The Canadian Premier League recently announced that the start of the 2020 season has been postponed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The news, while unfortunate, didn’t come as much of a surprise, with sporting events and leagues around the world (and right here in Canada) doing likewise to help protect the public and slow the spread of the virus.
So, the CPL’s eight clubs now find themselves with a little more time to prepare for the new season, when it does finally kick off. Certainly, no team will be jumping for joy about the news that their start has been delayed, but in the interest of looking at life through a more positive lens, might some clubs stand to benefit from an extended break more than others?
With this in mind, we’ll ask the question: Which CPL side, if any, benefits the most from the additional time?
Is it one with holes left to fill on their roster? Or, perhaps, a squad with a cast of new faces, who could use more time to get to know each other (through virtual communication, of course).
We asked CanPL.ca’s Marty Thompson, John Molinaro, and Charlie O’Connor-Clarke to weigh in with their thoughts.
Of the seven international slots on York9’s current roster, six are filled by guys who signed with the club this off-season: Japanese defender Fugo Segawa, Argentinian midfielder Brian Lopez, and forwards Gabriel Vasconcelos and Jacó (Brazil), Peruvian Adrián Ugarriza and Jamaican Nicholas Hamilton.
Much will be expected from this sextet during the 2020 season, and most of them will likely log a lot of playing time – especially Vasconcelos, whose reputation precedes him as a Corinthians product, and someone who will look to lead an attack that can no longer call upon the services of Rodrigo Gattas and Ryan Telfer, the club’s top two scorers in 2019.
Introducing six key newcomers is a lot for any club, so the more time they have to get to know each other and work together – even if it’s in video sessions from remote locations during this time of self-isolation – the better it will be for Y9.
International players throughout club soccer often have trouble adjusting to their new surroundings, as there are often language and cultural barriers to overcome. This little bit of extra time off gives Y9’s newcomers more of a chance to acclimate themselves to Canada, to get to know their teammates, and get a full understanding of the style of soccer Jim Brennan wants to play and their respective roles for the upcoming campaign.
O’CONNOR-CLARKE: Atlético Ottawa
Frankly, this is the easiest choice. When Atlético Ottawa’s was announced as the league’s newest team two months ago, the biggest hurdle facing them was the short sprint they’d have between then and the start of the season. They needed to build an entirely new roster, as well as hire coaches and backroom staff, all before their scheduled kickoff on April 18.
This delay takes some of the pressure off coach Mista to assemble his squad and decide how he wants them to play. Of course, the current hiatus won’t necessarily give him more time to train, but it’ll still allow for less urgency in finding players; that is, perhaps Ottawa can cast their net a little wider in looking for players to fill the holes in their lineup.
Of course, it goes without saying that the postponement doesn’t really “benefit” anyone — except, of course, everyone, in the interest of public health — and Ottawa would surely prefer to be kicking off at TD Place as scheduled. Still, you look for a silver lining on ever storm cloud, right?
Just like a student granted a last-minute extension on the essay they just started, Ottawa has found a little more time to ensure they hit the ground running in 2020.
To be fair to Gale, Valour’s off-season exodus has been significant: Marco Bustos, Louis Béland-Goyette, and Michael Petrasso were all gone by January. Additional late departures of Tyler Attardo and Skylar Thomas meant only six players from 2019 were signed by the start of training camp. Therefore, Gale has a fluid set up this camp. Extra time is necessary to make the right personnel choices.
What about these possible returnees, too? Valour still has five 2019 players unconfirmed for this season: Tyson Farago, Raphael Ohin, Nicolás Galvis, Federico Peña, and Michele Paolucci. Farago, Ohin and Peña are local talents that will be in the region regardless of a re-signing.
Why the delay? Gale could be waiting on a few big names or deciding between competing trialists. More time on the squad-building clock is useful either way.