HFX Wanderers FC is buzzing, Valour FC is flying, and York9 is still looking for its very first win in the Canadian Premier League, as Week 5 of the 2019 CPL season produced even more goals, late dramatics, and talking points – as well as another unusual environmental incident.
One month into the season, we’ve seen lightning storms, torrential downpours, heavy snowfall, high winds, and, most recently, dangerous levels of smoke in the air. But, onward we persevere, as is the Canadian way, for there is soccer to be played and results to be determined, still.
Coming up next? Three Canadian Championship bouts between six CPL outfits, and a weekend off for all parties involved.
Here’s what we saw in Week 5:
7. Paging Marcus Haber
Does Pacific FC striker Marcus Haber have a scoring problem, or a chance-creation problem?
Against HFX Wanderers FC, the imposing 6-foot-4 striker – who relies on his physicality to beat central defenders in the box and bury crosses, passes, and other plays – was limited to just one single touch in the 18-yard box, and it came in the bottom-right corner, and it occurred after 82 minutes of play. He recorded no shots, no key plays, and had just 21 passes in total. His main supply route, Ben Fisk? Just 19 passes, in total. Sure, Haber won plenty of his duels, leading his team in that category, but with so few looks at goal and touches in total, Haber didn’t really miss his chances – he never had ’em to begin with.
“Every game is a little different,” Pacific head coach Michael Silberbauer said, in response, when asked about Haber’s lack of production against HFX. “I felt the way we approached the game, we had a lot of balls being played in-between (lines). That’s not where Marcus is supposed to be. With a little bit more luck, he may have had more chances. He was in the box a couple of times but the ball was cleared just in front of him. He needs to keep coming into those areas, because he’s scored in the previous two (games, from that position).”
Silberbauer is correct, of course, and Pacific would do well to go over the game tape on this particular match-up, as Haber’s production is almost entirely dependant on his teammates’ ability to find him in key areas on the field – often (almost always, really) in front of goal. When he does get a look, Haber’s heading accuracy and conversion remains as consistent as those of top European centre-forwards.
6. Will the real FC Edmonton please stand up?
FC Edmonton has been our “wait and see” team for quite a few weeks now, with Jeff Paulus’ outfit promising an attacking brand of 4-3-3 soccer, but facing setbacks along the way in the form of red cards, injuries, and rescheduled fixtures. As a result, it’s been tougher than usual to get a read on what the Eddies really look like over the course of five CPL matches.
But, if losses to Forge and Valour this week revealed anything, it’s that Edmonton still has a ways to go before resembling the product that was promised out of pre-season.
Out-passed, out-shot, and out-possessed by both teams, the Eddies couldn’t quite get the foothold on their matches they needed in order to pick up any points on offer. More than that, though, was the far too individual showings from a team that requires unity to succeed. Sure, Marcus Velado-Tsegaye turned heads with some brilliant solo runs, but is there enough cohesion here to truly test opposition backlines? Does this forward line have enough teeth?
The Eddies haven’t scored a goal in their last four showings. Food for thought.
5. A game of inches
Pacific FC nearly clawed out a 2-2 draw against HFX Wanderers FC with a late effort at goal, spilled by HFX goalkeeper Christian Oxner onto the goal line.
Parts of the ball crossed the line. Other parts stayed right on it.
So, why doesn’t that count as a goal?
According to the FIFA rules, the whole of the ball must cross the line in order for a goal to be awarded. For seasoned soccer supporters, the agony of these rare moments is all too familiar – and can both sting and save the day, depending on the one doing the shooting and the one doing the saving. But, for our purposes, these opportunities serve as a nice little reminder that the beautiful game can literally come down to a matter of inches, one way or the other. There’s something poetic about that, no?
4. Spring priorities for York9
The only team without a win in the Canadian Premier League, York9 FC heads back to the drawing board in search of new ideas ahead of a double-header in Canadian Championship play against FC Edmonton … and it’s getting to be around the time that Y9 head coach Jimmy Brennan might consider prioritizing the Cup ahead of the Spring portion of the 2019 CPL season, especially considering the opponents they face in Round 2.
As discussed above, Edmonton hasn’t scored a goal in a long time, and, unless key pieces return to the fold, it’s unlikely that Edmonton will present the sort of scoring threat against Y9 that would require Brennan to play conservatively. As such, this upcoming home-and-away bout might just be just what the doctor ordered for the Nine Stripes, who could surely use the confidence boost of a multi-goal victory as they try and build momentum heading into the Fall.
A win is a win is a win, and while victories remain elusive in league play, York9 has tasted victory already against Blainville. Perhaps this new focus will serve York9 well.
3. CONCACAF League qualifying update
Following Valour’s 1-0 win over FC Edmonton, the table for the CONCACAF League spot has now shifted once again, with the two bottom teams sitting level on all categories, three points behind leaders Forge FC. Here’s how we’re looking heading into the final two bouts of this “Canada 2” spot decider:
CPL CONCACAF League qualifying (as of June 3, 2019)
Forge hosts Valour on June 15, before FC Edmonton hosts Forge on June 26, giving the Hamilton-based outfit two more opportunities to extend that lead, while giving the other two a crucial lifeline against the top team in this three-team in-league contest. The winner will be decided on the 26th, and will then face the task of taking on Guatemalan outfit Antigua GFC in the preliminary round of the CONCACAF League.
2. Let’s talk about …
… HFX Wanderers FC winger Mohamed Kourouma, shall we? And, while we’re at it, let’s talk about FC Edmonton’s Son Yongchan, HFX’s Kodai Iida, Valour’s Raphael Garcia, and York9’s Emilio Estevez, too. All five have been regular contributors in their team’s lineups, with the former three emerging as starters for HFX and Edmonton respectively. What’s so special about these five? Well, they all came out of the CPL’s Open Trials, held in 2018 from coast-to-coast to try and find hidden gems ahead of the inaugural season. Clearly, there was talent to unearth, with Kourouma and Iida causing all sorts of problems against Pacific, Iida in particular providing an assist and a penalty draw to give his team a 2-1 advantage.