With relegation now in play, this is the most important and unique season in the history of League 1 Ontario. This ads a new level of excitement to the semi-professional league, which has famously been a breeding ground for Canadian talent. Many players from the league have gone onto become highly touted professionals both in North America and in Europe, and here are ten of the best players to have played in the division for League 1 Ontario clubs(Development teams like Toronto FC III are not eligible for this list)
10 – Lukas MacNaughton – North Toronto Nitros/Alliance United
Although we’re only at number ten, MacNaughton is the only player on this list not to feature for either Sigma or Vaughan Azzuri, instead sharing his time in L1O with North Toronto Nitros and Alliance United from 2016-2018.
Since then MacNaughton has compelled the Canadian Soccer pyramid. He joined CPL side Pacific FC, moved to MLS side Toronto FC and then made his Canada debut in November 2022 against Bahrain. He recently moved to Nashville SC this month, and the centreback will be hoping to make more appearances for Canada in the future.
9 – Ryan Raposso – Vaughan Azzuri
The first of many Vaughan alumni on this list, Ryan Raposso is a promising young winger for Vancouver Whitecaps, and after a few seasons in and around their first team, he has a breakout 2022.
Raposso, who played twenty-nine times for Vaughan from 2017-2019 made thirty-three appearances for Vancouver last season, racking up two goals and three assists and was part of a side that won the 2022 Canadian Championship final. Raposso will be looking to further his development this season, and potentially even start to knock at John Herdmans door?
8 – Triston Henry – Sigma
The first of two CPL players, Henry has been an ever present for Forge since 2019, and has been a stable and reliable figure for the Hamilton side.
Henry played for Sigma from 2015-2018 and was in the League 1 Ontario team of the year in 2017 and 2018. Since entering the pros he has won a league title in three of four seasons, whilst being a finalist for the best goalkeeper award three years in a row (he won the Golden Glove in 2020). With Henry at the back, Forge will always have a chance in every game they play.
7 – Tristan Borges – Sigma
A big geum player. Borges is (at time of writing) the all time leading goalscorer for Forge, the best team in the five year history of the CPL and has a knack for the big occasion. Borges has scored in a CPL Final, Canadian Championship Final and CONCACAF Champions League!
Borges played for Sigma in 2018 making seven appearances; he was the first CPL Golden Ball winner, first CPL player of the year, first notable transfer from the CPL and the first player from the CPL to play for Canada (Against Barbados in 2020). Borges can already be considered a CPL legend, and there’s no telling just how big his legacy will be when he’s finished?
6 – Dayne St. Clair – Vaughan Azzuri
The highest ranking goalkeeper on this list, Dayne St. Clair went from a relative unknown in 2021 to being in the 2022 World Cup squad after a monster season in the MLS for Minnesota!
After playing for Vaughan in 2014 and 2015, St. Clair was the seventh overall pick for Minnesota in 2019 and since breaking into their first team, has made some absolutely spectacular saves, almost single handily winning his side games. Ten years younger than Milan Borjan – St. Clair looks to be in a pole position to become Canada’s number one at some point in the near future.
5 – Kamal Miller – Sigma
A tall commanding, and powerful centreback, Miller is well established now as one of Canadas best defenders, and it all started with Vaughan Azzuri.
Miller was with Vaughan from 2014-2015, he then moved eventually to Orlando, before going to Montreal and taking his career up a notch! Miller had a monster 2022 season, earning MLS All Star honours and making fourteen appearances for Canada that year, including starting in every World Cup game. Miller is with Inter Miami now, but don’t be surprised if a move to Europe is in his future.
S. 2 Ep. 21: Canada Doing What Canada Does – FC13 Podcast
4. – Richie Lareya – Sigma
Yet another CMNT internationalist, Canada’s right flank is a spot of much depth for Les Rouges, and a big part of that is the versatility of Lareya. The right back has been one of Toronto’s best attacking threats for a while now, looking just as comfortable playing in an advance role as he does in a defensive position.
Lareya made nine appearances for Sigma in 2015 and has since played for Orlando, Toronto, Nottingham Forrest and back to Toronto on loan, he’s been a huge part of John Herdman’s team and even played as a left back during the World Cup. Time will tell if he gets another shot at Europe, but he’s certainly capable!
3 – Alistair Johnston – Vaughan Azzuri
Not only is Johnston Canada’s best right back, he might also be one of Canada’s beta centre backs! The former Vaughan Azzuri star has shown to be a very versatile defender, very capable of playing in a central defensive role, out on the wing or even as a inverted fullback – playing more like a midfielder which he has done for Celtic this season.
Johnston made seventeen appearances for Vaughan Azzuri before going to MLS side Nashville, his career would take off soon after with a move to Montreal which seen him have an outstanding 2022. So far 2023 has also been terrific for the right back, and it seems like he can only get better!
2 – Cyle Larin – Sigma
When you have the CMNT all time leading goalscorer, you have to rank him highly! Larin scored four goals in five appearances for Sigma in 2014, and in 2015 he became the first ever Canadian to be taken first in the MLS Draft! Since then it’s been non stop scoring; forty-four goals for Orlando City, thirty-nine Beşiktaş, six goals for Real Valladolid since this January, and twenty-eight goals for Canada!
Larin is just a naturally born finisher, he has delivered in huge moments for his country such as against Mexico and the USA in World Cup 2022 qualifying. At twenty-eight years old, there’s no telling how many goals he’ll end up with for Les Rouge!
1 – Tajon Buchanan – Sigma
It seems fitting that list should wrap up with a Sigma alumni, Buchanan made eight appearances Sigma and was eventually selected by New England Revolution in the 2019 MLS Draft. Things have only gone up since then; a 2021 MLS Supporters Shield winning season was followed by a move to Club Brugge and a 2022 Belgian league title. Buchanan made his debut champions league campaign in 2022/23, and played an integral part in Brugge reaching the last sixteen.
As a right winger, Buchanan has impressed fans and experts alike with his pace and trickery, but a,so for his defensive abilities which has seen him been utilised a right wingback. Buchanan is an elite level player for Canada, his play on the right elevates John Herdman’s side and he’s shown he can be a big game player, shining in the world cup stage against Belgium and Croatia. At time of writing, Tajon Buchanan appears destined to sign for Italian giants Inter Milan which for those paying attention, is a deserved move.
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