The League1 Ontario Cup kicked off the night of Wednesday June 11 as Woodbridge Strikers recorded their second 2-0 win against the Master's FA Saints this season, thanks to two goals from Stephen Almeida.
Just three days removed from their clash at Vaughan Grove, the two sides met again, this time under the floodlights at the OSA centre turf. With recovery time a question, both coaches opted to use their squad and blood some fresh faces, making multiple changes to their lineups from Sunday's encounter.
As was the case on the weekend, Woodbridge had the lion's share of possession and looked the more threatening early on. In the 12th minute, Woodbridge centre-half Kasra Dehdezi showed his range, picking out a streaking Almeida down the right with a beautiful pass, but the forward ran out of space.
Five minutes later Dehdezi connected with Almeida again, this time with Christian Cavallini playing middle-man as the Strikers cut through the Master's defence at will, but Almeida waited too long to pull the trigger and the chance fizzled out. Still, it was clear that if a goal was to come, it would be through the Woodbridge right flank.
In the 25th minute, Almeida took an in-swinging cross on his chest and, with one flick, pushed the ball onto his right foot and rocketed a shot towards the left corner. But for Aaron Trotman-Grant's goal line clearance, the deadlock would have been broken. It took just ten more minutes for that to happen.
From a free-kick, Ernesto Gaita floated in a majestic ball to the back post. The omnipresent Almeida rose and powered a header home to give Strikers' the lead, unfortunately taking Matthew Caldaroni with him. The Master's goalkeeper had to be helped off the pitch and was replaced by Shane Lopez.
Lopez was immediately introduced to Almeida's presence when the Woodbridge forward picked up the ball on the edge of the box, dribbled to his right and powered a shot past the new goalkeeper for a 39th minute goal. Lopez's first touch of the ball was to pick it back up out of the net.
Going into the changing rooms at half time, the Master's players must have wondered what it was going to take to get them back in this game. Two minutes after the restart, they had their chance. As Alexander Dimitriu received the ball in the box from a throw-in, Woodbridge defender Cameron Brooks clattered into him from behind, conceding a penalty. Brooks was incensed, believing that Dimitriu had used his hand to control the ball, but his protests were waved away by the ref.
With the opportunity to claw a goal back from the spot, Thomas Winski directed the ball out of goalkeeper Matt George's reach, but watched in horror as it crashed back off the post and clear. It was just one of those nights for the Saints.
As play resumed, thunder boomed and lightning crackled in the skies around the OSA centre turf with a promise of thick, heavy rain. For the Saints, time to rescue this one was rapidly running out. Their inability to retain the ball when going forward deprived them of critical chances, so when Trae Green swerved a shot at goal from twenty-five yards out, it seemed more out of frustration than conviction.
Woodbridge coach Peter Pinizzotto, on the other hand, was spoilt for options, bringing on Michael Holder and Week One MVP, Nicholas Chiarot. The pacey winger didn't take long to get in on the proceedings, capitalizing on a beautiful 75th minute through ball from Marko Kovacevic to get behind his man and fire off a shot only to be denied by the woodwork.
With no riposte from the Saints, the final whistle blew, and with that, the skies emptied, bucketing down the rain that had threatened throughout the second half.
Three points in the bag, Woodbridge takes an early lead in Group B, with their next cup match pitting them against local rivals Vaughan Azzurri on June 19th. Master's will have to wait until July 23rd for a chance to pick up points, when they go on the road against Windsor Stars.