2023 CPL Awards Round Up: Cavalry Dominates The Show
Tonight the Canadian Premier League announced the winners for the 2023 CPL Awards, recognizing the best and brightest who call Canada’s top flight home.
This year saw regular season champions Cavalry FC absolutely dominate the seven award categories, taking home an incredible five of them – something no club in the history of the league has done before. The ceremony bestows the award-winners with beautiful authentic Inuit soapstone carvings crafted from Kinngait (Cape Dorset) and Mittimatalik (Pond Inlet), Nunavut.
Without further ado, here’s yours 2023 CPL Award winners:
Coach Of The Year – Tommy Wheeldon Jr. (Cavalry FC)
Runners-Up: Bobby Smyrniotis (Forge FC), Patrice Gheisar (Halifax Wanderers)
The man who led Cavalry FC to a regular season winning – and by a thirteen point margin, no less – has now been recognized as the Canadian Premier League’s coach of the year. This year saw Tommy Wheeldon Jr. guided Cavalry to absolute league domination: after opening with five straight draws, he and the club found a new gear to eventually finish top of the table with a nine-match unbeaten run, eight of which came as wins.
The domestic form saw Cavalry become the first team to pick up the newly-introduced CPL Shield, which also means that Tommy’s team will enjoy Concacaf Champions Cup action next year. The team has scored more goals than any other team while also conceding the least, with the roster boasting two of the three iron men throughout the campaign.
Having won the inaugural award in 2019, it’s hard to say that the thrice-nominated gaffer doesn’t deserve his second win. Congratulations, Tommy!
Defender Of The Year: Daan Klomp (Cavalry FC)
Runners-Up: Manjrekar James (Forge FC), Daniel Nimick (Halifax Wanderers)
The only outfield player to run an iron man campaign this year, Dutch defender Daan Klomp is one of the big reasons Cavalry had the best defensive record in the league as they hoisted the Canadian Premier League Shield.
Klomp led the side for aerial duals won (54), clearances (81), blocks (17), and total passes (1716), the last of which was third highest league-wide. More than that, you could see his influence everywhere in the defensive third, though he also contributed four goals and one assist at the opposite end, too.
It was clearly a tight race between Klomp and Nimick, but the vote determined nobody was better at the back that the Flying Dutchman.
Player Of The Year: Daan Klomp (Cavalry FC)
Runners-Up: Manny Aparicio (Pacific FC), Kyle Bekker (Forge FC), Lorenzo Callegari (Halifax Wanderers), Ali Musse (Cavalry FC)
That’s right, Daan Klomp did the double at the 2023 CPL Awards: the winning defender of the year will also take home the The Nikisuittuq, recognizing the Cavalry iron man as the league’s best performer of 2023 as voted to by media.
Having been involved in every minute of the season, Klomp helped Cavalry surge to a regular season title with the best defensive record in the league while leading his own team across a plethora of categories – and making sizable contributions in the offensive third, too. The Major League Soccer-hungry defender can clearly do it all, and barring one last cup final, in 2023 it looks like he already has.
Players’ Player Of The Year: Ali Musse (Cavalry FC)
As voted on by the league’s own players, it’s clear that no defenders look forward to squaring up against Cavalry forward Ali Musse: the 27-year-old had himself quite a season up, making an astounding eleven goal contributions split between five goals and six assists.
Musse’s fast feet allowed him to rack up chances for his club, racking up seven team of the week honours as he made waves as one of the top outfield players for not just shots and crosses, but recoveries as well. As voted by his competitors in the league, Ali Musse is an absolute phenom.
Golden Boot: Myer Bevan (Cavalry FC) / Ollie Bassett (Atletico Ottawa)
Runner-Up: Woobens Pacius (Forge FC)
For the first time in league history we have a tie for the Golden Boot, which goes to most prolific goalscorer in the regular season. Both Cavalry’s Myer Bevan and Atletico Ottawa’s Ollie Bassett bagged eleven goals apiece, showcasing plenty of individual attacking brilliance through seasons that took very different paths.
Interestingly, both scored mostly right-footed shots with no headed goals, and also had the first and third most penalty conversations in the league respectively. With Bassett having hit the woodwork thrice to Bevan’s sole post strike (and a missed penalty for Ollie), last year’s MVP will feel a little hard-done-by – but both of them had truly spectacular seasons.
Best Canadian U-21 Player: Matteo de Brienne (Valour FC)
Runners-Up: James Cameron (Vancouver FC), Kwasi Poku (Forge FC)
What a season it’s been for 21-year-old Matteo de Brienne: he’s dazzled spectators with his blistering runs up the left flank, working tirelessly to bring some joy to Valour fans who haven’t had too much to smile about. Finishing the season with six goal contributions, the Ottawa native has turned heads both back in the nation’s capital and, apparently, in Major League Soccer circles as well.
Stepping on to the stage, Matteo said he was incredibly thankful to the coaching stuff for trusting him with the minutes they’ve given this season, stating that he was proud to be Canadian in a league that supports its youth like the CPL does.
Valour – who have won the award back-to-back after Sean Rea also picked it up last year – have a real rising star on their hands. De Brienne has an eye for spectacular goals, and it’s hard to think of many defenders who seem to cover as much pitch as this young man has in his second Valour season. This award came with of blood, sweat, and tears aplenty, but Matteo is a worthy recipient of the Inuit Polar Bear carving.
Golden Glove: Triston Henry (Forge FC)
Runners-Up: Marco Carducci (Cavalry FC), Rayane Yesli (Valour FC)
Recording a league-leading nine clean sheets, Forge goalkeeper Triston Henry has made several key stops to keep Forge from dropping results as the hammers fought to a second place finish in league standings.
“It never gets old, I really appreciate it,” said Henry on stage, noting that this award meant even more than his Golden Glove win from 2020 given that it came from a full 28-match season.
Through the regular season, Henry led his Golden Glove competitors in recoveries with 227, earning five team of the week nods and two goalkeeper of the month honours. Appearing in all but one of Forge’s games, the 2020 CPL Golden Glove winner has been a consistent brick wall who has come up with some gasp-worthy saves in his fifth CPL campaign. When it comes to league goalkeeping, Henry is the gold standard.
“I offer my hearty congratulations to all the winners of this year’s awards,” said CPL commissioner Mark Noonan. “While soccer is a team sport, it is important to also celebrate those individuals who prove they are at the top of their craft. Every nominee and winner deserves the recognition they received tonight, and as a league we were pleased to celebrate those achievements.”
The 2023 CPL Awards post-show will also see the new Championship Trophy unveiled, with the North Star Cup now officially replacing the original North Star Shield awarded to the playoff champion. This Saturday will see Forge and Cavalry compete for the ultimate prize.