Much has been said about Cavalry FC and Forge FC this inaugural Canadian Premier League campaign.
More is set to be written and discussed in the coming weeks with the two sides set to meet in the two-legged Canadian Premier League Finals, starting with a first leg at Tim Hortons Field on Oct. 26.
Emerging from the pack early on, Cavalry and Forge haven’t looked back, taking 112 points combined heading into their final Fall season meeting Wednesday at Tim Hortons Field (7:00 p.m. ET, available on OneSoccer). For context, the next two teams in the cumulative table, FC Edmonton and York9 FC, have collected 61.
With the headlines, features and highlights, certain players have emerged – just as the CPL was intended to do for Canadian footballers; Tristan Borges, Kyle Bekker, Anthony Novak for Forge, Nico Pasquotti, Marco Carducci and Dominick Zator for Cavalry FC.
Year 1 has also proven how important your depth pieces are. Travel and injuries have given every team a handful – including the league leaders. Here are the under-radar-contributors for both.
Triston Henry (Goalkeeper) – Forge FC
All the way back to inaugural match, pundits have been skeptical of Triston Henry. The 26-year-old was picked ahead of Quillan Roberts that day. Toronto and Ontario-based onlookers seemed generally puzzled, as Roberts, the former Toronto FC and LAFC product, stayed bench-side as a former member of Bobby Smyrniotis’ Sigma FC side hit the pitch.
Henry was the right choice as Smyrniotis looks for a skilled ball-playing goalkeeper.
Completing on average of 25 passes per match, the Scarborough native is one of the very best in the CPL at keeping the ball moving at the back. Henry completed 28 passes in less-than-ideal conditions in Calgary last week, third-most for his side, as Smyrniotis selected his No. 1 against their Finals 2019 opponent.
Last Wednesday’s match also showed his ability as an underrated shot-stopper. With five saves, many of them from point-blank, Henry put together the type of performance the likes of Marco Carducci or York9 FC’s Nathan Ingham would be congratulated on for weeks.
But you can’t deny Julian Buscher’s impact on Finals 2019-bound Cavalry has come more and more apparent over the Fall campaign. The German offers the kind of connecting midfield movement the 4-2-3-1 variants Cavalry installs can sometimes lack.
SportLogiq puts the Buscher in the top two or three CPLers in several key advanced midfielder categories; final third line-breaking passes (1.18 per 90 minutes), crosses (6.64 per 90 minutes), successful pressured passes (13.88 per 90 minutes) and relief receptions (16.48 per 90 minutes).
What coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. has is one of the best ball recycling and ball-spraying midfielder in the league.
Buscher’s contributions have not gone unnoticed at CanPL.ca, but perhaps behind high-profile Canadian midfielders in Nik Ledgerwood and Sergio Camargo, or the fact his role is more moving the ball up the pitch rather than scoring or laying in a final ball, his role appears more minor.
He offers the perfect middle-of-the-pyramid complement to Ledgerwood and Elijah Adekugbe at the bottom and Camargo and Oliver Minatel at the top. A rare piece for Wheeldon Jr. to have in his inventory.
Dominic Samuel (Defender) – Forge FC
Forge’s strong, versatile defender is another Sigma grad that has quietly assembled a nice resume as a sturdy day-in-day-out defender.
Tough in the tackle, hard to overtake despite being an average 5’10” and a decent passer. All great, but Samuel’s best (and least noted) attribute is his versatility. Lining up as a left fullback, centre back or right fullback, the 25-year-old former Rochester Rhino can go just about anywhere – his 24 appearances are a big indication of that versatility.
With Bertrand Owundi ruled out of the first leg of the Canadian Premier League Finals due to yellow card accumulation, watch for Samuel to slot in at centreback with a massive role to play.
Oliver Minatel (Forward) – Cavalry FC
Starting the season as a depth attacking option, Cavalry’s Brazilian attacker has … just always been there.
Seven goals on the season, Minatel has a knack for being in the right spot at the box for a one-hit, especially at the back post. The former Ottawa Fury player spent a good chunk of the Fall campaign as Dominick Zator’s intended target for back-post flick-ons – always a good place to be.
There’s also the matter of efficiency for Minatel, who likely has the best-shot-for-goal ratio in the CPL at 21% this Fall season. Through 23 shots, seven have been on target – and five of those have found the back of the net.
One team he has yet to score against? Forge FC. Could that change Saturday at Tim Hortons Field (7:00 p.m. ET, available on OneSoccer)?