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Two Pivotal Matchweek 17 Matches In The Race For The League1 Ontario Men's And Women's Titles

By League1 Ontario staff, 08/19/16, 6:30PM EDT


With the 2016 League1 Ontario season entering its last lap, every point is of utmost importance for those teams battling at the top. 

This weekend features two matches that should help bring clarity to the race for both the men's and women's League1 Ontario titles.

Fri Aug 19: Durham United FA v Vaughan Azzurri @ Oshawa Civic Field, 8 p.m.

On the women’s side, the first place Woodbridge Strikers will be off until September 10 and will be looking closely at the two teams that could overtake their lead in the meantime.

Durham United FA: Only FC London and last year's champions Durham United can leapfrog Woodbridge for the women’s title, and Durham will be taking on this year's L1 Cup champions, Vaughan Azzurri on Friday, August 19 in a must-win fixture for Durham.

Although the Azzurri cannot catch the leaders in the women's division to take the title, they could play spoilers to Durham, and a loss would mean that the reigning champs will need to get a win in their last three matches.

The good thing for Durham is that they have gone three wins - one draw - one loss since July 10, and are riding the stellar play of Laura Gosse, who has four goals in her last two matches, and is currently third in the Golden Boot race with 11 goals.

Durham head coach Ron Clarke said that his team is focused entirely on getting three points from each of their last four matches.

He also mentioned that he expects to see more senior players in the lineup, compared to their last match where they were without five older players and relied heavily on a younger set.  

Laura Gosse (Photo: Martin Bazyl)

Vaughan Azzurri: As for Vaughan, they will likely feature the same lineup they fielded against FC London last Sunday in a match that demonstrated that although the Azzurri is out of contention for the 2016 league title, they have more than enough quality to make things tough on their remaining opponents. 

Outcomes: Durham United FA will have played 13 of 16 matches at the completion of the fixture against Vaughan, and will still hold a game in hand on division leaders Woodbridge Strikers. 

If Durham wins this match, they will have 27 points and this set of three matches remaining: Sanjaxx (home); Sanjaxx (away) and FC London (away). 

Woodbridge Strikers will play this pair of matches to finish their season, and already have 33 points in their column.: North Mississauga (away) and FC London (away).

Finally, FC London currently has 30 points from 12 matches and so has four matches to see out the season, featuring: Darby (home); Sanjaxx (home); Woodbridge (home) and Durham (home).   

Ultimately, if Durham can win against Vaughan and do the double over Sanjaxx, and Woodbridge and FC London win their upcoming fixtures, the 2016 League1 Ontario women's title comes down to two winner-take-all matches between FC London and Woodbridge and Durham in mid-September. If results pan out in this fashion, all three teams will enter that two match situation with 36 points. 

If Durham loses this match against Vaughan, Durham would need FC London and Woodbridge to lose all remaining matches, and FC London to beat Woodbridge on September 17. This would create a winner-take-all scenario in Durham's final match on September 25th vs. FC London.

To make the possibilities even more tantalizing, with all three teams so close in the standings head-to-head record and goals for and against could yet decide the champions in this very exciting run-out to the 2016 League1 Ontario women's season.

Vaughan Azzurri Women: L1 Cup 2016 Champions

Sun Aug 21: Woodbridge Strikers vs Vaughan Azzurri @ Vaughan Grove, 7 p.m.

On the men's side, we have a mouth-watering local derby and rematch of the 2016 men's L1 Cup between Vaughan Azzurri and Woodbridge Strikers. The Azzurri were 1-0 winners over their rivals in the Cup final, and currently have a two point lead over Woodbridge in the East standings.

Photo: Martin Bazyl

Vaughan Azzurri: Vaughan enters this match with a one win - one draw record since winning the Cup, and haven't lost since July 10.

Head coach Carmine Isacco said his team will field a different team compared to the one that defeated Woodbridge in the L1 Cup final.

One player that had an instrumental role in the Cup victory is Joseph Di Chiara. The Vaughan midfielder has played in six matches this season, and scored in their recent 1-1 draw to Toronto FC Academy, but he earned himself a red card in the process and will need to serve a three match suspension.

While Di Chiara's absence will leave a void, the Azzurri could have their League1 Ontario highest voted all-star, York University midfielder Jonathan Lao, back in the team.

Lao hasn't played since July 3 against Sigma, but has been working with the reserve team to get back to full match fitness.

Jonathan Lao (Photo: Martin Bazyl)

Woodbridge Strikers: After an outstanding start to their 2016 campaign, the Strikers have slightly dropped form of late.

Woodbridge has gone two wins - one draw - two losses since July 3, when they were leaders of the Eastern conference. They are now only two points behind Vaughan for first, and will need their players to be prepared to play spoiler on Vaughan's parade before the Azzurri's lead becomes unassailable.

This will be the Strikers' first match since August 7, which should mean the Strikers get back on the pitch fresh, and with a full complement of regular starters.

Outcomes: A Woodbridge and Vaughan derby is always interesting, but this one should be particularly fierce with only one spot at the top of the East division available for a team to move on to the League1 Ontario men's title final on October 5 at the Ontario Soccer Centre. 

Vaughan and Woodbridge will have both played 16 matches after this fixture, and if Vaughan wins then they would hold a five point lead heading into the remaining six matches.

Vaughan's end of season match order is a difficult one on the road: North Toronto (away); Durham United (away); Masters (away); Aurora (away); Toronto Skillz (home) and Kingston Clippers (home). 

If Woodbridge wins, the Strikers would have a slim one point lead on the Azzurri heading into a final set of six matches that is mainly home at Vaughan Grove: Toronto Skillz (home); Durham United (away); Masters (home); Kingston (away); Aurora (home) and North Toronto Nitros (home). 

In either outcome of this match, there is the variable of Durham United FA and North Toronto Nitros. Both of whom have a game in hand on Vaughan and Woodbridge, and can catch either of the top teams if there is a slip-up.