Looking at a map of where the Canadian Premier League teams are located, it’s easy to spot some obvious rivalries. York9 and Forge. FC Edmonton and Cavalry FC. One rule of soccer: The closer you are, the more likely you’re gonna hate each other.
But, sometimes, the best rivalries are the unexpected ones. I don’t think, back in 2007, anyone in Toronto would have figured that they’d develop a serious disdain for Columbus Crew SC. Yet, that rivalry evolved into Toronto FC’s most heated one until Montreal joined MLS.
And, during their second-division years and into the Canadian Championship, the Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps really, really hated each other. Yet, there are thousands of kilometres separating the two Canadian outfits.
So, with that in mind — what sort of … “unexpected” rivalries could evolve in the Canadian Premier League?
Sensei and Grasshopper (HFX Wanderers vs. FC Edmonton)
It’s a theme in martial-arts movie after martial-arts movie; the student is eventually forced to take on the master. When HFX Wanderers FC faces FC Edmonton, that’s kinda the scenario – except with soccer, not kung fu (unfortunately?).
Jeff Paulus was in the Royal Canadian Navy, stationed in Halifax, when he took his first soccer coaching course. His teacher? Stephen Hart. Now, Paulus and Hart will be staring at each other from opposing sidelines.
The teams won’t face each other in regular-season play till Canada Day, but they did play a preseason match against each other in the Dominican Republic. The Wanderers won that tilt 1-0.
The Orange Match (Forge FC vs. Valour FC)
Sure, Forge FC will wear orange at home. But, when the Hamilton-based team faces Valour FC, there will be an even larger orange theme at play.
Orange is the dominant colour at Syracuse University. Valour defenders Jordan Murrell and Skylar Thomas were teammates at Syracuse. But Forge’s Chris Nanco also went to ‘Cuse, and played with both Thomas and Murrell. Yup, just a few years ago, Syracuse was sort of the “Team Canada” of the NCAA.
It’s probably a safe bet that the trio won’t be bringing their old yearbooks to the pitch. There’s no doubt that Nanco will want bragging rights over his old schoolmates, and Thomas and Murrell won’t want that to happen.
WFC2 Reunion (Cavalry FC vs Pacific FC)
After the 2017 season, the Whitecaps pulled the plug on their WFC2 USL affiliate. Some of the players stayed in the organization, but a large number of them found their way onto CPL rosters — the majority coming to either Vancouver Island or Calgary.
So, when Cavalry FC faces Pacific FC, there will be lots of old training-ground mates who will be sizing each other up. Cavalry goalkeeper Marco Carducci, plus defenders Chris Serban and Dominick Zator all have WFC2 experience. And fullback Elijah Adekugbe played in the Whitecaps Residency. When it comes to Pacific FC, there are many WFC2 alumni; ‘keeper Mark Village, midfielder Noah Verhoeven, midfielder Matthew Baldisimo, defender Kadin Chung and forward Terran Campbell.
Alumni Game (FC Edmonton vs York9 FC)
Kyle Porter played 48 NASL games for FC Edmonton. Nathan Ingham played with the Eddies for two seasons. And Michael Cox played 51 times for the Eddies in league play.
So, when York9 FC first visits Edmonton, well, there will more than a few familiar faces on the pitch. And it might take some time for FCE fans to adjust to seeing these long-time Eddies wearing the neon green of York9.
(OK, Ingham will be wearing a ‘keeper kit, and he might be somewhat unrecognizable thanks to the new, long flow of hair that he’s grown.)