Cavalry FC head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. prior to the match against the Montreal Impact during the Canadian Championship Semi-final soccer match at Spruce Meadows. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports for CPL
CPL coaches forced to prioritize for off-season loans: ‘More players than opportunities’
Charlie O’Connor-Clarke, Digital Content Editor (@charliejclarke)
Upon departing The Island Games, every CPL coach (save for Bobby Smyrniotis, really) was asked a similar question: With a long off-season looming, just weeks after a longer one finished, how can you ensure your young players have somewhere to play football in the near future?
We’ve already seen it starting; certain players who couldn’t get into Canada due to border restrictions in time for The Island Games have gone on loan (like York9 FC’s Nicholas Hamilton to Dundee FC in Scotland, or Cavalry’s José Escalante to Vida in Honduras).
It could be five or six months, give or take, before the CPL season begins in 2021, which is a long time without soccer in a young player’s career — especially after nine months off before The Island Games. Fans across the league have begun pondering which of their club’s players might get sent out on loan around the world this winter, and teams are certainly exploring such options.
That said, some CPL coaches are cautioning against lofty expectations; it’s not easy to find destinations for players at the moment, with the transfer market so unpredictable due to the uncertainty brought by COVID-19.
“This is gonna be the toughest thing for these players,” former FC Edmonton coach Jeff Paulus told CanPL.ca.
“COVID still exists, so that’s gonna be a challenge as well — you’ve got to circumnavigate COVID and flights and different countries, quarantines and things. So right now it’s no easy period, but it’s gonna be a struggle for every player in this league to now go from today until March 1st, and how they stay as technically sharp as they need to.”
Cavalry FC coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. elaborated on the problem for CanPL.ca, explaining that there are really three options for players this off-season.
Of course, there will be those that remain home, staying sharp by training and helping with young players in the pipeline. Then, there are training stints abroad — Wheeldon revealed that two Cavalry players, Dominick Zator and Nico Pasquotti, spent a couple weeks at Ross County and Real Mallorca, respectively, last year. That option may be difficult simply because of quarantine rules and travel restrictions.
The third option is a proper loan. That poses a major challenge as well, and not just because it can be hard to get players into certain countries right now.
“The market is saturated,” Wheeldon explained. “Even us now, we had a bunch of calls from players and agents that couldn’t get into this country or that country, so now the market is really being driven by, there’s more players than opportunities.”
So, CPL clubs have to be prudent. Many of them may need to prioritize which players will benefit most from a loan — Wheeldon hinted that someone like Sergio Camargo, a key attacker for the Cavs, might be high on that list, since he played just a game and a half at The Island Games.
“What we’ve got to do is be a little bit patient with our approach,” Wheeldon stated. “We’ve got some good contacts that we’ve been on the phone with, and we’ve just got to play it by ear. We can’t afford to have a number of promises that we can’t deliver on, so we’ve got to make sure we’ve got a plan A, a plan B, and a plan C, and take it from there.”
This is, of course, a problem every team is facing. York9 seem to have got out in front of the rest with Hamilton’s loan to Dundee, having begun the process even before leaving for PEI, according to team managing consultant Angus McNab.
It’ll be trickier for the players who did play in The Island Games, though, with a smaller window of time now with which to work. Paulus detailed last week how FC Edmonton have been working with a club in Germany, making use of their scouting resources and connections to make it easier.
“We just don’t have that luxury at our club that we have that individual that it’s their job to get loans for players in their club, to get training stints, trials,” Paulus told CanPL.ca. “We don’t have that luxury, it’s often me trying to find 10 minutes of spare time to try and make this happen. So what we’ve created is someone there that can be that person for us, that can create these opportunities…
“We are creating our player profiles and have profiles to send out, and hopefully we’ll get some positive news coming back that we can get them all playing.”
Certainly, the issue of getting players on the pitch this winter is front of mind for every CPL club. It just won’t be easy.