24 April 2024

Latest News

Preview: Toronto FC vs Simcoe County Rovers

More than 2,000 fans are set to cheer on Simcoe County Rovers in the Canadian Championship.

Simcoe County Rovers will make history on Wednesday, April 24 as the first League1 Ontario team to take on Toronto FC in the TELUS Canadian Championship.

Two years ago today, Simcoe made their League1 Ontario debut with a 1-1 tie against Blue Devils – the club’s inaugural competitive game. Fast forward 24 months and the Rovers will take on the province’s Major League Soccer team, as reigning Men’s Premier Division champions.

If the Rovers’ story to the Canadian Championship isn’t fairytale enough already, more than 2,000 visiting fans are set to head to BMO Field as they plan for a day that they will never forget, regardless of the full-time result.

It’s the second time in two years that a League1 Ontario club has been drawn against Major League Soccer opposition – Vaughan Azzurri took on CF Montréal last year at Saputo Stadium – providing another great opportunity for the Pro-Am game to impress on a big stage.

Preseason preparations

Wednesday’s game will be the first competitive fixture for Simcoe County Rovers since they beat Scrosoppi 4-2 in a memorable Men’s Premier Division Final back in September, when forward Jevontae Layne scored a brace.

Key stars from last year’s success are set to return to the field for this Canadian Championship encounter; Layne, Orlendis Benitez-Hernandez, Tajay Reid, Shawn Claud-Lawson, Paul Karagianakos, Ijah Halley, and Cameron Da Silva have all re-signed for the 2024 season.

A host of exciting new signings will also join the squad. They include goalkeeper Dikola Douglas from Columbus Crew 2 in MLS NEXT Pro, and League1 Ontario stalwart Alexander Zis who lined up for Scrosoppi against Simcoe in the 2023 final.

Goals have not been in short supply during Simcoe’s preseason, including a 3-2 victory against Ligue1 Québec champions CS Saint-Laurent, and a 3-2 defeat to the Canadian Premier League’s York United.

Changes in the dugout

The 2023 fall period saw both Simcoe and Toronto FC make new head coach announcements.

Zico Mahrady has stepped up as head coach for Simcoe having worked as an assistant to League1 Ontario Men’s Coach of the Year Jason Beckford. He will bring coaching experience from Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands, and Scotland to lead the Rovers this year.

Meanwhile, former Canada Women’s and Men’s National Team coach John Herdman became the new TFC head coach last October, just before the end of the MLS regular season. In his nine games this year, Herdman has led TFC to fifth in the Eastern Conference table with four wins – the most recent being a 1-0 victory against New England Revolution at BMO Field at the weekend.

“An honour and a treat”

Simcoe co-owner and professional footballer Doniel Henry understands playing in the Canadian Championship having won it three times with Toronto.

It’s an exciting day for him personally given he tallied more than 70 appearances across three stints with TFC, but he’s even more excited for the Simcoe players and fans.

“Playing against TFC, the biggest club in Canada, is an honour and a treat for the boys and a special moment for the city of Barrie,” he told roversfc.ca. “It allows us to celebrate the success we have had at the club while understanding how much further we need to go and strive for.

“I recently had an opportunity to host the group at a team-bonding event. The camaraderie they developed and respect they treat one another with impressed me as I’ve been part of teams that have taken years to build that type of trust. It’s a group with fierce leadership and highly intelligent individuals.

“Playing against TFC will unlock a new fire within the boys. My hope is that after the game, someone gets an opportunity to dream on, and go farther in their football journey.”

BMO Field

Published On: 24 April 2024

League1 Ontario staff