A late game push by an undermanned Sigma Academy was not enough to overcome Master's Futbol Academy Saints last night in League1 Cup play in Vaughan.
The Saints won 2-1, and draw even with Sigma in Group B play. With four clubs within two points, all is still left to play for as the L1 Cup enters its final stages.
With many of its players away to their NCAA programs, Sigma's depth was tested last night. However, its young line-up illustrated the depth of ability Sigma has in the game's opening minutes.
Playing on the fast surface at the Ontario Soccer Centre, Sigma was forcing the issue early. They were especially good at finding space down the flanks. One such run created a corner in the game's eighteenth minute.
An in-swinger was perfectly placed to the back post, but MFA keeper Shane Lopez was up for the task. He dove bravely to his left to stop Tevin Wynter's blast. A rebound would fall straight to the foot of Luca Perez, but his shot couldn't beat Lopez either.
There would be no rest. Another rebound was gathered by Nolan Holdridge but his eighteen-yard attempt was tipped over for another corner. That corner was collected by Lopez and those back-to back-to-back saves swung the game's momentum one-hundred-and-eighty degrees.
It was as if MFA believed their keeper couldn't be beat. Suddenly, they pushed forward and just four minutes later a perfect cross from the far right touchline sailed forty yards from Alex Dimitriu's foot to Marcus Malcom's. The run was as perfect as the pass and it was a simple tap-in from there.
After five minutes of pressure, MFA would strike again. Only Malcom himself knows whether he was trying to cross the ball or chip the keeper, but either way a tight angle effort from nearly the left corner flag somehow managed to elude the keeper's fingertips, and find its way into the opposite corner.
Up 2-0, MFA tightened things up. Although Sigma would have lots of possession for the rest of the half (and through nearly forty minutes of the second half as well), MFA effectively kept them wide. Time and time again Lopez would prove brave in the box by gathering crosses under pressure.
With just five minutes to play it looked impossible for Sigma. However, substitute Lucus Ferritto had a different view. After stealing the ball at midfield he ran twenty yards straight at the MFA box. At the left hand top of the box he unleashed a driving, curling beauty that sailed perfectly into the left corner of goal.
It re-charged the game and set-up a frantic finish.
With Sigma throwing men forward and the MFA back-line tiring, it was once again up to Lopez. And, once again Lopez had an answer. No fewer than five times Sigma put dangerous balls into the box, and on each occasion they found the stable hands of Lopez, who steered MFA to a hard fought 2-1 victory.