Matchweek seven of the League1 Ontario 2016 season produced several performances and results that amazed spectators, and brought further focus to the race for first place in all divisions.
For matchweek eight, a variety of match-ups are set to tantalize, with several teams looking to regain ground and others simply trying to keep ambitions alive.
Below are eight matches for matchweek eight to keep a close eye on...
Photo: Martin Bazyl
FC London v Woodbridge Strikers (Fri June 17, 7:30 p.m. @ German Canadian FC Stadium, London)
Second place in the west division after their 1-0 loss to Sigma FC last weekend, FC London heads home to the natural grass surface and consistently large home support to play host to the third place team in the east division - Woodbridge Strikers.
Strikers will be looking to rebound from a 2-0 loss at the hands of Durham United FA in matchweek seven - a first home loss in many, many weeks.
This match should be a tactical showcase as well, with Woodbridge's typically stingy defence sure to provide a difficult defensive block to breach for FC London's possessive focused game.
Summary: If Woodbridge can hold tight defensively, they should be able to entice FC London forward and open up space for the counter. However, if FC London can bring back the tempo and command in possession that evaded them in their performance last week, an exhausted Woodbridge may begin to leave gaps defensively and lose the energy needed to go forward.
Windsor Stars v Toronto Skillz (Fri June 17, 8 p.m. @ University of Windsor, Windsor)
Currently in third place in the west division, Windsor Stars had a huge announcement mid-week with their new satellite status and affiliation with Toronto FC Academy. One would expect the squad and local supporters will be on an all-time high, and bolstered into a weekend performance to match their new status.
However, coming off their first point in League1, visitors Toronto Skillz will be happy to play spoiler on the day. In fairness, Skillz has shown an ability to play with the best in the league, only dropping points due to mid-match dips in focus and a weakness to set pieces.
Summary: If Toronto Skillz head coach "Tiger" Fitzpatrick has improved his players' mental presence over the course of a full ninety minutes - mainly their focus on set pieces - this pacey and talented Skillz side could come home with a first win at the expense of the west division's third place holder.
Photo: Martin Bazyl
Kingston Clippers v Darby FC (Sun June 19, 4 p.m. @ Queen's University, Tindall Field, Kingston)
Kingston Clippers women took a week off in matchweek six for the women's division, and got some much needed rest after a strong start for this 2016 expansion side. An away point against division powerhouses Woodbridge Strikers, as well as a home win against 2015 L1 Cup holders North Miss, showed this Kingston team has got game.
Darby FC may have wished they'd taken last weekend off, suffering a heavy loss to Woodbridge Strikers on a day when the wind made it impossible for the yong Durham region team to build from the back - a stylistic hallmark of the team in the season's early going.
Summary: A rested Kingston has games in hand on teams ahead of them in the table, and a win would go a long way to solidifying the team's strong start. Darby FC players have one of the biggest challenges in the game in front of them - can they get back into action with even more determination and resolve, putting last week's result behind them, or will they bring the mental hangover into this match?
North Miss v Vaughan Azzurri (Sat June 18, 6 p.m. @ Hershey Centre 2, Mississauga)
Two strong teams in the women's division, North Miss and Vaughan Azzurri have put in encouraging performances thus far in 2016 but have not been able to get the number of results needed to move them into position.
Vaughan is arguably the in-form side of the two, showing very well last week in a 3-0 result over Sanjaxx Lions, two 0-0 draws with Woodbridge Strikers and Durham United FA, a narrow 2-1 loss to FC London, and an opening weekend comeback draw with Aurora United FC.
Meanwhile, after two draws and a win in their opening three matches, North Miss has posted three straight losses in recent weeks. However, in last weekend's tilt against a well-tuned Durham United side, North Miss showed their quality in the late going, pinning Durham back and controlling play, but unable to get a goal.
Summary: If North Miss can pick up where they left off with Durham last week, Vaughan will be forced to defend for long periods and will not enjoy their typical dominance of possession. On a bouncy pitch at Hershey, Vaughan may find it difficult to settle the ball and find a rhythm, but if they come out dynamically and set the tone - they should be able to turn the performance into another win.
Photo: Martin Bazyl
Masters FA Saints v Oakville Blue Devils (Sat June 18, 9 p.m. @ L'Amoreaux, Scarborough)
In what should be an extremely action-packed fixture, fourth in the west Oakville Blue Devils meets seventh in the east Master's FA Saints at L'Amoreaux in Scarborough.
