In its inaugural season, League1 Ontario crowned Vaughan Azzurri as L1 Cup champions, defeating Sigma FC in the final 2-1.
It was a moment Man-of-the-Match Joseph Di Chiara and the rest of his teammates will savour for a long time.
"It's amazing," said Di Chiara. "It's about time we win something. We've had a lot of letdowns this year, and ending the season with a championship couldn't feel better."
Di Chiara scored the game winner in the seventy-seventh minute, capitalizing on a defence splitting pass into space before beating Sigma's Corey Marques.
Both teams started out with a strong focus on possession, keeping the ball on the floor and switching play out to the wings. Sigma using its fullbacks to great effect early on, while Vaughan focused its play through forward Dena Iezady.
Both teams had great chances to score early, but it was Sigma that found the back of the net first in the seventh minute through in-form forward Emery Welshman. Following his goal against TFC Academy in the semifinal, Welshman struck again, beating Vaughan on the counter attack before blasting the ball past Marques for a 1-0 lead.
Going a goal down sparked Vaughan to press forward, staying on top of the Sigma defenders and forcing them into fouls and mistakes. Vaughan came close to scoring on a few occasions, most notably in the twenty-second minute through Joseph Di Chiara. The midfielder's shot rooted Marques to the spot only for the ball to strike the post.
The remainder of the half was even with chances for both teams.
Coming out of the break, Vaughn’s move to bring on Andrew Ornoch and pair him with Iezady worked wonders. The two were easy targets for midfielders to find, particularly in the wide positions or with their back to goal holding-up play.
This move was key to coach Patrice Gheisar’s halftime adjustments in order to grab hold of the game.
"Dena's got the size, and he had a good first half, but he was on his own. He was very much isolated from the rest of the attack," said Gheisar. "Bringing on Andrew allowed us to hold up the ball, link our midfield to the attack and allow us to get behind the Sigma defence."
Constantly applying pressure to Sigma's back line finally paid off in the sixty-first minute through Iezady, the big man collecting the ball and creating space for himself before putting the ball past Marques to draw the game level.
Sigma pushed for an equalizer in the dying moments of the game, but it was Vaughan that controlled the remainder of the game and Di Chiara capping off a big performance with the winning goal.
Di Chiara is a player that Gheisar sees as truly deserving.
"The Man-of-the-Match was suited for him," said Gheisar. "He had a great game, worked hard and did a lot of little things that people won't notice, like tackling and winning balls."
"It's like a story with a perfect ending. He got the winning goal, a goal that came from a forty yard run. It just talks to the kind of person and type of player he is."