Defining success: How the CPL’s head coaches set goals in inaugural campaign

There can only be one victor in the end of a regular season campaign, but for the founding clubs of the Canadian Premier League, success can be measured in many different ways.

In the build-up to the inaugural 2019 season, asked each coach a simple question: How do you define success in year one?

For York 9 FC boss Jimmy Brennan, there was only one answer – by winning.

“I want to win championships, and bring trophies to the region,” Brennan told “That’s our goal as a club: to play a good brand of football and be successful by winning.

He continued: “The second goal is to try and get as many of our players into our national team program … to one day see a number of York 9 players representing Canada. We also want to win a Canadian Championship. We’ve got a lot of goals but we are definitely about winning. That might offend some people but there’s nothing wrong with that – this is professional football and in the end of the day, it’s about success.”

FC Edmonton coach Jeff Paulus agreed with Brennan’s straightforward point, offering that he, too, prioritizes the procuring of silverware. But, to that end, Paulus also has a few pride-driven objectives, too.

“I want to be league champion in year one,” Paulus offered frankly, before adding: “I also want to be the first CPL team to knock off an MLS side in the Canadian Championship.”

While his goals may be clear, Paulus also stressed that player development is also a priority, explaining that he’s looking to bring in young players from the FC Edmonton Academy right away and help them reach their fullest potential.

To that end, many of the CPL’s coaches offered a similar take, with Pacific FC’s Michael Silberbauer stating his intention is to try and “make dreams come true” for his players.

“We’re going to define success, moving forward, by incorporating the values that we’re hoping to see on the pitch,” Silberbauer said. “We want to get it right from the start and move into the right direction. You can’t always control if you win or lose but we want to build the foundation first.”

Paulus draft
FC Edmonton head coach Jeff Paulus during the CPL-U SPORTS Draft.


HFX Wanderers FC tactician Stephen Hart agreed that the implementation of a vision would be the key to defining success in the club’s early years of inception.

“I always, in the back of my mind, want my teams to play in a certain way, and … if I can see the process fall into place and the results coming at the same time, I think that would be very successful to build upon,” Hart offered.

Cavalry FC head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. has another vision for success, though. He’s measuring his team’s impact by the reputation his club garners.

“If teams are coming to Calgary and they’re sitting back and defending deep because they’ve given us respect, or we’re being talked about in the media, or our players are being looked at for the national team, that, for me, will be success,” Wheeldon Jr. said.

“I also would define it as how many people are going to come and watch us. If we’re getting a packed house week-in and week-out, that’s also going to be success, because it means we’re getting into the community and into the hearts and minds of the public.”

That community response was the basis of Valour FC boss Rob Gale’s own answer to the question. Like his competitors, Gale stated clearly he’s hoping to win games, championships and the like, but added that the way the club integrates into Winnipeg’s culture matters, too.

“I think as you build a brand with that community involvement, it’s getting our identity out there, establishing ourselves as a professional sports franchise in our market, building a fanbase, building that community feel, the fact that we’re by Canadians, for Canadians, by Manitobans, for Manitobans, with Manitobans,” Gale said.

“I think that’s going to be the real keys to our success is how well we establish the brand, getting that attachment, and making it feel as quickly as possible like a team with history that the community can rally behind and really support.”