With the 2017 League1 Ontario Men's Final on October 20, 2017, we are less than a week away from finding out who will be crowned this year's men's champions!
Let’s take a closer look at the attacking players from both sides ahead of a final that is destined to be a tight encounter. Which player(s) could make the difference?
We'll start off with the west division champs, Oakville Blue Devils, who recorded a league-wide best 18 wins and 56 points. The Blue Devils managed to tally 62 goals throughout the course of the season led by an attacking quadrant of Matthew Santos, Anthony Novak, Khody Ellis, and Filipe Vilela. These four players combined for 66 per cent of Oakville's total team goals. If Oakville is to get on the scoresheet on October 20, look for it to be through one of these players.
Mathew Santos (Photo: Martin Bazyl)
This year the Blue Devils have lined up slightly differently than previous campaigns, with Filipe Vilela at times dropping in behind Mathew Santos in more of an central attacking midfield type role. This has allowed the 6'3" man to get on the ball significantly more and play provider for his teammates with his exceptional hold-up play. With the pacey Anthony Novak and Khody Ellis stationed on the wings whipping in crosses, and taking on defenders, Matthew Santos in turn has been able to gather a team-leading 14 goals. Santos' ability to use both feet has caused havoc for defenders and his movement often occupies both centre-backs, freeing up space for his teammates.
A recent addition to the squad is Stephen Ademolu - formerly of Windsor TFC Stars - and he has provided crucial goals for the Blue Devils from an attacking midfield position. His late goals versus TFC III and Pro Stars gave Oakville the necessary points to clinch the west division. Coming off the bench, Ademolu is averaging a goal every 90 minutes. Expect his experience to be called upon by the Blue Devils in this final.
Stephen Ademolu (Photo: F10 Studio)
Now let’s take a look at the men's east division champions and 2017 L1 Cup winners, Woodbridge Strikers, who managed to record 15 wins and 50 points.
The Strikers tallied a modest 46 goals (eighth best overall in L1O) through 15 different goal scorers. One of the main reasons Woodbridge has found success this year is through their ability to manage games from minute one, combined with their perennial league best defence that has only conceded 18 goals (five of which came in the same game). Stats show that when Woodbridge score first, they have gone on win on 12 out of 13 occasions. If Strikers can snatch a lead, the Blue Devils may find it difficult to break them.
It has been the core of Christian Cavallini (LW), Dylan Carreiro (CAM), and Emmanuel Issac (RW) that have brought fluidity to the Woodbridge attack this season. Operating from a deep-lying, sometimes free role, Carreiro has been integral to the Woodbridge offence. This season we've seen him pick up the ball in the centre of the pitch, get his head up and deliver the killer ball time and time again.
Dylan Carriero (Photo: Martin Bazyl)
A fellow L1O All Star in Cavallini operates to his left who always fancies his chances in a one vs one scenario. On the opposite flank is where the workhorse Issac is stationed, whose pace may cause the Blue Devils some trouble. Issac's highlight goal in the 2017 L1 Cup Final demonstrated his ability to come up with the goods on the big stage.
It is unclear who head coach Peter Pinizzotto will start upfront as his number nine, though his options have both averaged incredible goal to minute ratios. Luca Baldassarre boasts a team leading nine goals, averaging a goal every 68 minutes.
He will be battling a former League1 Ontario title winner and TFC II player Marco Nunes - the 2016 Canadian College Player of the Year - for the start, who himself is averaging a goal every 76 minutes.
Christian Cavallini (Photo: Martin Bazyl)
Both players offer something different to the Woodbridge attack and it will be interesting to see how the player coming off the bench will impact the game.
The last meeting between these sides on the final matchday of the season ended in a scoreless encounter, though the game was not short of opportunities.