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L1O Game of the Week: Late penalty wins it for Toronto FC III

TFC III beat Master’s FA Saints in Scarborough on Saturday.

China Grooms Young Soccer Players For 2008 Olympics Photo by Guang Niu/Getty Images

Two undefeated teams faced off on Saturday night with first place Toronto FC III (4-0-1) against Master’s FA Saints (2-0-2) in Scarborough.

85’ — TFC’s Kunle Dada-Luke wins a penalty kick awarded by referee Marko Ristic when he ran along the 15 yard line from the left side of the box and MFA’s Reaffe Anderson slid to make a check and tripped up Dada-Luke when he got to the centre.

87’ Toronto FC III 1-0 Master’s FA [Afran Gorgees] — Gorgees blasts his penalty kick into the left corner of the net about four feet up just out of reach of the flying goalie Spiridon Koskinas.

Final score; Toronto FC III 1-0 Master’s FA Saints

Attendance was about 120 on this mild evening.

Brogan Engbers earned the shutout for TFC III and had to be outstanding. He was out of his net frequently to break up through ball passes by kicking or even heading them away. At 83 minutes he had just made a header at 25 yards but the ball was still alive and MFA’s Jose De Sousa blasted a shot up the middle that the retreating goalie was able to push wide left of the post.

Even after the goal there was no time to relax as at 89 minutes MFA’s Shawn Brown stopped on a play and did not send a cross into the box as he would have been called offside but a teammate ran forward and sent a ball in that Randy Miss-Miyenga headed from 10 yards up the middle. Engbers dove and smothered it on the right post. 92 minutes had MFA’s Bradley Fenton send in a corner kick from the right and Brown just outside the left edge of the 6 yard box headed the ball back across the box. MFA’s Antoine Paul near the right post headed a 7 yarder over the leaping Engbers but the ball hit the top of the bar.

I saw Georgees score a penalty kick last week against Aurora FC placing the ball at exactly the same spot. I asked him if they practice with the MLS team and he answered yes. I asked him did he take spot kick tips from Sebastian Giovinco or Victor Vazquez. He said Giovinco has given him advice. I complemented him for having a higher success rate. I was expecting his answer would be Vazquez because Giovinco rolls them while Vazquez and Georgees place them so even if the goalie guesses correctly the shots are off the ground and impossible to stop.

L1O official Pearce Lang and TFC III head coach Danny Dichio were filming a piece about the team and Dichio said a lot of the players were up with TFC II who were away tonight playing Penn FC in a USL game. (For karma sake, they lost their game on a late penalty kick goal). Dichio said Noble Okello, Julian Dunn, and Aidan Daniels had just flown back to Toronto today after being in the Toulon Tournament with the Canadian U23 team. I didn’t expect they will ever play at L1O level again but their absence moved up some of the better TFC III players to take their spots. He said they have received a break in that some returning university students were on the team. Mohamed Omar from Notre Dame and Kota Sakurai from Dartmouth were starters.

Great goaltending by Koskinas helped MFA but the TFC III shooting was just not good enough.

Sakurai and MFA Jose Melo (both midfielders) collided at 21 minutes and both needed their trainers. Sakurai ended up with his arm in a sling. Melo played for another few minutes until he could be subbed off.

Sakurai was named ‘L1O Young Player of the Year’ for 2016. This is now the second time this season I’ve seen Master’s and both times I’ve missed the ‘L1O Young Player of the Year’ for 2017 — Cyrus Rollocks — who won while playing with TFC III. I asked about him but an official said he was injured. He was tied for second last season in goals scored with 17. His goalscoring touch would have helped tonight.

I was able to see one other L1O game on the weekend — Sigma FC vs Sanjaxx Lions. I was expecting Sigma to keep their 3-0-0 streak going but they settled for a 0-0 tie. Triston Henry earned another shutout for Sigma (their GF-GA record is 15-1) without having much to do. Tayjon Campbell did the same in net for Sanjaxx but had to make some great saves. This game had some rough spots with Sigma’s Marcel Zajac suffering a rib injury at the 2 minute mark and had to leave the game. He is the league’s leading scorer with seven goals.

The current standings (now that the Sunday games have been played) are:

TFC III are in first with 16 points at (5-0-1). Sigma slips up with just a tie and are 3-0-1 in a three way tie for fourth — identical to FC London and both with two games on hand with Unionville-Milliken. Master’s slip to a two-way tie for eighth at 2-1-2, the same as North Mississauga. Sanjaxx is in a three-way tie for twelfth at 1-3-1. The league did a favour for the Oakville Blue Devils by not scheduling a game this weekend (easy to do with 17 teams). This let them prepare for this Wednesday’s home leg of their opening round in the Voyageurs Cup against AS Blainville of the PLSQ league. The Blue Devils ultimately lost the tie.

Now the goal is to finish in the top eight on September 24 to make the second season. That’s 16 games — everyone will play the other teams once. The surviving teams then get placed in two four-team groups and play three games, the first place teams of each group then play in a one game final and the winner is awarded the L1O spot in the Canadian Championship next spring.

Now I’d heard over time that TFC III can’t be awarded the spot because of possible club ties of players and the awkward chance of them advancing and facing off against their MLS TFC team. I expected they’d just pass and let the other finalist take the spot but I was surprised how that was answered at the TFC III game by Lang and Dichio. Apparently TFC III will step out at the end of August (they’ll be playing some midweek games so they can finish early) and NOT compete in the final eight. They will then concentrate their resources to the USSDA League (operating since 2007 but new for them). Montreal and Vancouver are already league members in the September to June season. The league has groupings from U12s to U18-19s.

Okay then, every L1O team — just ensure you finish in the Top 9 to make the second season!