United still looking to finish as best in the West
GUELPH – Guelph United FC’s quest to finish atop their division in their first season in the League1 Ontario soccer league will go down to their final game of the Men’s Premier division’s regular season.
Blue Devils FC of Oakville made that a certainty Sunday afternoon when they posted a 1-0 victory over United at Alumni Stadium.
Blue Devils 1 Guelph United 0
“We knew this would be a tough one,” said United coach Keith Mason. “Their playoff position is on the line. We knew they’d be out fighting and they did. They fought hard. You’ve got to give them credit for that.”
United leads the division heading into the final week of the regular season with a 9-2-0 record. Blue Devils are a point behind at 8-1-2 while FC London is third at 8-3-0. Top two teams in the division qualify for the playoffs, something United has already secured. While the Blue Devils can finish ahead of United and London can finish tied with the locals, United will win any tiebreaker with either of them thanks to results earlier in the season.
Sunday, United surrendered a goal to Leaford Allen of the Blue Devils in the first half and couldn’t pull even. Their challenge was hurt when they had a player sent off after being shown the red card midway through the second half of the chippy affair.
“I think we still created the better chances and we had the most shots,” Mason said. “They had a couple once we were down a man and pushing at the end and they got a few breakaways, but that sort of is expected. But over the 90 minutes, I really think we were the better team and didn’t deserve to lose the match, but that’s the way football goes sometimes.”
While the locals are winding down their regular season against strong teams, they’re thankful for it. United is to complete its regular season with a game against Sigma FC at Mississauga’s Paramount Fine Foods Centre Saturday at 1 p.m.
“Our last three games are against very tough teams,” Mason said. “Sigma was a battle on Tuesday and we knew today would be. They have a good chance of coming second with that win. They have a good chance of winning it if we don’t win our last game and they win their last game, they can still win it. These are the games we need going into playoffs. We have another tough one away to Sigma on Saturday to finish off the season and we’ll just see how it goes.”
The locals defeated Sigma 2-0 at the Gryphon Soccer Complex Tuesday.
United goes into the regular-season finale with a bit of a limp. They were short some of their usual players due to injuries and a few more were wearing ice packs on various knocks at the conclusion of Sunday’s game.
“We’ve got a lot of injuries and a lot of people out,” Mason said. “I don’t want to make an excuse of injuries, but (Alexander) Zis is on crutches and (Nicolas Galvin) is on crutches and these two boys, Lucas (Doros) has been one of our top players all year and Evan (Dick). We’ve got a lot of top players out and we’re still battling hard and we’re still trying, but we did miss the quality today, there’s no question.”
The East Division’s playoff combatants have already been decided as Vaughan Azzurri, at 9-0-1, has clinched first place and Master’s FA of Scarborough, at 6-1-3, is assured of a second-place finish.
“We know they’re very good,” Mason said of the East’s top two. “Vaughan is basically York (University Lions) and we know what York’s been like for years and Master’s are the reigning champions.
“They’re going to be tough. At the end of the day hopefully we’ve got some bodies back and some health. I fancy our chances against anybody, but we know they’ll be tough.”
Azzurri is to host a semifinal match against the West’s second-place finisher while the West’s first-place finisher is to host Master’s in the other semifinal. Those games are set for the Oct. 30-31 weekend.
- Guelph Sports Journal