The Canadian Premier League’s inaugural season is fast approaching its natural conclusion, with Finals 2019 now just a few short weeks away from kicking off in Hamilton, Ontario and concluding in Calgary, Alberta.
This weekend may be the penultimate match week for the 2019 regular season, but it’s also a weekend of reflection and gratitude, as the Thanksgiving holiday brings us together over turkey and pumpkin pie (and, yes, cousin Frank’s tuna casserole …).
With that spirit in mind, here’s what each of the seven Canadian Premier League teams are grateful for in 2019.
HFX Wanderers FC – The party in the Kitchen
Dead-last in the standings? Not ideal, of course, for the city of Halifax, but you wouldn’t be able to tell from the stands that the club is struggling for points, as Wanderers Grounds played host to the most raucous, invested group of supporters across the league. That’s not throwing shade at the rest of the league, though; each of the clubs have dedicated fans, of course. But, the party in Halifax, spurred on by Privateers 1882, has rolled on non-stop over these last six months, with the Kitchen rocking in Halifax.
Whatever battle for mascot supremacy went down in 2019 was quite subdued, as Yorky, mascot for York9 FC, made short work of his peers this season. York9 will be equally grateful to their fans in Generation XI (particularly the one dude with the trumpet, rock on!), but with Yorky on the sidelines, young fans at York Lions Stadium have enjoyed the energy and enthusiasm that only a travelling android soccer star from the future could bring. Plus, his appearance on Centre Circle LIVE! was legendary.
Where would Forge FC be without the mind – and, really, the connections – of head coach Bobby Smyrniotis? More than any of his managerial peers, Smyrniotis’ side is a product of a career’s worth of output; that Forge has so many talented players who came out of Sigma FC, Smyrniotis’ club academy in Mississauga, is a testament to that hard work. Add to that a tactical tenacity that is unparalleled by many in this league, and you’ve got your recipe for success right in front of you … and, at Finals 2019, too.
Bonus gratitude: Home-cooked meals. Sometimes, those buffets on CONCACAF away days come with a price …
Valour FC – The weather
In a season marred by blizzards and icy pitches, thunderstorm delays, and heat waves, Valour FC can call their 2019 home stand rather chipper by comparison. The weather held up quite nicely in Winnipeg this year … unexpectedly so, especially considering the state of emergency called over the long weekend. Now, of course, Valour ought to also be grateful for Marco Bustos, the emergence of Tyler Attardo, the addition of Michele Paolucci, and head coach Rob Gale’s candid humour – not to mention a series of penalty saves by Matthias Janssens, and late rescuers on the other end – but the fact that the fans in Winnipeg got to enjoy an unencumbered soccer experience in 2019 is no small feat, either.
This hasn’t been an easy year for FC Edmonton. Long runs without a goal, a 10-match winless streak, and a number of injuries, formation changes, and dropped points have made things quite frustrating for Jeff Paulus and his coaching staff. Twitter was, for a while, Paulus’ choice for venting those frustrations, and for promising more from his players to the Eddies’ supporters. But, more recently, Paulus has turned to OneSoccer’s post-match cameras as a sounding board, bringing context and meaning to losses or draws in a fair, balanced way. No head coach has managed their club narrative better than Paulus has, via OneSoccer.
Also: Marco Carducci’s safe hands. They got him a Canadian national team nod, after all. Don’t forget Dominick Zator’s vertical on set pieces; it helped Cavalry defeat the Vancouver Whitecaps. There’s also Dominique Malonga’s nose for goal; that’s been pretty effective, good for 11 on the season now. We can’t forget the crowd at ATCO Field, Spruce Meadows; have any supporters endured worse weather conditions? How about the Spring season? Cavalry’s probably grateful to have earned a spot in Finals 2019 sooner, rather than later. Oh, but we’ve gotten distracted. Pasquotti’s long throws. Yeah, they’re pretty awesome.
Bonus gratitude: Tommy Wheeldon Jr.’s stylist. Or wife. We’re not sure who picks his wardrobe, but it’s working.
Pacific FC – The Kids
Where would Pacific FC be without its core of young, talented professionals? In a year that saw many new pathways opened up across the country, each club found their own way of measuring success. For the Islanders of Pacific FC, that success came in the form of youth development. It’s why Pacific FC smashed the stipulated 1,000-minute requirement for its young stars, and why players like Terran Campbell, Zach Verhoven, Alessandro Hojabrpour, Noah Verhoeven, Kadin Chung, Matthew Baldisimo, and Emile Legault are now household names among the Canadian soccer faithful.
Bonus gratitude: The hydro pole at Westhills Stadium. But, also, the $5M investment for soccer on Vancouver Island.