Canadian Championship Preliminary Round: Day One Preview
Today will see four teams step up to the plate for the Canadian Championship, with the preliminary round seeing eight other sides square up later this week.
Both of Tuesday’s matches see semi-professional sides test their mettle against professional opposition. The tournament has typically been bare of giant killing, but there’s a lot of talent in Canada’s semi-pro ranks to cause an upset.
Without further ado, here’s what’s on the menu for tonight:
Forge FC vs FC Laval
The hammers will host the reigning PLSQ champions for a second consecutive season, with FC Laval now stepping up to the plate.
When the team won Quebec’s semi-pro provincial championship last season, they accomplished the feat with plenty of young talent anchored around two well-known veterans in Wandrille Lefevre and Adama Sissoko, the latter of whom is Abou Sissoko’s brother and the former of whom has faced two CPL teams in the cup whilst with AS Blainville.
Speaking with media yesterday, Forge head coach Bobby Smyrniotis revealed that his club had been doing its homework on the visitors, while also stating that he’s prepared to flex some of his roster depth while still respecting the opposition.
Forge just opened their campaign with a 2-2 draw against league rivals Cavalry FC, and while Bobby’s team typically starts the season ‘slow’, they looked quite sharp over the weekend – make no mistake, Forge are heavy favourites will expect a good run in the tournament, though last year’s match against CS Mont-Royal Outremont had a nervy first half.
It’s also a reunion of sorts for Garven Metusala, who sort-of used to play for FC Laval: he suited up for a CS Fabrose side which merged with two other clubs to form the PLSQ title-winners.
CF Montreal vs Vaughan Azzurri
A much-transformed Vaughan Azzurri side will visit La Belle Province to square up against cup heavy-hitters CF Montreal, but there’ll be several notable absences from the team’s League1 Ontario-winning team: gone is head coach Patrice Gheisar and his assistant coach, who took some of the club’s top talent with them to the Halifax Wanderers.
There is a ray of hope for the semi-professional visitors, however, as they enter Stade Saputo with years of fearless attacking philosophy drilled into them and a host side in a horrendous run of league form, with CF Montreal racking up six losses in its opening seven matches.
Beyond that, there’s quite a few former CPL athletes in the ranks, including Chris Mannella, Dylane Carreiro, and Joseph Di Chiara, who suited up against Montreal when he was with York United in 2019 and came tantalizingly close to a last-gasp winner in leg one. He’s got unfinished business.
There’s more talent in the ranks who can come up big when given the chance, and with co-head coach Carmine Isacco at the helm, one believes anything is possible.
Still, this is a Major League Soccer side suiting up at home against semi-professional opposition: anything less than a comfortable win, likely with a segment of the usual starting eleven rested, will ring alarm bells in Stade Saputo instead of the usual kind.
This Wednesday and Thursday will see the remaining eight teams take to the pitch, including the first-ever League1 BC team to feature in the competition and, in a bit of scheduling oddity, a Canadian Championship double-header tomorrow too.
Each matchup of the preliminary round is a one-off knockout, with the victors advancing to the quarter-final stage set for May.