The fifth League1 Ontario season starts with a bang this weekend, featuring 14 matches across the men's and women's divisions.
In Game 11 of Matchweek 1, it's over to the Ontario Soccer Centre in Woodbridge to take in Pro Stars vs the boys from the capital, OSU:
Pro Stars FC match-up with Ottawa South United at the Ontario Soccer Centre facility on Sunday April 29 (2:30 p.m.).
Pro Stars head coach Josef Komlodi provided a short-list of players to highlight from his 2018 squad ranks ahead of their home opener at the Ontario Soccer Centre.
"Forward Michael Borowski is a former PFC player, who just returned to us from Slovakia to re-enter into League1," he began.
"Michael demonstrated a very high level performance during our preparations."
"Midfielder George Owosu is a returning central midfielder, last year he was selected to the L1 all-star team," Komlodi added.
"We are expecting George to demonstrate a very high level performance this year."
"Forward Uday Arora returned from Portugal to strengthen our squad this year as well," he continued. "His speed and experience should help us to have a much better season."
"The we have defender Jesse Okorie, a new player from Nigeria that has an impressive performance and lots of international experience."
"We have defenders and twin brothers Juxhin and Xhunejd Nexhipi, who should bring a solid back bone to our defence line."
"Forward Ezekiel Uadiale is another player to highlight," he said. "Equipped with exceptional speed and agility, he's a a real danger man up front."
"Midfielder Mohammad Mosaab Zabra brings far east professional experience and will be a dominant player on our squad," said Komlodi.
"Defender Abbey Matty Kumrunmi from Nigeria has experience from Spain and is going to make our defence line strong again," he concluded.
(Photo: Martin Bazyl)
Ottawa South United
Ottawa South United technical director, Paul Harris, took some time to speak about the 2018 OSU squad and highlight players:
"Centre-back Jody Mikhael, he has been with the club since 14 years of age," began Harris.
"His 2000 group were one of the most successful groups in Ontario throughout youth levels, winning the Ontario Cup, and Jody's been part of the provincial teams. He'll be important to us. He's a strong defender and likes to play out from the back."
"Sopious Quasos is a player that was with Aspire and came over to the Fury and has been with us since the beginning of the winter," he added.
"He's a left-footed winger, midfield player, very nice on the ball and a little bit older as well. I think he has good quality and will help us in games."
"David Chung has been with the club since ten years of age," Harris said.
"He was part of the CSA camp at U15 and went to Vancouver Whitecaps. It just hasn't quite worked out for him in the pro environment yet, but we feel that it will work out well for him in League1 and he would be a good CPL target for the future."
"We'll add Ryan Massoud," he added.
"Again, has been with the club since 10/ 11 and again a member of the 2000 team that won the provincial titles. He's also been at the Vancouver Whitecaps and has real electric pace. He just needs to turn his good work into goals more regularly but I think he'll be a real threat this season."
"We've a few older ones and additions that we have coming as well, and we'll highlight those in due time."
(Photo: Martin Bazyl)
Ottawa South United
"I think we'll learn something every consecutive year," said Harris.
"Some matches the bounce of the ball didn't go our way and we may have been lacking some of the soccer savvy in that first season."
"We've also got around 11 eleven provincial level teams between our OYSL, OPDL and League1, so it's a balancing act that we're always working at."
"The head coach Peter Mapendere had two 2000 groups in OYSL last year, and we took the best pieces to make this squad," he explained. "They have been training all winter and this should help them greatly."
"So Peter has come in, he has a UEFA B and has worked with this 2000 group for some time," he continued.
"As much as we are promoting the group into League1, we are also in a sense promoting the coach."
"We have also brought in a previous Fury tech staff Jay Bhindi on as part of the coaching staff. I'll also be around this program, offering some mentorship in this senior environment. This league requires coaches to be very tactically astute and we back our coaches and team with availability of our facilities for training throughout the week. It's a chance for our coaches to step on a level and put their stamp on this team."
"I think the objectives for us are always to promote youth above all aspects and be as competitive as possible," Harris concluded.
"We want to use the League1 team as a stepping stone to CPL or even higher level. Many of these players have had experience in MLS academies and although it hasn't worked out to get to the first team, League1 can help them be showcased and scouted and moved through to pro channels."
Although an away game for Ottawa South United, this is a group that is very well prepared for League1 competition.
Built out of the 2000 age group that won numerous titles in their years at youth levels, and graduated several players into MLS academies (some of which are now back and figure prominently in this League1 team), OSU has prepared a team that have been training all winter to kick off this League1 season - and have produced impressive results against top ranked PLSQ and USports teams.
Pro Stars have steadily built up their ranks as well, and now feature a number of players with lower-tier professional experience from Europe and elsewhere. This program in the past has been focused on the individual and moving their products onto pro opportunities, it will be interesting to see how this particular group knits together on the field.
Result: An upset by OSU, simply due to the fact that such longstanding preparation for this season with a group that is already very familiar with each other will doubtlessly have produced great chemistry.
Further, the regular outstanding achievements of this age-group and certain individual players shows they are capable of operating on the big stage as well.
On the other hand, will this be a "men against boys" scenario as the League1-vetted Pro Stars bring their experience to bear? Head to Ontario Soccer Centre today at 2:30 p.m. and find out!