Cavalry FC goalkeeper Marco Carducci controls the ball against the Vancouver Whitecaps during the first half during a Canadian Championship soccer match at Spruce Meadows. (Photo: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports for CPL).
The game of soccer is a fickle friend, and as such it’s rarely kind to anyone who dares to predict its future. Before the 2019 Canadian Premier League season, we at CanPL.ca — knowing full-well we had no clue how things might go for individual clubs in year one — tried at several points to offer our best guesses.
As we welcome a new year (and, soon, a new pre-season full of predictions), we figured now would be a good time to look back at some of the things we were most wrong about (and, in some cases, completely right about) throughout the inaugural season. On occasion, we were nothing short of prophetic. Other times, though… well, you’ll see.
Some of the writers exposed here may have moved on from CPL Editorial, but the ghosts of predictions past haunt them nonetheless.
This bold statement came in the wake of Pacific securing Issey Nakajima-Farran’s signature, and a couple weeks before Marcel De Jong’s Achilles injury. They hadn’t yet signed Blake Smith, Zach Verhoven, or Alexander Gonzalez.
Still, this is a top-tier premature prediction; it’s bold, it’s confident, and it’s pure, dead, wrong. Although Pacific had some great moments in 2019, and the youth movement out on Van Isle was one of the best stories of the season, they certainly did not run away with the league.
The Tridents wound up fifth in the combined standings, with a few statement wins to speak of and plenty of amazing stories of young players finding their way, but no on-field successes on the level of Forge or Cavalry in year one.
2. Nobody had any clue who was going to score goals
This particular writer offered up the name of Michael Cox at York9 as a dark horse candidate. He ended up with no goals in just six appearances.
We were all… well… wrong. Youth took over the CPL far more dramatically than any of us could’ve expected.
3. Too confident in Valour’s backline
Several of us made bold claims about Valour FC, particularly their defence, with the experienced (and well-acquainted) figures of Jordan Murrell and Skylar Thomas expected to command a solid backline, with an excellent understudy in Adam Mitter.
Former CPL Editorial member turned OneSoccer pundit Oliver Platt wrote on this very site last April that he expected Valour to concede the fewest goals in year one. Things didn’t quite work out defensively for Rob Gale’s side, who actually allowed more goals than any other club with 52.
Indeed, Valour’s attack was probably more dangerous than any of us thought it might be. Unfortunately, though, we missed the mark by a broad stroke in thinking they’d be an impenetrable wall defensively.
4. Jimmy Brennan’s goalkeeping surprise
Perhaps one of the biggest surprise players in 2019 was Nathan Ingham, who won York9 FC’s starting goalkeeper job in pre-season and never once looked back.
Unfortunately for this writer, I couldn’t see inside the Nine Stripes camp prior to kickoff on April 27. It wasn’t until Jimmy Brennan submitted his first official starting eleven that I learned who his first-choice goalkeeper was.
Our Ryan Brandt spoke to Canadian men’s national team veteran David Edgar last March while he was playing for Hartlepool in England. At the time, it seemed a pipe dream that a player of his calibre might come home to ply his trade in a brand-new professional league. Still, Edgar told CanPL.ca that he’d been “keeping an eye” on the CPL, not ruling out a return “in the future.”
Who would’ve thought that future would come so soon? Edgar joined Forge FC in August, making an immediate impact and helping them to a CPL championship.
Perhaps nobody predicted outright that Edgar would join a CPL club mid-season, but we’ll take the win on this one, regardless, for speculating that the move was on the horizon.
2. Cavalry-Forge will be a matchup to watch
Okay, this one was a bit of a tap-in. But still, credit is due here to one Mr. Armen Bedakian, who predicted last February, upon the release of the 2019 schedule, that the October 16 Cavalry-Forge clash would be mandatory viewing.
“I reckon Forge and Cavalry could be in a close Fall title chase down to these final few matches,” he wrote. Well, they absolutely were — in fact, they were the only two clubs still in the fight at that stage. Forge finished their Fall season with a 1-0 home win over the Cavs, by the way.
We can probably extend this, more generally, to the general consensus that these two clubs would be heavyweights in year one. Everyone figured Forge were contenders, given their familiarity through Sigma FC and big names like Kyle Bekker. Cavalry, too, had Foothills connections; Tommy Wheeldon Jr. called his side contenders way back in March.
3. The Killer B’s will buzz
We didn’t know a whole lot about Tristan Borges coming into 2019, but he was always at the very least considered an intriguing young prospect. We knew who Kyle Bekker was, of course, and we expected that he’d be a force in the CPL.
Prior to the season, CPL Editorial went through each roster and gave a take on the top five players at each position (don’t look any farther than here, I beg of you). Perhaps the spot we got most right was attacking midfield. Both Borges and Bekker made the list, and although Borges lined up at various positions during the season, his inclusion there definitely paid off.
Sergio Camargo in that list was a good shout, too; unfortunately, we didn’t get to see if Josip Golubar belonged there as well.
4. Marco Carducci will enter the men’s national team conversation
Before the 2019 CPL season, before we’d seen many of these players kick a professional football, we had high expectations for Cavalry FC goalkeeper Marco Carducci. CPL Editorial’s first Canadian men’s national team depth chart, last January, had him as “on the cusp” of a call-up.
In a pre-season roundtable on players to watch in 2019, Marty Thompson said Carducci had perhaps “the most upward trajectory of the (CPL) player pool considering his age and potential opportunity.”
Despite his youth, even before the season we had Carducci pegged as one of the best (if not the best outright) keepers in the CPL, and that turned out absolutely true. The Cavs’ shot-stopper won the league’s first goalkeeper of the year award, as well as the Volkswagen Premier Performer contest. He did indeed earn that national team call-up, joining the team for their September camp, and he looks likely to be part of others in the near future.