Which CPL player has the most to prove for the 2021 season?
OneSoccer Today asked that question and many more Thursday in its latest episode where pundits Gareth Wheeler and Oliver Platt singled out two members of Pacific FC’s 2020 squad: Noah Verhoeven and Terran Campbell, respectively.
Verhoeven, 21, struggled for playing time with the Tridents at the Island Games, managing just 243 minutes before moving to York United for the upcoming campaign. The former Vancouver Whitecaps Academy product shined for PFC in 2019, emerging as one of the League’s early young stars and even earning an invitation to the Canadian men’s national team’s pre-2019 Gold Cup training camp.
Campbell, meanwhile, scored just once on Prince Edward Island – a stark contrast to the 11-goal total the 22-year-old amassed in 2019.
We here at CanPL.ca – Charlie O’Connor-Clarke, Marty Thompson, and Benedict Rhodes – thought we could offer up a few more nominees for players with something to prove in 2021…
Maybe not the first name to come to mind, but bear with me.
Think about it: this off-season, Doner chose to leave York United, a club that showed a lot of faith in him since 2019 and built much of its tactical plan around its fullback pairing, to join HFX Wanderers, where he’ll try to fill the shoes of a fan-favourite player who has arguably been better than him on the balance of two CPL seasons. Doner won’t be able to escape comparisons to Chrisnovic N’sa, with the two essentially trading places for this year.
Doner’s Island Games performance (while a much smaller sample size) was not as good as his 2019 season, so it’ll be up to him to prove that the promise of his first year can be replicated in a completely new environment.
Marty’s pick: Dominick Zator, York United
Don’t get confused: Dominick Zator moved to York United from Cavalry FC to prove himself to the CPL, Canada coach John Herdman, and the international attention he has received since joining Cavalry in 2019.
Currently on loan at Swedish second-tier side Vasalunds IF, the sturdy 26-year-old centre back controversially left the Cavs – where he was the all-time leader in minutes played – to join a transitioning York side. Statistically, he’s one of the best defenders in the CPL, so there isn’t much left to improve on there. He’s arguably the highest-pedigree defender plying his trade domestically, too. But can he prove he’s adaptable by performing in a new environment away from Calgary? That seemed to be motivation for the move.
“This is about seeing if you can adapt to new changes and if you can succeed in a different environment,” Zator said about signing with York.
Benedict’s pick: David Norman Jr., Cavalry FC
After a good string of performances for Canada in the 2020 Concacaf Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship in March, there are high expectations for Cavalry FC’s David Norman Jr.
Norman Jr., usually a midfielder, was a regular at centre-back for Canada at the tournament after a string of injuries forced head coach Mauro Biello to play him there, but he took his opportunity and ran with it. Cavalry have a deep midfield, so Norman Jr. could see a lot of minutes in the backline, with him suggesting that he may get more looks there after the tournament.
“It definitely happened fast, but looking back at it now I’m glad that it happened, and I got some good reps, if you want, in at centre-back in high-level games against good players,” he told CanPL.ca. “I think that’s gonna set me up really nicely for the CPL season ahead.”
Norman has a bit of CPL experience, having played a handful of matches for Pacific FC in 2019 on loan from the Vancouver Whitecaps, but it’ll will be interesting to see if he can keep up his strong play over a full season and cement himself as one of the CPL’s best players. Who knows, if he plays at centre-back, and performs well there, a senior national team call-up doesn’t feel out of the question.