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CS Saint-Laurent

‘The Next Step Forward’: CS Saint-Laurent Embarks For Historic Cup Clash Against Halifax

By on May 2, 2024 0 1524 Views

Reigning League1 Quebec champions CS Saint-Laurent are hoping to make history tonight, but they know it’ll be an uphill battle: as the last semi-pro team left to play in the Canadian Championship’s opening round, they’ve watched the other two non-professional sides succumb to defeat.

Now, it’s their turn up to bat against professional opponents in the Halifax Wanderers.

“We will show up to represent our club and our province and the talent we have here in Quebec,” CS Saint-Laurent head coach Nicholas Razzaghi tell us. “We have confidence in ourselves and we will play that way.”

The club has only featured in League1 Canada for two seasons now, quickly establishing itself as a dominant force in Quebec’s semi-pro ranks: they finished second in year one, and went all the way in year two.

The team boasts some intriguing profiles amongst the squad: there’s Cameroonian-Canadian striker Loic Kwemi, a former Cavalry trialist who tallied 17 goals en route to their championship win and 19 in the season before. He was also named Canada Soccer’s male futsal player of the year in 2022, so expect some fast feet on display.

CS Saint-Laurent Mamadou Kane
Photo Credit: Move Photography

Former VFC striker Mamadou Kane also introduced himself to the club with a hat-trick last week, while another face sure to be familiar to the Wanderers faithful is Obeng Tabi, who suited up for Halifax in 2022 and has since settled in well with CS Saint-Laurent.

“Obeng is an excellent player. He is easy to underestimate because sometimes people just believe he has speed. He has a lot more to offer in both defensive and offensive play,” said Nicholas, who said the full-back is ‘very motivated’ for the match.

The club is motivated, too: they embarked upon an ambitious preseason that saw them take an early reality check against professional CPL sides like York United and Forge FC. Best to take their licks there and have time to learn from them ahead of tonight’s do-or-die cup match.

“It was a very revealing experience,” says Nicholas. “From game-to-game we made tremendous strides. The biggest disadvantage we had was lack of experience playing together at that level: details that matter less at our level cost you at the next level. We received a couple of wake-up calls and reality checks, but we also showed that we could compete with all of those teams.”

Ligue1 Quebec CS Saint-Laurent
Photo Credit: Raphael Williams-Claudio

Boasting a fairly deep roster for a semi-professional side, Razzaghi is adamant that every player on the list has something to offer for the upcoming fixture and beyond in their title defense League1 Quebec campaign.

CS Saint-Laurent have opened a draw against powerhouse FC Laval and a 7-2 thrashing of CS Saint-Hubert, while their hosts in Halifax have suffered three straight defeats in Canada’s top flight.

While the Wanderers has struggled out of the gate in league play, Nicholas points out that the same thing happened to the CPL side last year – and they still ended tied for second place in the league. Suffice to say, CS Saint-Laurent certainly won’t be taking things lightly.

“The first three games do not define a 28-game season,” Nicholas said of their opponents. “In my opinion this will be a game of two teams that respect soccer and that respect each other.”

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The Quebecois team doesn’t have to look too far in the rearview to see when a semi-professional side last punched upward in Canada’s cup: 2023 saw the TSS Rovers soundly defeat Valour, and after that they were only separated from Pacific by a spot kick in the quarter-final stage. Just last night, a cup rematch saw only a penalty kick shootout separate the two teams.

“That was a great moment to see how TSS Rovers made history and in style,” reflects NIcholas. “We definitely noted a thing or two from that performance and result. That being said, we always believed in ourselves, our plan was always to be here, and now we are just continuing on the path we set out for ourselves. It is simply the next step forward.”

Should the semi-professional side upset the proverbial apple cart while out on the Atlantic coast, a tantalizing cup fixture against Toronto FC would shimmer in to view. Nicholas doesn’t want to get ahead of things, but it’s hard not to think about.

“It would mean the world. Even if they do not play, the thought of taking on Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi is surreal. To host them here in Montreal and to give our hometown inspiration and hope when they see these guys playing in their backyard…it would be an honour and a dream come true.”

CS Saint-Laurent Nicholas Razzaghi
Photo Credit: Move Photography

Whatever happens, it’s time for CS Saint-Laurent to represent Quebec’s semi-pro league against the big guns of Canada’s top flight. It sounds like they’ll take a fearless approach, true to the style which has seen them become fast competitors as they embark on a title-defense third year in League1 Quebec.

Should there be a Canadian Premier League team in Quebec? Almost certainly. Nicholas believes the talent is there, they’re just waiting on the opportunity.

“The truth is we would only be behind due to lack of experience,” says Razzaghi. “Once that is fixed, a CPL team in Quebec will be a true force to be reckoned with. Our players out here do not get enough recognition so when that day comes, everyone else be careful because we will be starving to prove ourselves.”

Header Image Photo Credit: Move Photography

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