The grind of a regular season demands the very best of players, coaches and club staff alike, but not all parts of a campaign are made equal.
Each club will face a period of adversity and hardship, the result of scheduling and travel. Here are the difficult dates each CPL club will have to navigate in 2019.
HFX Wanderers FC
Toughest Stretch: July 17 to July 31 (at Forge, at PFC, at Y9, at FCE)
The first half of the Fall season for HFX Wanderers is arguably the most difficult travel stretch any CPL club will face in 2019. Stephen Hart’s side will jump between eastern and western Canada an astronomical five times.
What’s more, the 11,266 km of travel they’ll make in these two weeks in July is, by far, the most any other CPL club will have in an entire month in 2019. Going from Hamilton to British Columbia and back to Ontario to take on York9 FC will be, uh, challenge.
Of course, the Wanderers were always going to have a tough road schedule — they are set to lead the league in distance travelled with a whopping 36,588 km — but this road stretch will be exceptionally difficult.
Toughest Stretch: June 22 to July 21 (at Y9, at PFC, at PFC, at HFX)
Set to traverse 36,588 km en route to its 14 away matches, Cavalry FC, somewhat surprisingly, has the second-longest travel docket behind HFX Wanderers.
A big part of its travel itinerary comes from steering clear of Spruce Meadows during the summer.
After a June 22 home tilt against Forge FC, Cavalry will vacate Spruce Meadows for 29 days, the longest any CPL team will go without a home game this season.
That being said, should Cavalry collect a pair of results during this set of games it will set up for a decent run in the Fall portion of the regular season.
Toughest Stretch: May 16 to June 15 (vs. Forge, at FCE, at Forge)
Let’s not forget about the competition within the competition. Valour FC, FC Edmonton and Forge FC will be battling it out for a spot in the 2019 CONCACAF League. Results between the sides will be put in a table with the top side earning a berth into the continental competition.
These matches are doubly important, and playing three of them in a row is a big ask for Valour, even with a 15-day break between both away tilts.
Also, Forge away could be an exceptionally tough trip this year. I wouldn’t want the extra weight of continental qualifying on my players’ shoulders at Tim Hortons Field.
Toughest Stretch: Sept. 22 to Oct. 9 (at Cavalry, at Forge, vs. HFX, at HFX)
Pacific FC supporters will hope their club collects results early in the Fall season … because the final few weeks appear daunting.
Cavalry and Forge could be two of the more difficult road visits in 2019 given both clubs promise to be incredibly tough to break down and, with a big crowd in Hamilton and unique confines in Calgary, their home bases could be hard to get comfortable in.
Pacific then faces a home-and-home with HFX Wanderers. I’m sure Pacific FC head coach Michael Silberbauer wouldn’t prefer to make one of his club’s three sea-to-sea treks so late in the year with a potential spot in the 2019 Canadian Premier league Championship on the line.
Toughest Stretch: July 27 to Aug. 02 (at FCE, at Cavalry, vs Y9)
Just three days separate Forge FC’s matches in Edmonton and Calgary, completing a back-to-back ‘Berta weekend that has “banana peel” written all over it.
This is followed by a tough 905 Derby match just three days later.
A big slip here and Forge could be in trouble down the stretch.
Toughest Stretch: April 27 to May 25 (at Forge, at Cavalry, at PFC, vs. Forge)
A tough inaugural CPL match in Hamilton, two trips to western clubs and a Canadian Championship tie all before hosting a league match. This, surely, will be a big ask for York9 FC early on.
Jimmy Brennan and co. will have to wait until Saturday, May 25 to play their first home league match, welcoming 905 Derby rivals Forge FC to York Region for the first time.
That match arrives just days after A.S. Blainville comes to town (Wednesday, May 22) for the second leg of their CanChamp Round 1 tie.
York9 will be in tough to emerge unscathed.
Toughest Stretch: June 15 to July 1 (vs. Cavalry, at Y9, at PFC, vs. Forge, vs. HFX)
FC Edmonton is going to be incredibly busy coming out of the June international break, playing five league games in just over two weeks to wrap the Spring campaign.
Following a tough Al Classico tie on June 15, the Eddies will hit the road, heading away to York9 on Wednesday, June 19 before returning west to visit Pacific the following Saturday. Edmonton close out the Spring season at home with matches against Forge and HFX Wanderers.
Will it be too much for the Eddies to handle? Playing half their spring matches over 17 days, FC Edmonton could be in tough to win in the “sprint” that is the first season.