The current L1O title-holders, Oakville has had a on-again off-again beginning to the season, but after coming off a 2-0 win over Pro Stars last weekend the Blue Devils have reason to be optimistic. The club has moved into fourth position, and although there is considerable ground to be made up on the top two - it is within sight.
Masters has been a difficult team to pin down, as a number of the top teams have found out. Despite losing six of their first seven league matches, Masters has come-back to within a goal of taking points in three of them. The Saints have also toppled Sigma FC in L1 Cup action.
Summary: A puzzling combination of exceptionally talented individuals and a losing record may define Masters on paper, but the academy has shown it has enough in the tank to give any team reason for worry. Oakville's physical presence and attack-minded style will serve to make this one a high-octane affair, and with 2015 Golden Boot winner Felipe Vilela getting his third of the season last week - the Blue Devils have their biggest threat hinting at a run of form. Expect fireworks if Masters come to play from the opening whistle, or a blowout if Oakville do the same.
North Miss v North Toronto Nitros (Sat June 18, 9 p.m. @ Hershey Centre 2, Mississauga)
North Miss and North Toronto have more than a name in common.
Both can brag a deep panel of young, talented players, with North Miss still retaining a core of players that won a junior national title in recent years, and North Toronto full of University of Toronto varsity players due to the club's affiliation agreement.
Further, both teams are coming off decent starts to their first League1 Ontario seasons. Although Nitros have managed three wins and one draw, North Miss have two wins and two draws. Both sides have played the sides with the best early season records in their respective divisions as well.
Summary: North Miss had a big 3-1 win over the ever dangerous Toronto FC Academy last weekend, while North Toronto were forced to share points after a last minute goal from Kingston Clippers. The question will be if the Nitros lingering disappointment has more of an impact than North Miss' confidence after last week's win. A mental challenge for both, and guaranteed high-paced entertainment for the neutral.
Photo: Martin Bazyl
Aurora United FC v Woodbridge Strikers (Sat June 18, 4 p.m. @ Sheppard's Bush, Aurora)
Aurora United women lost 4-1 to division leaders FC London last weekend in London, but the scoreline did not indicate their quality. Levelling the score just before the hour mark was Canada U20 midfielder Sarah Stratagakis, and it was only in the very late stages that Aurora lost energy and succumbed to London on their home grounds.
Woodbridge Strikers decided to make a lot of noise last week, running up an astounding 14-0 result over newcomers Darby FC. Striker and 2015 Golden Boot winner Jessica Lisi posted seven goals in the rout, while Canada WNT pool player Alyscha Mottershead ran up a hat-trick.
Summary: Back on home grass, Aurora will look to improve their final twenty minutes to a complete match performance. If they can do so, such a performance should result in a point at least. After such a massive win last weekend, it's hard to say which Woodbridge will come out - one with a hunger to add even more goals to their column, or one complacent from a match where everything went their way.
Toronto FC Academy v Durham United FA (Sat June 19, 1 p.m. @ Kia Training Grounds, Toronto)
Finally, second place in the east meets sixth place in the west as Durham United men travel to Downsview to take on Toronto FC Academy.
Toronto FC Academy has been inconsistent in terms of getting results, but their performances have inspired optimism from all quarters. The usual rank and file of quality young prospects certainly have the talent, but the question remains week to week if Stuart Neely's young charges will implement the lessons learnt the week before.
Durham United has been one of the stories of the season, only dropping points against Vaughan Azzurri in matchweek five, and toppling FC London, Woodbridge, Oakville, among others, in either L1 Cup or league competition. The team has experience together, talent throughout, and the physicality and maturity to go the distance.
Summary: With a weather forecast suggesting stifling heat and humidity, look for the team that has the most comfort in possession to dominate. It will be a hard day for the team playing too much defence. Durham's average player age and maturity is greater than Toronto FC Academy's, but past history has suggested that when the Junior Reds figure out how to play with high tempo and defend with character - watch out!
Tag(s): News Mens Womens Aurora FC Pickering FC Kingston Clippers Master's Futbol North Mississauga SC Oakville Blue Devils ProStars FC Sanjaxx Lions Sigma FC TFC III Vaughan Azzurri Windsor TFC Woodbridge Strikers Pickering FC Kingston Clippers North Mississauga SC Sanjaxx Lions Vaughan Azzurri Woodbridge Strikers East West North Toronto Nitros Toronto Skillz FC FC London Aurora FC Darby FC FC London 2016 Archive June