The first round of the 2019 Canadian Championship will wrap up on Wednesday night, with the three Round 1 pairings set to produce three winners in this expanded Voyageurs Cup format.
Four Canadian Premier League sides are in contention this round; HFX Wanderers head back home with a 3-2 aggregate lead over League1 Ontario’s Vaughan Azzurri, York9 FC will play its inaugural home match after a goalless first leg with Blainville and Cavalry FC is to welcome Pacific FC to Spruce Meadows following a 2-0 win at Westhills.
Winners of the two-legged first round advance to Round 2, where Valour FC, FC Edmonton and Forge FC wait.
HFX Wanderers return to Halifax with a 3-2 aggregate lead over League1 Ontario opponents Vaughan Azzurri.
The first leg was a back-and-forth affair at Ontario Soccer Centre in Vaughan, Ont. First-half goals from Tomasz Skublak and Akeem Garcia were erased in the second by a pair of Vaughan strikes. Mohamed Kourouma scored the game-winning penalty in the 92nd minute, preventing the Azzurri from stunning the visitors.
The winner will take on Valour FC in Round 2.
KEYS TO THE MATCH
Start strong: Vaughan trails 3-2 on aggregate. With the away goals tiebreaker in effect, the GTA-based side should be looking to score from the outset, with a 2-0 or 3-1 result needed to advance. For HFX, this could be seen as a chance to implement defensive tactics against lower-league opposition, as a 0-0 draw is as good as gold for head coach Stephen Hart.
Wanderers Grounds: Halifax’s footballing centre could be a tough place to play for Vaughan. Most of the L1O side’s players don’t have experience playing top-level football outside of League1 Ontario-equivalent grounds, making the 6,000-odd supporters crammed into Wanderers Grounds a difficult prospect.
Organization: The Wanderers need to be more organized defensively. Sloppy, lazy marking led to both Vaughan goals in the first leg, as Jarek Whiteman and Ryan Raposo managed to find space they had no business claiming, considering the situation. Hart’s back four let the League1 Ontario side back into the tie.
PLSQ’s A.S. Blainville and York9 FC are set to finish an intriguing tie at York Lions Stadium in the CPL club’s inaugural home match.
Blainville played York9 to a goalless draw in the opening leg in Montreal. York9 enjoyed nearly 70% possession in the match but was unable to break down the opposition, as Blainville held on for an important stalemate.
The winner will take on FC Edmonton in Round 2.
KEYS TO THE MATCH
Home crowd: York9 has yet to win a match, all of which have come on the road. York Lions Stadium will be festive as Y9 makes its long-awaited arrival. It could give the Nine Stripes a much-needed boost, one they need to start building momentum in the Cup, the Spring Season and beyond.
Pierre-Rudolph Maynard: A player targeted by CanPL.ca ahead of Round 1, the Blainville journeyman proved to be a handful for Y9 in the first match. The centre-forward had multiple quality chances, including a shot off the crossbar in the first half. With Blainville only needing a 1-0 or 1-1 result to advance, watch for the Quebec side’s attacking core to use their experienced forward as a centrepiece once again.
York9’s shape: Jimmy Brennan is coming off a spirited two-goal, second-half comeback away to Pacific FC. Y9’s goals were preceded with a switch to a back four, away from their typical back three. Yes, they tied the game with a penalty and an own goal, but York9 was able to escape PFC’s high press with the extra midfielder and, eventually, get in behind to generate multiple quality chances from open play. Watch for Brennan to make the same adjustment against Blainville, a team that pressed them well in the first leg.
Pacific FC will have a mountain to climb when they cross the Rockies to face Cavalry FC at Spruce Meadows on Wednesday.
Michael Silberbauer and co. dropped a 2-0 defeat to the CPL’s Spring leaders at Westhills Stadium last week. Oliver Minatel and Dominick Zator scored for Cavalry, who continued their 2019 unbeaten run on the weekend by dowsing Al Classico opponents FC Edmonton, 1-0.
Pacific’s pounce: PFC’s attack awoke from its three-match catnap on the weekend, with Ben Fisk and Marcus Haber scoring inaugural CPL goals. Silberbauer will be pleased his new offensive leaders broke their ducks but Cavalry’s staunch, aggressive combination of midfielders and defenders will be tough group to keep the streak alive against.
Dom Malonga: Goalless, so far, Cavalry’s striker hasn’t made the impact he’d hoped. With Jose Escalante out and weekend goalscorer Jordan Brown coming off a 90-minute performance, head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. will likely turn to Malonga in a potential “confidence booster” of a Cup match.