The 2017 Womens #L1OAllStar match between League1 Ontario All-Stars and Canada Games' Team Ontario had to go to a penalties to decide the winner after the score remained all square at 1-1 for full-time.
Team Ontario would pull off the victory after a 6-5 penalty tiebreaker ultimately handed them a 2-1 result.
The match started with the 2017 League1 Ontario (L1O) All-Stars looking to catch Team Ontario off-guard with long balls to striker Arielle Kabangu of West Ottawa SC, but the provincial team was able to steer her away from goal time and again.
Arielle Kabangu (Photo: Martin Bazyl)
Aurora FC and Canadian U20 player, Sarah Stratigakis, had a great chance in the thirteenth minute to put her side on the board, but her free kick from the top of the box was denied by the crossbar.
The L1O All-Stars lined up in a 4-3-3, with Vaughan Azzurri midfielder Sarah Wong in the holding position and FC London’s Jade Kovacevic in the middle next to Stratigakis.
FC London's Ashley Campbell took up position at right forward while Aurora FC's Victoria Pickett covered the opposite wing.
The L1O All-Star backline was anchored by West Ottawa's Vanessa Gilles and North Mississauga's Kira Bertrand, while the full-back roles were the province of Durham United FA - teammates Madeline Iozzi and Tamara Brown lining up at left and right-back respectively.
Sarah Stratigakis (Photo: Martin Bazyl)
Team Ontario would utilize a 4-2-3-1 formation, featuring seven L1O players in their starting XI.
Team Ontario's cohesiveness from recent training for their upcoming Canada Games tournament was evident and more than made up for the age gap between the two sides; Team Ontario has a U18 cutoff while most League1 players are former College and University products.
Team Ontario caught out the L1O All-Stars on a quick counter, as Emily Amano crossed in a ball from the left wing to forward and Woodbridge Strikers player Nicole Kozlova (22’), who finished a right-footed volley under the diving L1O keeper Patricia Koutoulas from Aurora FC.
"We think Nicole is quite a special player," said Team Ontario head coach Bryan Rosenfeld.
"[She is] a bit of a sniper. She always seems to get on the end of things or in the box to finish."
"The quality that she brings into the team, we always know she can create something and be dangerous."
Nicole Kozlova (Photo: Martin Bazyl)
After going down early on, L1O head coach Bill Markos of Unionville Milliken SC decided to move 2016 League1 Ontario Golden Boot winner Jade Kovacevic to the lone striker position.
Having Kovacevic up front made a difference right away. The FC London striker would find a ball in the box at the thirty-fifth minute, but Team Ontario keeper Kayza Massey came out strong and punch the ball clear. Kabangu would find the rebound, but her club teammate at West Ottawa, Olivia Cooke, denied the opportunity with a sliding block.
The L1O All-Stars had several chances in the second half to level the match, but Team Ontario's back-line was able to stand strong against their more experienced opponents.
"The truth is that the players managed the game and as the game grew the players grew as well," said L1O assistant and FC London coach Michael Marcoccia.
Jade Kovacevic (Photo: Martin Bazyl)
It took some time, but Kovacevic (79’) did find the back of the net after Team Ontario backup keeper Quinn Josiah misplayed a ball that dipped in front of her off a direct free kick from the top of the box.
"It was a long distance shot that I think on a different day, the keeper would've saved," said L1O assistant and West Ottawa coach Kwame Telemaque.
"But we had lots of chances in the game that didn't go our way, so it was kind of luck of the bounce."
After 90 minutes of play couldn't decide a winner, the match headed straight to penalties. Ontario’s Maliah De Rosario ultimately stepped up and found the back of the net to give the provincial team a 6-5 in the tiebreaker and a 2-1 win on the night.
Team Ontario and Unionville Milliken SC captain Samantha Chang was presented with the SoccerX.com MVP award. Chang was able to dictate the flow of the game with ease and was seen everywhere on the pitch making tackles, maintaining possession, and initiating several dangerous attacking moves.
"It's a great honour, it's an even greater honour based on who were playing and the type of players we were playing against and also the players I’m playing with, so props goes to them because I couldn't do it alone," said Chang.
Samantha Chang (Photo: Martin Bazyl)
With over 14 international tier players on the pitch to begin the match, and 600+ supporters in the stands to cheer them on, the 2017 League1 Ontario Women's All-Star match was a welcome showcase of the quality in the Ontario game and the community support it enjoys.
"I think it just adds a lot to what we see in the development in Ontario, development in the young players throughout [the] Ontario Player Development League [OPDL] and then also, looking at League1 - the importance of the quality of their future opportunities, of where they can play,” said Rosenfeld.
"At the end of the day I think things are going very well and we have a bright future."
"It was definitely a great experience," confirmed L1O and Unionville assistant Glen Faulknor.
"Any time you work with girls like this, they just enjoy the game and they can play."
"This is showing that the country is going in the right direction, that the province is going in the right direction," said Markos
"Ontario is in a great spot at the moment. The level of talent coming through this province is fantastic and it is a pleasure to watch it, it's a pleasure to be a part of it."
"I don’t think we've ever seen a better crop of players coming through this province than what we have right now."
(Photo: Martin Bazyl)