CPL Power Rankings Week 5: The Plot Thickens
Like a dam bursting with water, the goals finally flowed in the Canadian Premier League this week. A total of 19 goals were scored, and this burst of goals means another shift in the Power Rankings. Enjoy!
8th Place – York United
Yikes. After a promising performance against Forge, many fans hoped they could put together good performances against the Whitecaps and Pacific FC. York went zero for two. Both games were disappointing, and York, despite some inflated stats, were never really in those games. What was supposed to be a playoff-contending season for York has quickly turned into a nightmare: they’ve only scored two goals from open play in seven games while conceding 13 goals this season. They aren’t scoring, and they aren’t defending. I know York are in the midst of an ownership change, but some staffing changes may be needed in order to turn this ship around.
7th Place – Vancouver FC
Now I know dropping Vancouver from 4th to 7th after one poor result seems pretty reactionary, but you need to understand that as more weeks are played, the results against certain teams begin to be viewed with different lenses, reshaping how we view Vancouver or any other team.
Vancouver is a prime example of this. The team hosted Atletico Ottawa in their second-ever home game in club history, and it was a nightmare. It only took Atletico Ottawa eight minutes to get on the board, and the Rojiblancos would add four more in a 5-0 thrashing over Vancouver.
I’ve been commenting on how Vancouver gives up too many chances against teams this entire season and how this will eventually be their downfall. Last week, I thought they could get away with this due to their results. However, a win against York and draws against Halifax and Cavalry (two sides that clearly can’t win a game) gave Vancouver a better impression than they deserved. This result against ATO is what their first game against Pacific could have been if Pacific was firing at all cylinders. ATO dominated this game in every aspect. They took advantage of Vancouver’s unfortunate injuries and a backline that was severely missing Romeo and became the first team to fully expose Vancouver this season.
I know dropping from 4th to 7th is tough, but the writing has been on the wall all season long. I have been impressed by their ability to get points this season, but this game starts putting doubt in my mind of whether these points were because of Vancouver’s doings or due to their opponent’s inability to capitalize on weaknesses. Vancouver suffered some critical injuries this match, and with matches against Forge and Pacific in their next three games, Vancouver might be entering a brutal stretch in their season. Welcome to the dark side of the CPL.
6th Place – Atletico Ottawa
Ottawa played two matches this week: the first was a midweek CanChamp clash against Forge FC. Although Ottawa lost this game on penalties, fans were impressed by their performance. Vintage Ottawa came out against Forge: they suppressed many chances, got away with a few lucky misses, and ended up tying the game to send it to penalties. What impressed me was that there were stretches of time where Ottawa controlled the game and created some worrying chances for Forge. Overall, it was the near-perfect response after that Pacific loss and a good enough performance to build off against Vancouver… and build off it is what they did indeed.
Ottawa walked away with a 5-0 win over Vancouver, their biggest win in club history. This was a vintage ATO performance, plus more. Ottawa took the game to Vancouver and were rewarded for their play. Sammy Salter finally got on the scoreboard, and Ollie Bassett is playing like a man aiming for a European transfer. Ottawa finally gets their first win of the season and will be looking to use this momentum against Cavalry next weekend.
If there’s one way to climb out of the basement of the Power Rankings, it’s with a 5-0 win. This result, paired with how they played against Forge, gives hope to the Nation’s Capital that the familiar dominant ATO side on the road may return. Ottawa proved last season that winning the league is possible solely based on your away performances. If Ottawa continues to play like this, readers should start to see Ottawa climbing up these rankings. Still, until their home record improves, it will be hard to move them too far up the rankings.
5th Place – Cavalry FC
Cavalry is undefeated! – with all draws. This was another frustrating performance from Cavalry. Yet again, Cavalry dominated most parts of this game and even took the lead in the 19th minute. However, they salvaged a point thanks to a gift from the referee and probably would have lost this game otherwise. 56% possession, 13 total shots, 6 corners, all of these stats still didn’t translate into goals. This Cavalry side cannot finish chances. This is only their second game this season scoring more than one goal, and their second goal came from an undeserved penalty. On top of that, they blew the lead against Halifax, allowing the Wanderers to score twice in the first-half stoppage time.
These results aren’t the making of a strong team. You can have all the possession and shots you want, but if your opponent is always one goal away from tying or winning the game, you got a problem.
It’s a worrying start for Cavalry, who are still searching for their first win. At first, I was willing to give them good marks for drawing with Pacific and Forge; however, their last three games have been utterly disappointing since then. They’ve dominated all three games and had nothing to show. Last week, they couldn’t even beat a ten-man Vancouver side. One can’t even attribute this to playing on the road because two of their past three games have been at home, and the one game away was against Vancouver. Cavalry’s next matchup is against Atletico Ottawa, a team that is coming off a 5-0 win and a team that Cavalry has only beaten once in eight matches. I don’t know when the turnaround will start for Cavalry, but like I said, their falling down in these rankings has already begun.
