CPL: Five Things To Watch For Matchweek Five
The Canadian Premier League’s parity has been on full display so far: we enter the fifth matchweek with half the league’s clubs still without a loss, and twoteam set to face eachother tomorrow have both opened with four straight draws.
As the league table starts to take shape, here’s a few things to watch out for this weekend:
The first four weeks of action have seen sixteen matches, and out of them the home team has one…once. Just once.
That’s a harrowing stat in a league where home advantage has carried weight in seasons past, particularly given the distance visiting teams travel each week. Home teams have suffered six defeats and settled on nine draws, while only Pacific FC has managed to bag three points at home to put a damper on Vancouver FC’s inaugural match.
Will that streak continue this week? The two clubs currently atop the table – Forge and Pacific – both play at home this weekend, so it might be time for this odd winless streak to end.
Will Atletico Ottawa Turn Things Around?
After finishing as regular season champions last year and making a first-ever appearance in the CPL Finals, there’s hangover vibes in the nation’s capital.
The capital city club has yet to bag three points, with Carlos Gonzalez seeing his squad start off with two draws and two losses. It’s still early on in the season, but the traditional Ottleti style of letting the opponents dictate play before striking back on the counter is a nuanced approach fans want to see start clicking sooner rather than later.
There’s some additional salt on the wound with the club’s new and paid-for striker still has yet to bag a goal, though 2022 CPL Player of the Year Ollie Bassett is off to a great start – the club just needs to catch up with him.
York Got Knocked Down, But They’ll Get Up Again
After last season saw an injury-depleted York United roster eventually see the rotation of some fifty athletes, most on developmental and emergency deals, it’s been a bummer to see the Nine Stripes forced to rotate their starting eleven so heavily this early on in the season.
While the club suffered a tough end to their quarter-final cup match against the Vancouver Whitecaps, that first half was something else: things were clicking at the back with Mourdoukoutas in for his first start, and for the majority of the match York United went toe-to-toe with an MLS side and looked good…until they didn’t.
Still, there’s a lot of positives to take from the match. If players like Babouli and JGL come back soon, you can see all the ingredients are there for a strong CPL team that has been enduring an awful start out of the gates this season.
Trust The Kids?
There is a marked spread of domestic U-21 minutes being dolled around the league: while Valour has a hefty lead four matches in, on the pole opposite end we have Patrice Gheisar’s Halifax Wanderers this just 64 minutes in total – or just under 8% of what Valour has done.
If we extrapolate that return rate for a 28 match season, the Wanderers would finish with 448 minutes – that’s obviously well below the league’s 2,000 minute mandate, and they’re the only team not to hand a start to one of the kids just yet.
To be fair to Halifax, five of the eight clubs would also be on par to miss the marker, but the opening matches are often full of coaches testing their starting elevens with more seasoned players. Those minutes can be accounted for in fairly short order, but right now the league has a lot more youth still vying to showcase themselves – we’re just excited to see how they do.
There’s also an oft-unspoken flip side of the coin, too: With domestic U-21 products getting salary relief, players who age out of this system might get left behind when it comes to opportunities in the league.
“The CPL kind of forgets about guys as soon as they hit 23, 24, 25,” Niko Giantsopoulos recently said on the radio show he co-hosts. “If you’re not on a roster, they don’t really care about you.”
Last weekend saw the first red cards of the season doled out between Forge’s Ashtone Morgan and Vancouver FC’s Rocco Romeo. Both proved controversial and were appealed by the clubs, with Morgan’s being rescinded and Romeo’s suspension being reduced to two matches.
There’s been a lot if discourse about referee decisions after the marching orders were sent, so we there’ll be plenty of eyes on how this week’s match officials control the match – and if something like VAR Light could be on the experiments commissioner Mark Noonan talked about being open to.
The fifth weekend will open with a triple-header on Saturday, with Forge hosting Valour at 4:00PM EST, Cavalry welcoming the Wanderers to ATCO Field at 7:00PM EST (Derby of the Draw Teams?), and Vancouver FC hosting Atletico Ottawa for their second-ever home match.
Pacific will close out the weekend with Sunday’s lone match against York United, set for 6:00PM EST.