Road to Ontario Cup title long, winding

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:02 AM ET

There is no easy road to an Ontario Cup championship.

The gruelling trip continues this weekend as some local teams chase what is arguably one of the most difficult prizes in soccer at any age level.

Eight London teams will be looking to advance to the next round of the Ontario Cup this weekend.

In the men's division, London Benfica, last year's winner of the Western Ontario Soccer League championship, will play at Cove Road Field tomorrow against Mississauga Diavoli. Benfica got here by beating two Windsor teams, including the top team in Windsor on penalty shots.

London AEK Olympic will also play, but will be out of town taking on Hamilton Croatia. In all AEK's league play, Ontario Cup and Canadian Soccer League Open Canada Cup play, it has only given up one goal and that on a penalty. AEK defeated Hamilton Argentina 5-0 last week, then travelled to St. Catharines of the CSL and came away with a 1-0 win in Open Canada Cup play.

Benfica, AEK and London Portuguese will wage a pretty good battle throughout the WOSL season. Unlike AEK and London Portuguese, who found themselves on the same side of the Ontario Cup draw with AEK eliminating Portuguese, Benfica and AEK are on opposite sides of the draw.

"It would be great if we eventually met down the road," Benfica coach Nurno Medeiros said.

Medeiros says we haven't seen the best of his team this year.

"We've run into some key injuries and starting to get my injuries back," said Medeiros. "It's a combination of youth with some older players. My older players are about 24, 25 area. In soccer, anytime you get over 25, they look at you like you are old. We added a few 18-year-olds and we have four 20-year-olds.

"Last year we were known as a quick, young team. This year we've slowed it down a little because they are more experienced and don't want to rush the play. I wish they would rush it a little more. When we get everyone back we should be a good, quick team again."

Even with the injuries, Medeiros is confident.

"Right now I'm not overly happy with the way the team is playing. We've had some injuries, but some of the players haven't picked it up the way I think they should," he said.

"A lot of these guys the last few years weren't working, but in school. Now they have a full-time job and it makes a big difference. There's a lot more to handle."

Medeiros says success comes with commitment.

"When we won (WOSL) last year, our team really worked hard and it really felt good," he said. "We went right from indoor to outdoor and everyone got to practise. That's the big thing. I've coached other teams and the last few years if you're doing well, you get 12 to 15 players at practice. Some teams have seven or eight and you can't do anything with seven or eight. Certain teams have success, they have guys that come out all the time."

Also this weekend the London City Selects play in Scarborough against Scarborough Olympic Flame. The Selects are the last local women's team still playing in the open women's division of the Ontario Cup. The Selects play in the London and Area Women's Soccer League Premier Division.

In addition, London Forest United Lions will travel to Windsor to play Windsor in the under-15 boys' tier two division in the Ontario Cup.

In the under-16 boys' tier one division, London United Bulldogs will play in Windsor in a round-robin tournament against Windsor FC and Mississauga Dixie.

Under-16 girls London Supernova are in action in Oakville against three other teams in a round-robin tournament.

Woodstock Greendevils head to Stoney Creek for their round-robin section.

In the under-17 boys' tier two, third-round Ontario Cup games this weekend will have Sarnia Bluewater travelling to Sault Tenaris Civics and Windsor Caboto Strikers coming to St. Thomas to play the Titans.

London will be the site of an under-18 girls' round-robin elimination with the London Forest United Flames in action against four other teams in their section, including Sarnia Spirit.

In under-21 men's competition, Greater London Aces will play Mississauga Erin Mills in Mississauga.

Over the next few weekends beginning July 15, 13 other London teams will be participating in Ontario Cup competition.


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