4th Place – Halifax Wanderers
Another week, another draw. However, this time Halifax fans will feel like they were robbed of three points. Halifax visited Calgary this week, and as expected, the game ended in a 2-2 draw. Overall, Cavalry dominated this game. Halifax went down in the 19th minute and were hanging on to dear life. Well, maybe not dear life – Halifax had a few chances, but it mainly was Cavalry peppering them all half…until the 45th minute when Halifax scored two goals out of nowhere to take a 2-1 lead into halftime.
The second half was the same story of Cavalry pushing and pushing, and it looked like Halifax would finally get their first win… until Cavalry was awarded one of the worst penalty decisions in Canadian Premier League history. Halifax has every right to feel robbed due to this decision, as the match ends 2-2.
Here are my thoughts, though: while Halifax was robbed on paper by that penalty call, Cavalry dominated most of the game and should have easily been up three or four goals. Still, there’s something to say about this undefeated Halifax side that is able to hold firm and not concede. Halifax has played four of their five games away from home and are still undefeated. However, at the same time, Halifax needs to start winning games.
They may be undefeated, but they currently sit in 7th place. So why 4th? Halifax’s home record is still being determined at this point. Getting draws on the road is no easy task, and the fact they have yet to lose on the road has the markings of a good team (see Atletico Ottawa last season). Still, wins need to start coming in because if teams below Halifax in these rankings start performing, Wanderers fans will begin to see their team slip, regardless of their undefeated record.
3rd Place – Valour FC
I’ll admit, I was a bit too harsh on Valour last week. Winnipeg’s team is the perfect example of why Power Rankings are needed: they haven’t won a game since Week 1 yet are sitting in third place despite a 3-2 loss to Forge. Valour are plagued with injuries, yet went into Hamilton and played a very competitive game against the reigning CPL Champions. Valour finished the match with 54% possession and 11 shots. They even scored first in this match before going down 2-1. They then equalized in the 74th minute before conceding the game-winning goal three minutes later. The potential is there for Valour; you can see it every week. However, I need to question how long this can last.
Personally, Valour’s positioning in these weekly rankings are more based on the performances of the other teams around them rather than Valour’s own performances. Valour remains a competitive team despite all their injuries, and this match against Forge shows that they can beat anyone on a given day. The question remains, will Valour finally start producing, or will the teams below them finally wake up?
I was very impressed by Valour’s performance this week. I think third place is too high, but I can’t justify anyone else being put in third after this week or after how the season has gone so far, so alas… Valour is in third (with an asterisk).
2nd Place – Forge FC
Last week I noted that Forge’s patented offence had yet to arrive. The midweek game against Atletico Ottawa proved that. Forge struggled to break down ATO’s defensive structure, and when they did, they could not finish their chances. A Kyle Bekker golazo gave Forge the advantage before they conceded a late penalty to ATO. It was a decent performance, but it could have been better from Forge.
The match against Valour was night and day: this game was much more competitive, with Forge winning 3-2. Two of Forge’s goals came three minutes each after conceding to Valour, a sign of a team that isn’t easy to be put down. Goals coming from Hamilton, Bekker and Poku shows the diversity and depth that Forge brings to this league. However, on the defensive side, Valour showed that Forge has some holes defensively. The match against ATO showed a similar thing; the only difference was that Ottawa couldn’t capitalize on these chances.
Forge is definitely top two in the league, and you can argue that Forge should be first. However, this week’s two matches showed that Forge is beatable, and I’m interested to see if any teams start to capitalize on the blueprint.
1st Place – Pacific FC
What a dominant performance from the Tridents. After eliminating TSS Rovers 2-0 in the midweek CanChamp tilt, Pacific turned their focus to York United. The match statistics may show that York was very competitive in this game, if not even dominant, but that was not the case. Pacific took the lead in the 7th minute and never looked back. Totalling 14 shots and looking deadly with every possession, Pacific put up four goals for the second straight CPL game. They look like a well-oiled machine that the league might have trouble stopping.
On the defensive side of things, Pacific may look solid now, but this is definitely an area of improvement. Pacific do allow a decent amount of chances to opponents and one of these days, it may come back to bite them. Gazdov is off to a decent start but has allowed a few shaky goals this season. If Pacific can clean up this part of their game, they will be unstoppable.
Once again, outside of Pacific and Forge, the rest of the CPL teams can all be lumped together. Valour, Cavalry and Halifax keep switching places weekly because they have all played similarly. Neither of those three teams has separated themselves from the pack meaning the team that takes third is usually the team that had the best performance in the week.
My team to watch is ATO. Their past two performances have shown that Ottawa may be back and ready to compete. If that’s the case, we should expect them to rise in these rankings. I appreciate all the feedback these articles are getting, and I hope my analysis gives some insight into why teams are ranked the way they are. See ya next week!