TORONTO – There’s an old adage in football, and in life – the bigger they are, the harder they fall.
That’s the sentiment Valour FC head coach Rob Gale draws from as he and the rest of the Canadian Premier League’s head coaches learned their path to the Voyageurs Cup on Thursday, with the Canadian Soccer Association announcing details about the 2019 Canadian Championship.
For Gale’s Valour FC, the journey begins in Round 2 of five, paired alongside Forge FC, FC Edmonton and the three winners from an opening round that kicks off on May 15.
But the path to the final sets up the potential of playing against more established opposition.
“I’m excited for the game here in Canada,” Gale said during Thursday’s media conference to introduce his newest signings. “How good is it to see (teams) from the semi-professional leagues, like PLSQ, that were in it last year?
“Now, for it to expand again to 13 (teams), 24 matches – you know, I played in the FA Cup when I was 15 years old, and everyone has that dream that you can go all the way and beat the big boys.
“Toronto FC is sitting there as the prime target for everybody, but at the same token, us CPL clubs are the focus for the amateur teams.
Gale added: “I think it’s going to be a great ride and a really enjoyable experience, and I think the fans are going to love it from coast to coast with the possibility of giant-killing at every stage.
“I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of people supporting CPL sides and hoping they can go all the way. We’re certainly excited for it and ready for the challenge.”
This will be the first foray into intra-Canadian competition for six of the seven CPL clubs, but for FC Edmonton fans, this year’s tournament is a return to a once-familiar competition.
FC Edmonton head coach Jeff Paulus spoke of his excitement for the prospects of taking on giants like Toronto FC, telling CanPL.ca, perhaps a bit tongue-in-cheek, that he’d look forward to wearing a suit for the moment his side triumphed over the Reds in the Canadian Championship, when asked what he preferred to wear on the sidelines.
Q: What do the CPL head coaches prefer to wear on the sidelines?
And while the occasion generally calls for good cheer and camaraderie across the country in the build-up to the match, Paulus was clear he’s not going to take the actual competition lightly.
“For me, the Voyageurs Cup will always be special and we have certainly enjoyed some memorable moments and infamous decisions,” Paulus said.
“This competition, like the game itself, belongs to the supporters and it is a competition that FC Edmonton will take very seriously and commit itself to.”
This won’t be FC Edmonton’s first foray into the tournament – the club had previously competed in the tournament during its time in the NASL.
But it will the first time the Eddies have competed under the CPL banner, and Paulus’ first go at a trophy he said he’s fully committed to winning.
“I truly believe we owe it to the Voyageurs themselves, and the fans who support our game in this country to honour the competition and do everything we can to try to win it,” Paulus concluded.
The Canadian Championship kicks off on May 15 in the first of five rounds en route to the final.
Teams will be drawn together at a later date.