Over the off-season, FC Edmonton has made some major changes to the team that landed fourth in the CPL standings last year. However, just like in 2019, the Eddies’ squad is still quite a young one, with a very healthy contingent of local rising stars (many of whom came from the club’s own academy).
Jeff Paulus is sticking to his guns, and hoping to win with Alberta kids. Forge FC certainly showed last year that you can win at this level by leaning on domestic talent. Still, the Eddies will be hoping to do much better than they did the year before, especially with a revamped squad that’s added new pieces to complement the wide style that Paulus wants to play.
Many of the new faces in FC Edmonton’s camp — Hanson Boakai, Chance Carter, Anthony Caceres — are actually familiar faces to Paulus, having come through the Eddies’ academy as youngsters. This club continues to be built on consistent principles; next, they’ll need to prove they can win this way.
Many fans and pundits — including, occasionally, ourselves at CanPL.ca — have underrated FC Edmonton in the past. They’re a confident bunch, though, and Paulus himself is quick to defend them on social media.
The new-look Eddies, with Paulus vocally at the helm, definitely have a point to prove in 2020.
– By Charlie O’Connor-Clarke
MISTA – ATLÉTICO OTTAWA
Atlético Ottawa took a big gamble when it hired Mista as its first head coach.
A forward of some repute during his playing days – he made over 200 La Liga appearances and played in 14 UEFA Champions League matches, most notably turning out for Valencia and Atlético Madrid – Mista takes the helm of Atlético Ottawa with little coaching experience under his belt.
Since hanging up his boots as a player, Mista served as a youth coach at Valencia, eventually taking over Los Che’s top academy side. Most recently, he was in charge of Rayo Vallecano’s youth team, before mutually parting ways with the Madrid-based club to pursue this opportunity in the CPL.
Atlético Ottawa made a very big splash with the announcement of Mista – the appointment of such a high-profile ex-player caught a lot of people off-guard, and created a fair amount of buzz in the nation’s capital. But let’s not kid ourselves: It was a bold move by the first-year club to hire someone who had no coaching experience at the senior club level.
The far more sensible move would have been for Atlético Ottawa to hire an experienced coach; someone who would be able to sensibly guide them through what is sure to be turbulent waters of their first season in the CPL. This is uncharted territory for Atlético Ottawa, but it’s also uncharted territory for Mista. As such, all eyes will be on him to see if Atlético Ottawa made the right move in placing their bets on the Spaniard.
– by John Molinaro
ROB GALE – VALOUR FC
Valour FC had one of the best rosters on paper in 2019. Skylar Thomas, Marco Bustos, Michael Petrasso, Tyson Farago, Dylan Sacramento – coach Rob Gale had established an eye-catching core. But, if you haven’t already noticed, all five of those players left Winnipeg after a brutal 28-point season.
Unlike the younger team of yesteryear, this 2020 squad shows Gale learned from his mistakes, taking a much more mature squad into a shortened season.
At the back, Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Brett Levis, and James Pantemis bring MLS experience to varying degrees, Stefan Cebara and Masta Kachar look to bring creativity and an attacking nuance that Josip Golubar couldn’t in 2019 due to injury, and Arnold Bouka Moutou might be the biggest signing in league history.
With another impressive group of players, perhaps Valour gaffer has already shown he can put the players in place. But, as we saw with last year’s chopping-and-changing, the struggle lies with making the pieces work together.
How will Daryl Fordyce work alongside younger, more agile attackers like Moses Dyer and Austin Ricci? Will they adapt a possession-first approach again, or look to use the wings to counter the CPL’s other more-established lineups?
That’s up to Gale to figure out – and prove he can field a competitive team in 2020.