We’re almost at the halfway mark in the Spring portion of the 2019 CPL regular season, and, as predicted at the top of this campaign, it’s Cavalry FC of Calgary and Forge FC of Hamilton leading the pack in search of the first of two berths in the 2019 CPL Championship.
This week, Cavalry secured a seventh straight win in all competitions – five in league play – by defeating visiting HFX Wanderers FC at Spruce Meadows. Meanwhile, a rained-out York Lions Stadium produced an upset in the 905 Derby, as Forge defeated York9 in their homecoming bow.
Up next? A pair of midweek matches on Wednesday, followed by a pair of Saturday fixtures.
Here’s what we saw in Week 4:
7. Here’s how you beat Cavalry FC
Undefeated off the top of the season and seemingly headed toward a perfect Spring campaign, Cavalry FC has quickly established itself as both the team to beat in the Canadian Premier League, and a bit of an intimidating foe to go up against. It doesn’t help that Forge, the only team to stay mostly level with the Cavs, lost their bout through a last-second set piece, lending more credence to the “team of destiny” vibe that Cavalry is now exuding.
So, how do you actually beat Cavalry?
There are three trademarks to their style of play: plenty of possession, especially in midfield; a healthy dose of high pressing from attacking and wide midfielders; danger in set pieces, including long throw-ins.
As such, and respecting that Cavalry has a more organized lineup than most, the game plan should be, admittedly, ugly; sit back and counter when you can, turning to long balls to taller attackers to bypass the midfield; punish high pressing through quick lateral passing – this requires cohesion, with teammates always making themselves an option off the ball; keep in mind that the Cavs lean right-heavy (against HFX, right-winger Dean Northover led his team in turnovers); don’t allow Julian Buscher or Nico Pasquotti too much time on the ball; slow down play when possession is yours.
Most importantly? Finish your chances. You won’t have many to spare.
Best of luck to Edmonton, HFX, Forge, York, and Pacific – they each have one more chance at the Cavs before July 1.
6. Is York9 in trouble after slow start?
Still without a win in the CPL and fast approaching the point of no return in the Spring portion of the season, York9 FC remains a work-in-progress under Jimmy Brennan. But, is there cause for concern with the Nine Stripes through these early goings?
“This league, it’s not a sprint. It’s a marathon,” Brennan stressed after his latest loss, 2-0 to Forge on Saturday. “We’re starting to get our identity of who we are. I’m not worried about the guys that we have in that dressing room.”
While the “not a sprint, a marathon” mentality works for most regular-season campaigns, that’s not exactly the case in the CPL, where the Spring half is most definitely a sprint to the finish. But Brennan’s sentiment rings true in spirit, regardless; there’s no rush for teams like York9, HFX Wanderers, Valour FC, or Pacific FC – teams with little previous connections or history together – to come together perfectly and take on their final forms, even by the end of Year 1.
This whole thing – clubs, lineups, even the league itself – is a project of growth. And, having out-shot Forge over 90 minutes of play (even with a rain delay), York9 is showing constant growth, game over game.
5. Forge has a forward line conundrum
Anthony Novak, Emery Welshman, Kadell Thomas, Tristan Borges, and now Chris Nanco have all found the back of the net for Bobby Smyrniotis’ side. Novak offers physicality up top and has the sort of footwork usually reserved for less imposing forwards; Welshman is an ever-present attacking threat who drives the play forward; Thomas is crafty and has shown poise in his finishing; Borges is a handful and a half with trickery in bounds; Nanco brings speed down the wing.
The point? Forge’s forward line is stacked, and varied. It’s a wonderful luxury to have. It’s also why Forge will probably never have a consistent starting XI; these weapons will be interchanged as needed. If they all keep scoring, it won’t matter who starts anyway.
4. Homecoming review
Now that every team has played a home match in CPL action, let’s look back at our league home openers, shall we?
That’s 3 wins, 2 draws, and 2 losses for home sides in their homecoming bouts.
3. Rain, rain, go away
York9 FC was rained out on Saturday, with lightning storms in the area causing an extended delay before the match was eventually continued; Cavalry FC has played under snowy and stormy conditions at Spruce Meadows; Forge endured chilling cold in spring, with high winds nearly sweeping fans off their feet for their inaugural match; HFX’s home debut was shrouded in mist and fog; Pacific, on Vancouver Island? Nice and sunny. Obviously.
We are one month into the regular season.
Welcome to coast-to-coast soccer in Canada, ladies and gentlemen.
2. Can we talk about …
HFX Wanderers FC striker Tomasz Skublak? After a less than impressive first match, the Hamilton-born forward has started to turn heads, filling in for Luis Alberto Perea up top in Stephen Hart’s side. Though he has yet to find the back of the net, Skublak has become much more of a presence at centre-forward for HFX, testing Cavalry goalkeeper Marco Carducci on a number of occasions and making himself available for a lay-off pass time and time again. His showing against Cavalry is promising.