With the dust firmly settled on The Island Games, CanPL.ca has decided to take a hard look back at the 2020 Canadian Premier League season.
It was a bizarre season, to say the least, with COVID-19 leading to a truncated campaign in Prince Edward Island, Canada’s smallest province. In the end, Forge FC emerged victorious after a spirited six-week competition in Charlottetown.
Now, the post-mortems begin.
Coaches have been busy in the aftermath of The Island Games, trying to evaluate their team’s performances, while also looking ahead and identifying what areas they need to improve on for the 2021 CPL season.
In that spirit, here are CanPL.ca’s end-of-season report cards for all eight clubs.
Performance: Atlético Ottawa performed well above expectations in PEI (not bad for a club built in 15 days). A hodge podge of players, many of whom were signed last-minute, managed to come together to post massive wins over Pacific FC and Cavalry FC (the only CPL team to beat two top-four sides) and nearly advanced to the second round.
Attack: Quality goal scoring chances were scarce for Mista’s team, who posted a league-low 37 chances created – yes, even fewer than FC Edmonton (44). Moments of magic from Malcolm Shaw and Francisco Acuña papered over the cracks.
Defence: A 4-0 blowout loss to Valour aside (in which they were reduced to 10 men), Ottawa was a defensively stable group. Two clean sheets in victories over Pacific and Cavalry were the highlights.
Performance: A grade adjusted because of Cavalry’s injury troubles. A second-round finish would have been minimum requirement for the Cavs who wilted under massive injury woes: Sergio Camargo, Nico Pasquotti, Nik Ledgerwood, and Oliver Minatel were all out of commission by the Cavs’ final match.
Attack: Cavalry’s attack stood up without stranded attackers Richard Luca and Jose Escalante, who never made it to Canada due to travel restrictions. Jordan Brown’s solid tournament was aided by several clutch goals from set pieces, and a joint-top five penalties taken across 10 matches.
Defence: Credit to Wheeldon Jr.’s side for staying defensively organized. Led by ironman Dominick Zator, Cavalry limited opponents to just 22 shots on target, second behind York9 (20) and half of what finalists HFX Wanderers FC conceded (50).
Outlook: Things are still looking up for Cavalry. Strong pieces remain in place, and with the right international complement they could challenge Forge FC for CPL supremacy in 2021.
Performance: Jeff Paulus fell on his sword after the club’s 0-1-6 run in PEI. The only CPL side eliminated before the first stage’s final day, the Eddies’ fluke draw against Ottawa was their only bright spot.
Attacking: A paltry five goals, most of which came from half-chances. The Eddies failed to inspire going forward.
Defending: Saving the Eddies from an “F” was the loss of Amer Didic, an important figure who missed four matches due to injury.
Outlook: A “new voice in the room” with a promising group could help. Didic, Connor James and Easton Ongaro are still an excellent core. Youngsters such as Anthony Caceres, Prince Amanda, and Marcus Velado-Tsegaye show great promise, too.
Performance: Repeat CPL Champions – what else needs to be said? Defending their title in PEI was a completely different proposition than 2019’s triumph, and just as impressive.
Attacking: Created and scored more goals than any other side. Forge’s chemistry was at the forefront in PEI, as well-worked chances came from every angle, with 10 different goal scorers getting in on the action.
Defending: Triston Henry’s five clean sheets, and a single goal conceded in the second round, reminded CPL observers just how good Forge is at the back. David Edgar and Daniel Krutzen starred together in the heart of defence.
Outlook: An aging lineup and the potential loss of back-to-back Player of the Year nominee Kyle Bekker casts a small shadow over a celebrated potential dynasty.
Performance: Worst-to-nearly-first is quite a turnaround. HFX Wanderers were good value for their CPL Finals appearance and taking Forge to the limit. Performed well above class average.
Attacking: Akeem Garcia’s league-high six goals tells HFX’s story quite well: effective pressing and clinical finishing can take you far in the CPL. Scoring most of their 15 goals against the run of play, the Wanderers did well with what they had.
Defending: A heavy dead-rubber loss aside, the Wanderers were incredibly solid at the back as the tournament progressed. With seven goals conceded in the first round (two in the final four games), Stephen Hart was pleased with the “nice little understanding” between centre backs Peter Schaale and Jems Geffrard.
Outlook: A solid core built from the “character” of a CPL Finals-worthy side, the Wanderers look poised to carry on a winning mentality into 2021 and make Halifax one of the go-to destinations for CPLers.
Performance: Exactly where Pacific expected to be in 2020 – challenging for a CPL title. The chips didn’t fall their way, as crushing second-round defeats to Cavalry and Forge will haunt them, but second-round qualification is a solid showing.
Attacking: Several positives and negatives. Marco Bustos’ five-goal, three-assist output was brilliant and Player of the Year worthy, but did we see enough from other attackers such as Terran Campbell and Alejandro Díaz? Still, a CPL-leading 99 chances created shows a commendable overall performance.
Defending: Pacific’s defence is an enigma. Recording two clean sheets (one of which was in their dead-rubber win over HFX), the Tridents were far from perfect despite impressive tournaments from Thomas Meilleur-Giguère and Kadin Chung. A crushing streak of six conceded penalties was particularly painful.
Performance: While not as impressive as HFX’s turnaround, credit is still due for Valour’s rebound from their Year 1 performance. Valour was a prickly proposition in PEI, and proved many critics wrong as a tough defensive opponent. A final day chance at the second round will be seen as a success in Winnipeg.
Attacking: Valour was held off the scoresheet in four out of their seven matches in PEI with a big win over Ottawa inflating an otherwise poor attacking output. Goalless strikers such as Shaan Hundal and Austin Ricci, despite being impressive in flashes, caught the ire of Valour fateful.
Defending: Andrew Jean-Baptiste and Julian Dunn formed arguably the CPL’s greatest centre back partnership, while Stefan Cebara and Brett Levis provided width in attack and study defensive work. A base for Valour to build upon, and a good mark to show for it.
Performance: The Nine Stripes expected to be CPL contenders, which drags their grade below other first-round casualties. Narrow victories over FC Edmonton and Forge were all York9’s big off-season signings of Michael Petrasso, Chris Mannella, Gabriel Vasconcelos, and Alvaro Rivero could muster, not to blame individuals.
Attacking: We’ve all heard the stats: Eight goals scored (just two goals from open play), worst goals-per-shot expected goals (xG) in League history (0.05), and just three big chances created. Not good enough.
Defending: York9’s average of one goal against per-game (seven goals in seven games) was joint-best in 2020. Jimmy Brennan’s year-over-year backline of Morey Doner, Luca Gasparotto, Roger Thompson and Diyaeddine Abzi held strong.