With the Spring season having wrapped up on Monday and the Fall season set to begin on Saturday, here we sit in a grey area, a space with no name, the first such dead zone in Canadian Premier League history.
Thankfully, there’s Wednesday Wonders to keep us tethered to recognizable reality.
Last week, I wondered who was next in line for their “Tyler Attardo moment”—that is, a Canadian kid scoring his first professional goal in front of an appreciative hometown crowd. The answer was Edmonton’s own Marcus Velado-Tsegaye, who celebrated his 18th birthday in style on Saturday, scoring the winner against HFX Wanderers FC at Clarke Field.
Speaking of the Eddies, I also wondered whether their drought-ending three-goal outburst against Pacific FC was merely a one-off fluke. But with two more wins since then (1-0 over Forge FC and 2-0 over Wanderers), the truth might be that Jeff Paulus’ side has transformed into a contender, just in time for the Fall season.
Before we get there, though, I’ve got a few more things to wonder about from the opening portion of this CPL campaign.
How’s that for a Spring season capper?
The Spring season ended with a showdown between first place and last place, with the champs from Calgary heading into Westhills Stadium to meet Pacific FC. Neither side had much to play for, and it showed in a rather drab first 45 minutes.
But the latter half suddenly had everything a soccer fan could ask for — a quartet of goals, a trio of red cards, yellow cards (including one to PFC head coach Michael Silberbauer), dramatic goal-line clearances and, with the last action of the Spring season, a delightful free-kick tally from Canadian veteran Issey Nakajima-Farran.
It was a fitting bookend for a Spring season that started with an equally energetic opener from Forge and York9 FC, back on April 27. Now, what can we expect when these two teams meet again in the same venue on Saturday?
Where did all these golazos come from?
Three weeks ago, it was Marco Bustos of Valour FC with the best-goal-of-the-season-to-that-point. Two weeks ago, PFC’s Victor Blasco stepped to the plate with a convincing blast of his own. And on Canada Day, Y9’s Morey Doner and PFC’s Ahmed Alghamdi interjected into the conversation as well.
Is it a coincidence that these classy finishes are all bunching up together? Or is it a sign that, after two months of league competition, players are finding a comfortable goal-scoring groove? And if so, could it mean we’ve got even more highlight-reel material to come in the opening weeks of the Fall season?
Where does Valour FC go from here?
Valour head coach Rob Gale put on a brave face following his team’s fourth straight league loss (and sixth in all competition), which consigned them to a last-place finish at the Spring season’s conclusion. But the task of righting the ship has been made all the more difficult by injuries to several key players.
Yet, I wonder: Is there any CPL coach in a better position to find reinforcements than Gale? Having racked up nearly a decade of experience in the national-team youth ranks before joining Valour, Gale has countless connections to Canadians now plying their trade abroad. And with the summer transfer window now open, I wonder, whose phones might Gale be blowing up at the moment?
What did the Gold Cup teach us?
While one of the CPL’s priorities is to develop Canadian players over the long term, Canada’s performance at the CONCACAF Gold Cup has reminded us that such progression can also sometimes occur on a more condensed timeline.
Consider the case of Jonathan David, who just last year was playing for a community club in Ottawa. Now, an incredible run of form has seen the 19-year-old become the national team’s newest goal-scoring superstar.
His ascent has been abnormal, but it makes me wonder what could be possible for a young CPLer who hits a hot streak—and that doesn’t just go for attacking positions, but defensive ones too. No doubt, head coach John Herdman will be on the hunt for more depth on the back line, which could give CPL defenders a little extra something to play for in the months to come.