Two early goals and a standout performance in goal for Spiridon Koskinas got Masters FA a 2-1 win over North Mississauga SC, but the result wasn't enough to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Both teams needed all three points to fight off elimination, and Masters set the tone with their urgency to start the match.
The Saints opened the scoring early when Evan James hit a diagonal ball over the top to Cyrus Rollocks (5'). The striker stayed onside and finished the one-on-one chance past North Mississauga goalkeeper Gereon Bayer to make it 1-0.
Masters continued their high tempo game with an abundance of pressure in the opposing half. After an initial shot was blocked by a defender's foot, Shawn Brown (10') pounced on a loose rebound, smashing it off the underside of the crossbar for the second goal of the game.
North Mississauga were largely pinned back in their half, but the Panthers sprung through the defensive line on occasion, exploiting the space behind Masters' press to get through to goal. Koskinas stepped up to make multiple highlight-reel saves to keep Masters on the front foot going into half-time.
In the second half, Masters continued to look for long balls over the top once they won back possession, giving little time for North Mississauga to react to the chances created. The Panthers shored up their defence and prevented the home team from getting a single shot on target in the second half.
Brief miscommunication led to a Masters' defender heading the ball backwards with the keeper Koskinas out of position, and the pass seemed destined to be an own goal, until the Masters goalkeeper made an acrobatic last-second lunge to prevent it from crossing the line.
The Saints continued their high-pressing physical game into the latter stages, but North Mississauga regained control in the final minutes to put Masters in the hot seat.
After a scramble in the box from a corner kick, Marius Pop (90' + 3') grabbed the Panthers a consolation goal to make it 2-1 just before the final whistle.
The result eliminated North Mississauga from playoff contention, while Masters FA held onto their post-season dreams after breaking a 10-game winless streak.
However, their quest for autumn soccer came to an end after Alliance United FC defeated Pro Stars FC only half an hour later and mathematically made it impossible for the Saints to catch a playoff zone team.
Masters Futbol (3-5-7) now occupy 11th place with 16 points. Their goal differential improves to -2 (26 GF, 28 GA).
A final home game at L'Amoreaux, Toronto is set for September 22 (8 p.m.) as Masters FA takes on Darby FC to close the season.
North Mississauga SC (3-8-4) suffer their fourth consecutive loss, putting them in 13th place with 13 points. Their goal differential drops to -14 (15 GF, 29 GA).
Their final game of the season is at Bill Crothers Turf Centre, Unionville against Unionville-Milliken S.C. on September 22 (8 p.m.).