The First Stage of The Island Games came to an end on Sunday, as the four teams moving onto the Group Stage were confirmed following an exciting weekend of footy.
SEVEN of the eight clubs had a chance to find themselves in the final four going into the final weekend of action, but they were slowly trimmed down to Cavalry FC, HFX Wanderers, Forge FC and Pacific FC.
None of those teams played each other in the final week of the First Stage, making for some tasty matchups as those four clubs become two ahead of the Championship Final on September 19.
Day 14 — York9 stay unbeaten with win over FC Edmonton
York9 FC remained unbeaten through six games on Tuesday, September 1st, with a 1-0 over FC Edmonton. The loss officially eliminated The Eddies, and extended Y9’s unbeaten streak to six games to open the season.
The only goal came courtesy of a Manny Aparicio direct free kick, his second free kick goal in as many games. This time finding the top right corner, the skipper again helped his club pick up three massive points in an attempt to make the second round.
Day 15 — Wanderers stay hot, and Ottawa beat Pacific
HFX Wanderers have had a breakout tournament, and are one of the league’s most exciting teams at the moment, but had they lost, they would’ve been eliminated from contention to play in the second round. Instead, they scored a pair of goals in quick succession to beat Valour FC.
Despite being the better team for much of the first half, Valour couldn’t put any of their chances away. Defender Andrew Jean-Baptiste was also forced to leave the game because of an injury in the opening 45 minutes, rubbing salt in the wound for the Winnipeg-based side.
HFX took the lead in the 36th minute from an Alex De Carolis free kick. The Canadian defender’s shot took a huge deflection off Valour’s Raphael Ohin, and past the ‘keeper to open the scoring. Cory Bent doubled the lead four minutes later after a brilliant play from the young forward. Bent put pressure on the Valour defenders, and after a mistake from former HFX centre-back Chakib Hocine, stole the ball, sprinted up the pitch, and curled a shot inside the far post to score what would be the final goal of the match.
In the second match of the day, Pacific FC took on Atletico Ottawa for the first time.
The match seemed destined for a 0-0 draw, as the two sides failed to put away their chances. Both clubs came within inches of taking the lead, but it was Ottawa who would take the three points from this one, finding the back of the net in the 90th minute.
After the ball bounced around the penalty area following a corner, Victor Martinez jumped on a rebound, rifling home the game winner from a few yards out for Ottawa’s biggest win in its short history. It set up an insane final weekend that would see all eight teams play, with seven of them (not FC Edmonton) in the race for four playoff spots.
Day 16 — Valour draw with the champs, and Y9 lose their final game
Needing a win in their final game of the First Stage, Valour FC would come up just short on Saturday afternoon, drawing 2-2 with North Star Shield holders Forge FC.
Kyle Bekker got the scoring underway quickly, finding the back of the net in just the 8th minute. He brilliantly volleyed home a rebound from Valour goalkeeper James Pantemis, striking it off the ground and watching it bounce into the top corner.
Valour equalized, and then took the lead, as Yohan Le Bourhis and Moses Dyer scored in the 14th and 27th minutes, respectively, both from headers. Le Bourhis netted the equalizer first, and Dyer headed home from close range 13 minutes later to give his side the lead.
Alexander Achinioti-Jonsson, having himself another good season in the CPL, tied it up in the 65th minute, with a third straight headed goal in this match. The Swedish midfielder headed the ball over Pantemis, scoring the final goal in a match that would finish 2-2.
In the second game of the day, York9 FC, unbeaten through their first six matches, fell to Cavalry FC, and missed out on a spot in the second round.
The match was overshadowed by a nasty injury to Cavalry striker Oliver Minatel, who fractured his tibia and fibula in the early stages of Saturday’s match. Minatel was stretchered off the pitch, and had a surgery immediately following the match.
After a relatively quiet first half following the injury, the two teams traded chances at the start of the second. After Marco Carducci denied Michael Petrasso’s chance in the 55th minute, Nathan Ingham responded by making a huge save on Cavalry striker Marcus Haber.
Haber got the last laugh, however, scoring the winning goal in the 69th minute, and extending his good run of form in a bounce-back season for the former Pacific FC man. With the win, Cavalry clinched first place in the standings and a spot in the Group Stage.
Day 17 — First Stage comes to an end in dramatic fashion
Ottawa’s debut season came to a close in the earlier game on Sunday, as Mista’s side fell 2-0 to the red-hot HFX Wanderers.
The Wanderers, on the back of the 2-0 win over Valour, got off to an early lead, as Akeem Garcia scored his league-leading 4th goal of the tournament. The Trinidad international got on the end of a long pass from Alex Marshall, before beating Atletico goalkeeper Nacho Zabal.
Alessandro Riggi doubled the lead around the hour mark, intercepting a pass and chipping the ball into the goal moments later.
The win clinched a spot in the second round for the new-and-improved Wanderers, moving them into second place, and seeing them finish the first round with just one defeat, to Cavalry.
The final game of the First Stage saw already-eliminated FC Edmonton take on Pacific FC, in what was a must-win game for The Tridents.
Easton Ongaro gave The Eddies the lead in the 59th minute, tapping home the opening goal from close range following a corner kick. It was Ongaro's 13th career CPL goal, tying him with 2019 MVP Tristan Borges for the all-time league record.
Pacific, desperate for a win to put them into the second round, equalized five minutes later thanks to Josh Heard. He put the ball in the back of the net after Edmonton failed to clear it, giving Pacific hope.
Pacific kept pushing, and scored a dramatic late winner with moments left. Marco Bustos received a pass from Kadin Chung, before firing the ball into the top right corner, winning the game for his team.
With the win, Pacific jumped into a playoff spot, and knocked York9 out of the top four.
Here’s the schedule for stage two at The Island Games: