After a successful League1 Ontario Women’s All-Star match last week, we are set to enjoy the best players the men's divisions have to offer. The Western All-Stars will face off against the Eastern All-Stars on Wednesday, August 3 at 7:30 p.m.
Leading the way for the East is Woodbridge Strikers head coach Peter Pinizzotto and Durham United coach Sanford Carabin. On the West side, we have FC London’s Mario Despotovic and Sigma FC coach Bobby Smyrniotis.
A total of two goalkeepers, six defenders, six midfielders and four forwards will represent the West on Wednesday. Let’s take a closer look at the 2016 League1 Ontario Western All-Stars...
Matt Zaikos (Photo: Martin Bazyl)
The Western All-Stars can be thankful that they have two experienced and reliable shot-stoppers in this match between League1 Ontario’s two divisions.
Starting in goal is Sanjaxx Lions keeper Matt Zaikos. The Sanjaxx keeper and Brock University MVP in 2015 lead the OUA and CIS in saves last year. So far this season, he has posted a respectable 2.70 goals against average (GAA) in 10 games.
Behind him is FC London’s Anthony Sokalski. The tall keeper is an alumni from NCAA Division I school Marist University. While at Marist, Sokalski posted 8-24-1 record in two years at the school, but also had a 1.78 GAA 33 games from 2012-2013. Before he attended Marist, he was at Binghamton University.
These two should give the Eastern All-Stars a difficult time in front of the goal come Wednesday.
Eric Crawford (Photo: Martin Bazyl)
The West All-Stars had three players on their initial list, Toronto FC Academy’s Rocco Romeo (14GP), Windsor TFC’s Jamar Kelly (11GP) and Oakville Blue Devils’ Al James (11GP). All three will unfortunately not be able to play on Wednesday. League1 Ontario officials and coaches have selected Sigma FC’s Jerome Smith and North Mississauga’s Shawn Brown to replace the three defenders.
With Zaikos and Sokalski in goal, the West will also have some of the best defensive players the league has to offer. In front of the goal, we have Sokalski’s FC London teammate, Stephen Al-Sayed. Al-Sayed (11GP, 2G) is an import from Scotland, and was part of fourth division side Stirling Albion’s youth team. He made the move to London, and also features for Division I school, University of Maine-Fort Kent. While at Maine, Al-Sayed led his team with 14 assists in 25 games last season, his freshman year.
Up next for the West are two of Sigma FC’s top defenders, Kyle Walton and Jerome Smith.
Walton (13GP) has spent the last two years at the University of Western Illinois, where he appeared in 22 games for the Fighting Leathernecks. Prior to joining Western Illinois, Walton played for Lincoln College in 2012, where he scored five goals and recorded five assists.
As for Smith, he has had trials with Uruguayan side Nacional while he attended Clarkson Soccer Club. This season for Sigma FC Smith has played the full 90 in every game he started. He also netted a goal against Durham United FA on July 9.
The strong defensive presence continues with Oakville Blue Devils defender Eric Crawford. Crawford (10GP, 1G) brings a lot of experience with him to this Western All-Star team. He is an alumni of Northeastern State University, where he was named to the 2012 NSCAA All-American Third Team, won five first team all-regions awards, and two All-MIAA First Team nods. He also helped lead a Northeastern back-line that allowed the fewest goals in a season in school history, not once but twice - 2012 and 2013. Not to mention, he was the school’s captain in 2013.
Completing the back-line is North Mississauga Panthers defender Shawn Brown. Brown (9GP, 2G) has seen his playing career take him around the Canadian Soccer League, where he played for the Serbian White Eagles, SC Waterloo, Toronto Croatia and York Region Shooters.
Joey Melo (Photo: Martin Bazyl)
The initial selection for the West midfielders had Sigma FC’s Chris Nanco (9GP, 1G) and Kwame Awuah (6GP, 1G), Toronto FC Academy midfielder Kota Sakurai (10GP, 1G), and Pro Stars' Erick Olazabal (14GP, 5G). Unfortunately, these players will be unavailable for the All-Star match on Wednesday. League1 Ontario officials and coaches have selected Sigma FC’s Christian Samaniego, Pro Stars’ Gil Hong, Windsor TFC’s Noah Pio and FC London’s Randy Ribiero as apt replacements.
