Hope you didn’t blink; the first round of The Island Games is over already.
Each CPL side has played seven games, and four of them have been sent packing.
Cavalry FC, HFX Wanderers FC, Forge FC, and Pacific FC, however, are still in PEI. They’ll butt heads with each other over the next week and a half in the second round, all vying for a spot in the CPL championship final on Sept. 19.
Before we go full steam ahead into the next stage, though, we can’t let that incredible first stage pass without looking at the highlights.
So, we’ll take one more look back at the 28 games that are already in the books.
Here are CanPL.ca’s picks for all the best of the first round from Prince Edward Island.
This was an incredible goal scored under extremely significant circumstances. With Atlético Ottawa looking for the first win in club history, they took a surprising second-half lead over Cavalry FC after 60 minutes.
Just three minutes later, Atleti left the Cavs completely stunned, storming to a 2-0 lead. Malcolm Shaw will leave PEI having scored, at the very least, the best goal in his club’s short history so far. He did it all himself here (with a little help from the wind), as he won his battle with Cavs defender Jonathan Wheeldon to bring the ball down, and didn’t hesitate at all as he sniped the top left corner with a long-range screamer.
Plenty of good options for this one, but we’ll go with the Eddies goalkeeper’s point-blank reaction save on Pacific FC’s Marcus Haber to keep his side alive in Al Classico.
Haber is a very experienced striker with a good boot on him, and this ball would’ve been hard to read. He almost fooled James, who was leaning to his right, but the ‘keeper was athletic enough to kick out his left leg and deflect the bouncing shot over the goal. The moment didn’t quite catalyze an FC Edmonton comeback, but it was a key moment late in the game.
Honourable mentions to Forge’s Baj Maan against Valour FC, and Pacific’s Callum Irving against Atlético Ottawa.
Best Moment: CPLers Stand Together Against Racism
The Canadian Premier League stands united in the fight against racism.
August 27th was a strange day in the sporting world. With athletes in some North American leagues refusing to play, protesting against racial injustice and police brutality, the CPL’s players held a long meeting with league management and staff in the hours before Cavalry FC and Atlético Ottawa were scheduled to play.
Ultimately, they decided to go ahead with the game — some players explained that they wanted to use their platform to help spread their message. All eight CPL clubs — players, coaches, and staff — converged that Thursday afternoon and knelt together, both before the match and at the 8:46 mark in honour of George Floyd.
It was a powerful show of solidarity in support of the Black Lives Matter message — as was the flood of CPL players and coaches publicly voicing their support, either on social media or in interviews.
There are tons of options for this title, from the very first contest between Forge and Cavalry to the last between Pacific and Edmonton. How many first-round games were decided by last-minute winners or equalizers?
We’ll go with the 905 Derby, though. It was the highest-scoring game of the first round, featuring a surprise early lead for the Nine Stripes and a spirited second-half comeback by the champions. York9 did what they seem to do best (score from set pieces) three times, and Forge fought hard all afternoon to try and get back into it.
The sides were evenly-matched — more so than in 2019, probably — and the rivalry between these two Ontario sides seemed to grow.
Best U21 Player: Julian Dunn (Valour FC)
The 20-year-old centre-back was astonishingly good in PEI, having come to Valour on loan from Toronto FC not long before The Island Games kicked off. He ended up playing every single minute for Rob Gale’s side, and he — along with Andrew Jean-Baptiste — was key to Valour’s complete 180 from 2019 in terms of defensive play.
Dunn led all players in the first round with seven blocks, adding 12 interceptions and 24 clearances. It’s difficult for a young player to make a huge impact, and exceedingly so for a central defender. Dunn’s smart, physical play was massive for Valour, and the future is extremely bright for the young Canadian, whether it’s in the CPL or back at TFC.
Honourable mentions to Malyk Hamilton of Atlético Ottawa and Mohamed Farsi of Cavalry FC.
Best Player: Marco Bustos (Pacific FC)
MVPs show up in the big moments, and there hasn’t been a bigger moment yet in this CPL season than the last 10 minutes of Pacific’s final match versus FC Edmonton.
Bustos was brought to the club in the off-season to be a difference-maker, and he absolutely has been — his last-gasp winner to lift his side into the group stage being just the cherry on top of an excellent first round.
The 24-year-old scored three goals and led the league with 14 shots in the first round, and he’s come up big in the moments he’s been needed most. He’s been a versatile player, occasionally asked to create things through the middle, but he’s been at his best when paired with right-back Kadin Chung and allowed to cut in from the wing.