The Vaughan Azzurri men's side survived a late surge by Master's FA Saints to win 4-3 on Saturday afternoon at McNaughton Park in Maple, ON. With the win, the Azzurri move into first spot in the Eastern Division, at least temporarily, pending Sunday's results.
Vaughan got off to a bright start with Maro Kovacevic (7') and Jonathan Lao (10', 44') putting three on the board for the hosts in first half, before Jarred Phillips (51') made it four just after the break.
But Masters were not out of it. New signing Allando Matheson pulled one back in the 43rd minute and then goals by Camarri Johnson (75') and half-time substitute Darryn Commisiong (77') made it a tense final 15 minutes for all involved.
"I have told these guys we are a very good group of players but we actually can prepare to be great," said Masters technical director, Junior Groves.
"We're going to erase this [event] because although it was a near draw, we actually could have won the game based on the number of chances and possession we had."
Mario Kovacevic (Photo: Martin Bazyl)
Jonathan Lao (Photo: Martin Bazyl)
Vaughan head coach Carmine Isacco could have reasonably expected the result was out of sight when Phillips made it 4-1 early in the second half, and a stream of substitutions suggested the home side were looking to finish out the day with everyone getting a slice of action.
"I need to trust players, so it may be a reflection on my coaching, which is in turn a reflection on them, their mental preparation, and their ability to adapt to situations quickly," he said.
"They shouldn't have came back into the match, it should have been five or six for us. We need to be more professional with our approach to everything, and that starts with me."
Groves lamented the late start his side got to the match, but focused on the reasons why his team is consistently coming into matches a little flat.
"Too many goals allowed today" he said. "And I know why the inconsistency is happening. It's our training regimen as related to the player's employment elsewhere. Some of these players have to look after families."
"So now I've just said to them if we're going to be this good why not just be great?"
"It just takes that little bit more commitment. I'm not going to go home happy or pleased. They can be better. We should have done what we did in the latter part of the game right from the kickoff. They got early goals and it's because we gave them up. When we scored, we worked for it. We can be great when we work."
With two goals on the day, Vaughan's Jonathan Lao had reason to be happy, but the midfielder was also bothered by the late collapse.
"We knew it wasn't going to be easy, we tried to play our style of play and hopefully not let in a lot of goals," he said.
"It was a tough one today. I think we're a little too complacent. Regardless of the score, we can't be complacent like that."
The Azzurri are back in action on June 19 (7 p.m.) when they travel to Terry Fox Stadium in Brampton, where they will square off against Pro Stars FC.
Masters FA Saints will also cross over to play a Western Conference opponent when they host the reigning title holders Oakville Blue Devils on June 18 (9 p.m.) at L'Amoreaux Sports Complex in Scarborough.