net, but with 19 goals against in league, and seven against in the Cup - the Clippers can have difficulty keeping things clean at the back.
Home and away form could also factor, as Kingston has only won one match on the road in all 2015 competitions. However, that one away victory was the match vs. Masters - their most recent Cup appearance...
Quarter-final #3 takes place Wednesday July 22 at Victoria Park Stadium, Brampton (8 p.m.), with Pro Stars F.C. taking on Durham United F.C. In head-to-head competition Durham defeated Pro Stars 2-0 in the season opener, but the Stars have really begun to shine in recent weeks and cruised through Group D play with a 2-1 defeat of Windsor, and a 5-2 away win over Toronto FC Academy. The only blemish was a week ago when Pro Stars were crushed 8-1 by Vaughan Azzurri in league play.
On the other hand, Durham lost their group stage opener to Woodbridge, but rebounded to smash Sanjaxx 6-0. The black and gold team from east Toronto has been a force to be reckoned with this season, but is suffering injuries to some key players at present. Tough one to call...
DUFC: TAYLOR LORD
Finally, in quarter final #4, League1 second place team Vaughan Azzurri hosts fourth place ANB Futbol on Thursday July 23, 7 p.m. at McNaughton turf, Maple. The defending L1 Cup champions, the Azzurri will obviously be looking to repeat in 2015, and their form has been consistently strong - undefeated in 13 matches in all competitions speaks for itself.
However, one of the most exciting teams of 2015 has certainly been King City academy, ANB Futbol, which currently sits in fourth place in the league table, but holds a game in hand on opponents above and is only three points out of second place.
The ANB vs. Vaughan match pits league golden boot leader, Vaughan's Joey Cicchillo (11 goals), against one the league's most exciting young talents; ANB's 15 year old Adonijah Reid is playing against players that are on average 6-7 years older, but he is third in the golden boot race with nine strikes to his name. Fingers crossed for a back-and-forth goalfest in Maple!