Leading the way in the middle of the pitch for the West is former Toronto FC player, Joey Melo. Melo was a part of the club's inaugural season in MLS in 2007. He would make five appearances for TFC in their first season, and later move on to other clubs from around the world. After stops in the Isthmian League Premier Division and the CSL, Melo is now with North Mississauga. So far this season, Melo has five goals in 13 games.
Next to Melo is his Panthers teammate, Lee Victor Massunda. The North Miss midfielder featured for the UOIT Ridgebacks, and in his two seasons there, appeared in 34 games and scored recorded four goals and one assist. This season Massunda has four goals in 13 games so far, good enough for third on his team.
Following Massunda is Sigma's Christian Samaniego. The Southern Connecticut player led his team with seven assists and was an All-Northeast-10 Conference selection last season. Since 2013, Samaniego has featured in 42 matches, recording one goal and 10 assists. Now, the Toronto native has featured in 11 games, and has been a key player in Sigma’s already strong midfield.
Next we have Pro Stars midfielder, Gil Hong. Hong (4GP) has seen his talents take him all the way to Hungary and sign with First Division side Gyori ETO FC's youth team. Now, Hong will be entering his sophomore year at Columbia University, after appearing in 10 games last season.
Hong recently joined his Pro Stars teammates in July, and has already played every minute since joining the Brampton team.
Continuing the impressive lineup is Windsor TFC's youngster, Noah Pio. Pio (14GP, 4G) will also be entering his sophomore season, but with the University of Windsor. Last season saw the freshman appear in 15 games and tally five goals in the process for the Lancers. Pio also spent time with the Canadian U-18 team in a development camp last year.
Rounding up the midfield for the West is FC London captain, Randy Ribiero. Ribiero has spent the last five years captaining the St. Francis Xavier University team, and had one goal and two assists in 13 games last season for St. Francis. In 2015 he was named to the AUS (Atlantic University Sport) All-Star Second Team. He is also a product of the Toronto Lynx academy. This season Ribiero has been a defensive rock for London, but he's also contributed up front as well. His four goals in 13 games so far is good enough for third on the team.
Hilliard Serrao (Photo: Martin Bazyl)
The initial League1 Ontario West All-Stars selection had FC London's Elvir Gigolaj (13GP, 13G) and Windsor TFC's Michael Pio (12GP, 9G) in the list. Unfortunately, they cannot attend the match on Wednesday. League1 officials and coaches have selected Pio's teammate, Jumbo Iyowuna, and Sanjaxx Lions' Hilliard Serrao to replace them.
Leading the way for the West are three of the top scorers so far this season. First we find last year's League1 Ontario's joint-Golden Boot winner (along with ANB's Adonijah Reid) and Men's Division MVP, Filipe Vilela. The Oakville Blue Devils' star player led his team's attack last year, and caused headaches for opposing defenders, scoring 21 goals in the process. He has kept up an impressive strike rate this year as well with his 11 goals in 13 games.
Next to Vilela is Sigma FC's target man, Leaford Allen. Allen has been a very strong force for a Sigma team that is pushing for their first League1 Ontario Championship. Allen is a former University of Windsor striker, and played 13 games in 2014, tallying three goals for the Lancers.
In 2015, Allen was named to the League1 All-Star Second-Team while he was with Pro Stars, netting nine goals in the process. This year Allen joined Sigma FC, and he has continued his dominant form of play. He leads the league with 13 goals in 15 games thus far.
Along with Allen is his former Windsor Lancers teammate, Jumbo Iyowuna. Iyowuna is a very athletic and physical force for his Windsor TFC team, and the same can be said about his play with the University of Windsor. His eight goals last year, were good enough for sixth in the OUA and his seven a year before put him in ninth overall among university players in Ontario. Iyowuna has 11 goals in 11 games this season.
Finishing off the Western All-Stars is Sanjaxx Lions striker, Hilliard Serrao. Serrao previously played non-league football in England for Knaresborough Town A.F.C and Glasshoughton Welfare, both in the English ninth division. He is now a player-coach for Sanjaxx, and has done well in his first year with the Lions. He has four goals in 10 games so far this season.
Felipe Vilela (Photo: Martin Bazyl)
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