By Ryan Eakin
BARRIE - The Simcoe County Rovers have been quite impressive, on both the men’s and women’s sides, to begin this season.
But never have they been more impressive than they were on Sunday.
In their first home game in two weeks, the women were in tough, taking on undefeated FC London in the opening game of Sunday’s doubleheader.
But, it turns out, no one is too tough for the now 5-1-1 Rovers, who won the game 3-0 for their third clean sheet of the season.
Courtney Chochol – in her third game with the team after finishing her sophomore season at Quinnipiac – opened the scoring in the 33rd minute for her second goal of the season.
From there, the game remained close until the 84th minute when Brianne Desa scored her second goal of the season before Maddie Hill scored – you guessed it – her second goal of the season one minute late to secure the victory.
To put into context how convincing the win was, it was only the fourth time since 2016 that FC London – the three-time League1 champions – have lost by three goals or more.
It was a total team effort, too, with the Rovers getting goals from three different scorers. That is no surprise for the Rovers, who have had a well-balanced attack all season.
The team has had ten different goal scorers this season, highlighted by Cloey Uddenberg, who has five.
For their efforts, the women sit fourth place in the League1 standings and just five points out of first place.
The women return to action Saturday when they host 2-5-1 Hamilton United from J.C. Massie Field at Georgian College.
On the men’s side, they delivered a thrilling 3-2 win over BVB IA Waterloo with a penalty shot saved and a game-winning goal all in the final minutes.
The game began looking as if it would be a convincing win, with Justin Earle finding the back of the net for the home side four minutes in before Ethan Beckford made it 2-0 eleven minutes later.
Unfortunately for the Rovers, Waterloo tied the game with goals in the 38th and 75th minutes, leading many to think the game would end in a draw.
But late-game heroics (90th minute) from Shawn Claud-Lawson on a diving header secured the Rovers the win and are now just two points behind North Toronto Nitros for first place in the League1 standings.
Late game heroics are becoming a common theme for the men, who scored in the 87th minute against Vaughan Azzurri in their last match to secure a point.
They also struck late in their second game of the season against Master’s FC when they scored in the 95th minute to secure their inaugural win.
None of this would have been possible without goalkeeper Ricky Gomes, who made big saves in each of the last two contests to keep his team in the matches, highlighted by an 86th minute saved penalty to keep the game even.
Head coach Jason Beckford says there is work to do, though.
“Last week was a good lesson in what complacency can do when you think a job is done after 20 minutes. Although I’m pleased to get three points, the manner in which we got them wasn’t acceptable to the standards we have set ourselves. The game should have been dead and buried by halftime. That being said, the players showed the character and resilience we have come to expect from this group and kept going.
There will be no room for complacency with our next opponents - ProStars. It will be another L10 battle, but one we are looking forward to and hopefully get the right result.”
The Saturday home match against ProStars FC will be an important one, as it is the first game for the Rovers in the Credit River Cup.
The Prostars have already played two games, going 1-0-1 in the process.
North Mississauga SC is 0-0-1 and Sigma FC is 0-1-0.
ProStars, North Mississauga, Sigma, and the Rovers are the four teams who compete for the Cup.
The Credit River Cup, created in 2019, is an annual Cup contested by certain clubs in League1. Sigma are the defending champions, having won in 2021.
The fan-made cup initiative also helps raise funds for great causes, with past funds going to Big Brothers Big Sisters in 2019 and for the Wasa-Nabin program of the Indigenous Network in 2021.
We are expecting standing room only for both matches on Saturday, as was the case on Sunday, so we strongly recommend buying tickets as soon as possible!
The kickoff for the women is at 5 pm, with the kickoff for the men set for 8 pm.