Hamilton, ON- The 2022 U SPORTS OUA men’s soccer season ended in dramatic fashion, with the McMaster Marauders edging out the TMU Bold 1-0 at Downsview Park in Toronto. It marked the program’s first OUA title since 2012.
The season was one of twists and turns. The Ontario Tech Ridgebacks earned the best record in the OUA East. The York Lions had the best record in the OUA West. However, neither team reached the semi-finals come playoff time. Instead, it was the second-seed Marauders versus the second-seeded Bold. Waterloo and Nipissing also earned their way into the semi-finals by pulling off upsets. Perhaps it was a sign of parity and depth in the OUA.
With a new season comes plenty of questions. Will that parity continue? Can the Ridgebacks continue their momentum from last season? Will traditional powers York and Guelph bounce back? Can McMaster and TMU reach the finals again? Who will be this year’s breakout team?
Those questions will be answered as the season kicks off on Aug. 31. Here are some teams to watch for.
Contender # 1: York Lions
The Lions have been the benchmark of excellence in the conference. They won five OUA titles and two national titles in the six year span from 2013 to 2018. After finishing 11-1 last season, the Lions lost to the Waterloo Warriors in the OUA playoffs. York was tied with Carleton for an OUA-best 41 goals scored in 2022.
Heading into this season, the Lions lose OUA West MVP and U SPORTS All-Canadian midfielder Soji Olatoye. However, they bring back some key pieces and bring in transfers Ronaldo Marshall (Boston University) and Kelvin Ramirez (Robert Morris University). Defender Milo Djuricic was selected by Forge FC in the CPL draft this summer and figures to be an important player for them. With long-time head coach Carmine Isaaco leading the squad, look for the Lions to continue being among the top contenders for the OUA and U SPORTS titles.
Contender # 2: TMU Bold
The Bold came oh so close to winning the OUA championship on their home turf. They then won their first-ever game at nationals. So what does TMU do for an encore? How about adding experienced transfers Colin Gander (Guelph) and 2022 U SPORTS Player of the Year Christopher Campoli (Ontario Tech, more on him below). They join returning OUA All-Stars Luca Di Marco, Kai Martin and Juan Pablo Delgadillo.
Campoli should add to an already potent attack that finished third in goals scored last regular season (40), second in assists (22) and first in shooting percentage (.354).
The Bold do lose captain Christian Westlaken, Amir Kinari, Sean Farfinski and goalkeeper Ali Ghazanfari as the returning players and newcomers will have to fill their roles. They will contend in the OUA East Division with several strong teams. However, the X-factor for them could be their nationals and OUA finals experience. Perhaps in 2023, the Bold can go one step further than they did last season.
Sleeper Pick: McMaster Marauders
The Marauders came into 2022 with several new players and a new coach. The team suffered early-season losses to Guelph, Western and York before picking up steam and winning their last six OUA games – including the OUA championship.
McMaster comes into 2023 with a new head coach once again. This time, it’s former assistant coach and goalkeeper Tristan Joyce who takes the helm. It’s the Marauders third head coach in three seasons.
Joyce will have some of the 2022 team back. Starting goalkeeper Ethan Cagalj, captain Gianluca Spadafora and forwards Sachin Sargeant, Ed Bryan Florent and Amir Shirazi return. Leading scorer Miles Green and defenders Ahmad Mansour and Sam Richardson do not though.
In terms of additions, 2021 U SPORTS All-Rookie team midfielder Mohamed Alshakman returns. The team also welcomes a large rookie class of 16 players. However, it’s the veterans who have that OUA championship experience as the Marauders aim to repeat.
Player to Watch: Christopher Campoli (TMU)
The reigning U SPORTS men’s soccer Player of the Year is now a member of the TMU Bold – arguably the biggest of several high-impact transfers in the offseason. Campoli captured many accolades and led the OUA with 13 goals and six assists last season after leading the OUA in goals in 2021 as well. Now, he joins an already strong Bold squad coming off an OUA silver and a trip to nationals. Now, entering his fourth season, the question is: what heights can Campoli reach next?
Featured Image: Curtis Martin/OUA/McMaster Athletics