Week 19 of the CPL season may have been short on matchups, but there was still plenty of action for Canadian soccer fans to enjoy, as the Canadian men’s team took on Cuba in CONCACAF Nations League play. Meanwhile, Forge played catch up in the Fall season, taking on both Pacific FC and York9 FC in regular season play.
Here’s what we saw from around the world of Canadian soccer in Week 19 of the CPL season.
7. What’s in a rivalry, anyway?
This week, Forge FC hosted York9 FC in the latest iteration of the ‘905 Derby’, and while a return to Tim Hortons Field for a rematch of the league’s inaugural game seemed an exciting prospect on paper, the 90 minutes of football proved relatively one-sided as Bobby Smyrniotis’ side took a comfortable 2-1 win over their rivals down the QEW.
In the build-up to the inaugural match, both coaches were open about the fact that motivation wouldn’t be hard to come by, but it seems a touch of mid-season slog has crept into both camps, as neither side looked particularly feisty on the field. Instead, a slow, methodical Forge slowly but relentlessly picked apart at the Nine Stripes, to great effect.
This blood feud saw no red cards issued, no crunching tackles endured, no particularly egregious plays broken down; there was not much controversy – even Dominic Samuel’s penalty concession to give York9 its only goal of the game seemed relatively half-hearted at best. It certainly wasn’t one for the history books, which raises the question: What is a rivalry, anyway?
Is it born naturally, due to distance? Or, as Forge and Cavalry have shown all season, is it born over the course of meaningful encounters? Sure, Forge and York may share close proximity, but the spark of a rivalry has yet to truly erupt into flames. Perhaps, come Oct. 6 and 12, we’ll revisit this particular topic, because York9 will certainly be licking some wounds over the next few days. Jimmy Brennan won’t be pleased with his team’s performance, so it’s back to the drawing board, for now.
6. Forge enjoying Fall surge
A quick glance at the CPL standings midway through the Fall season shows Forge FC in pole position, sitting pretty with a single point lead over second-placed Cavalry, and with a game in hand, too.
It’s a wonderful spot for Smyrniotis’ side to sit in after a month that really should not have gone as smoothly as it did for the Hamilton outfit, considering that Forge had to travel to Guatemala and Honduras while hosting Antigua GFC and C.D. Olimpia in CONCACAF League action, alongside regular season play.
That Forge sits at the top of the table is a testament to two key factors: This team is built with resilience at its core, and there’s plenty of talent in spots 12 through 18.
Case in point? Marcel Zajac scored the game-winning goal against York9, assisted by a smart header by Jonathan Grant, while Monti Mohsen got the only goal in Forge’s 1-1 draw with Pacific FC, earlier in the week. All of these players were, to put it bluntly, non-factors in Forge’s Spring sprint, and are now playing vital roles in the Fall half.
We may only be half-way through, but as it stands, Cavalry could be preparing for a date with Forge in the inaugural CPL Championship … though you can be sure FC Edmonton and Pacific FC will still have something to say about that.
5. Canada downs Cuba in resounding win
The Canadian men’s national team kicked off their CONCACAF Nations League campaign in fine fashion, defeating visiting Cuba 6-0 at BMO Field.
For my part, can we just talk about this Jonathan David goal, please? Having seen it happen live, in person, literally right in front of me … I still didn’t believe it was real until the replay showed on the jumbo screen. That first touch; the finesse tap to put the ball off the defender’s foot; that sublime finish. Beautiful. Watch it one hundred a fifty thousand more times like I did, won’t you?
Canada wasn’t the only national team in action this week, with York9 FC midfielder Ryan Telfer making his international debut for Trinidad and Tobago last Friday, starting for the Soca Warriors as they battled to a 1-1 road draw against Martinique in CONCACAF Nations League action. Canadian men’s national team manager John Herdman had previously expressed interest in Telfer in a call with reporters following his most recent squad announcement, highlighting the Y9 loanee alongside Tristan Borges and Cavalry goalkeeper Marco Carducci as standouts from the CPL that have caught his eye.
Meanwhile, HFX Wanderers FC midfielder Abd-El-Aziz Yousef took part in a 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifier with Somalia, where he and his 202nd-ranked team defeated Zimbabwe (ranked 90 spots higher out of a total of 211 teams) 1-0, giving the Ocean Stars a historic first-ever World Cup qualifying victory. Forge goalkeeper Quillan Roberts was on the bench for Guyana’s 1-0 win over Aruba, too.
While the primary objective of the Canadian Premier League is to develop the player pool for Canada, a wonderful benefit to having a professional league is that is afford opportunities to players across the region, and beyond. CONCACAF Director of Caribbean Football Horace Reid called the CPL “an excellent opportunity, from the vantage point of the Caribbean community” and, to that end, players like Telfer and Roberts, who were born and raised in Canada, can juxtapose those opportunities offered to the likes of Elton John, Kareem Moses, etc.
3. The Junior supporter section
No, we’re not talking about a section of the stadium reserved for the kids.
While Junior Hoilett was off scoring his hat trick for Canada in a 6-0 drubbing of Cuba, fans situated in sections 125 and 126 at BMO Field may have heard some louder-than-usual cheers from those around them, as the Brampton, Ontario native brought a throng of family and friends some 200 strong to the match in Toronto.
Donning the captain’s armband for this particular bout, Hoilett impressed the 10,000+ fans at BMO Field with his persistency and poise on the front foot, with Herdman remarking after the match that Junior “led by example – he knew that with the armband.”
“Forget about his goals,” Herdman laughed. “That’s the most dedicated I’ve seen Junior to every part of the game.”
Could you blame him?
“I requested about 200 tickets,” Hoilett admitted, after the match, with a smile.
“He pays for all the tickets himself,” Herdman confirmed.
2. Can we talk about …
… Terran Campbell, the top striker at Pacific FC, and the CPL’s first-ever double-digit goal scorer? He played the hero once again for Michael Silberbauer’s side on Wednesday, scoring a key equalizer to give his team a 1-1 draw against Forge at Westhills Stadium, which was also his league-leading 10th goal of the season. Campbell has been one of the league’s most under-the-radar players, despite his consistent ability to find the back of the net, and if he keeps this run of form going through the Fall, expect the narrative around this soft-spoken striker to flourish into a star name.