Five distinctions will be handed out at the 2019 Canadian Premier League Awards Ceremony in Toronto on Nov. 26 – four for players, one for a coach. A total of 11 individuals have been nominated.
Tristan Borges and Forge FC lead individual and club nominations: Borges is up for Player of the Year and Best Under 21 Canadian Player of the Year, Kyle Bekker for Player of the Year and Bobby Smyrniotis for Coach of the Year.
Here’s a look at the 2019 nominees, award by award.
Nathan Ingham (Nathan Ingham)
In terms of productivity, York9 FC’s Nathan Ingham is a good shout. Making a league-leading 89 saves and holding a respectable save percentage (72.36 per cent), the 26-year-old was busy but effective through a busy season in goal. Earned a spot in CanPL.ca’s Spring XI, too.
Marco Carducci (Cavalry FC)
Here’s your frontrunner. Cavalry’s shot stopper was the CPL’s darling in Year 1: the first CPLer called up to the Canadian men’s national team, a league-leading nine clean sheets and the leader of VW Premier Performer for months and months. The 23-year-old went on to put a stamp on things with a wicked penalty stop in Leg 1 of Finals 2019.
Connor James (FC Edmonton)
FC Edmonton’s gem of a 2018 CPL-U SPORTS Draft pick was a revelation in Alberta’s capital. James, 23, proved one of the quickest and most agile ‘keepers in the league – and the hardest to beat 1v1, shown by his staggering 12 keeper sweepings (removing the ball from play aggressively) in 2019.
Player of the Year
Dom Malonga (Cavalry FC)
Cavalry’s entrant in the MVP discussion is Congolese striker Dom Malonga. While it could have been many Cavs players up for this award, the 30-year-old forward’s 2019 stands out the most. No forward generated chances the way Malonga did, whether through clever movement, hold-up play or breaking lines. He led the league in shots and shots on target per 90 minutes, too, proving a premier attacking option en route to an 11-goal season.
Kyle Bekker (Forge FC)
“Captain Forge” sure has managed to deliver on his pre-season potential. Bekker was the best passer in the CPL in Year 1. A league-tying five assists, with a handful of goals, Bekker was as key in the buildup as the finish for Forge throughout their championship season, standing out as a clear leader. It’s one thing to play well, it’s another thing to play well when it matters most – think about Concacaf League and the CPL Finals.
Tristan Borges (Forge FC)
The Golden Boot winner was the single greatest creative force in the CPL in Year 1 with 13 goals and five assists. Watch 10 minutes of Forge football from 2019 and you’ll see it; technical ability for days, a wand of a left foot and shifty speed that could break any line with a smart one-two. His goals were quality, too, with an Olimpico and several outside-the-box wondergoals to his name.
Best Under 21 Canadian Player of the Year
Terran Campbell (Pacific FC)
Pacific FC’s 21-year-old leading man is up for best young player of 2019 on the heels of an incredible Fall campaign. Playing more than 80 minutes in 16 of 18 games, collecting a staggering 2,436 minutes as an under-21 player, Terran Campbell proved a workhorse – and his 11 goals show it. Using his strength and positional awareness, the Burnaby native was one of the hardest attackers to mark in the league.
Tristan Borges (Forge FC)
Oh, you again. Up for Player the Year as an under-21, Borges is up for consideration in a second category. It’s easy to forget he was one of the youngest players on the pitch for Forge this year, and it’s hard to argue against his contributions and effect on the game. Borges averaged more shots (3.03), completed more tackles (3.61) and made more key passes (2.10) per 90 minutes than any CPL midfielder – under 21 or otherwise.
Diyaeddine Abzi (York9 FC)
As a premier left fullback, York9 FC’s Diyaeddine Abzi arrives as one of the biggest breakthrough stars in a league chock full of young, relatively unknown talent. Speed, technical ability and a wicked cross proved this 20-year-old Quebecer a diamond in the rough for Y9 coach Jimmy Brennan.
Coach of the Year
Bobby Smyrniotis (Forge FC) Forge FC are CPL Champions and, therefore, Bobby Smyrniotis is up for this award. He masterminded Forge’s comprehensive two-legged triumph over Cavalry in Finals 2019, made a run in the Concacaf League, and ended 2019 tied with Cavalry for point if you include Finals 2019. Those two matches showed Smyrniotis and Forge at their best – holding Cavalry off the scoresheet being the most impressive feat.
Tommy Wheeldon Jr. (Cavalry FC)
Ah, here’s the great debate: Do you chose the CPL Champions or the winners of the Spring and Fall season. Thing is, despite failing to win Finals 2019, Tommy Wheeldon Jr. claimed the biggest win of any CPL team in Year 1: a 2-1 win over Vancouver Whitecaps on July 24th. Entering BC Place and getting a first CPL-over-MLS win is no small feat.
Jimmy Brennan (York9 FC)
York9 FC’s Jimmy Brennan is the third selection after finishing behind Forge and Cavalry in the CPL’s combined table. The Nines had a pretty good late-season surge, ending with a plus goal differential, a 905 Derby win over Forge and some solid goalscoring efforts from their attacking unit. Something to build on for 2020.