The Top 5 Goals From The CPL’s Bubbled Start
The 2021 Canadian Premier League season began in a bubbled format in Winnipeg last month, with the country’s top flight domestic league opting to have each club play its first eight matches at IG Field while provincial health authorities began to finalize re-opening plans.
With that bubble having finally wrapped up over the weekend, here’s a look at our take on the top five goals seen at the CPL’s The Kickoff event, which eventually saw some fans allowed into the stands:
From Europe With Love
Few would have guessed that former Northern Ireland youth international Ollie Bassett would start off in a defensive midfield position for the Tridents, and even fewer would have guessed he would take that opportunity to fire an audacious right-footed effort from well out of the box.
But, he did. And it worked.
The 23-year-old former Aston Villa Academy product said he was keen to make a good mark on his return to professional football, and thus far the traditionally-attacking midfielder has done so, regardless of where he’s played and how many times he’ll wear long-sleeved kits in 32+ degree weather.
The Killing Blow From Jeannot Esua
Third-year Eddie Jeannot Esua has always impressed in the right-back position, but his more advanced role under Alan Koch saw the 24-year-old reach new heights for the team across the bubbled segment of the 2021 CPL Season.
After following a winless 2020 season with an opening loss against Atletico Ottawa, FC Edmonton found itself 264 days without a win and playing against the reigning champions. With minutes left to go, an absolute rocket by Ramon Soria (which could easily be on this list, too) was followed by a stellar last-gasp insurance goal by Jeannot:
The resulting goal – and the three points afterwards – were a big cause of celebration for an FC Edmonton side that really needed it.
Bekker Leads By Example
Nobody has put in more minutes on the pitch for Forge than club captain Kyle Bekker, a proverbial engine in midfield who can certainly pull the strings in any match. The 30-year-old scored his twelfth goal for the hammers in some style, absolutely lacing it into the back the net from some way out:
The former Toronto FC, Montreal, and FC Dallas midfielder has been one of the most consistent athletes in the league, with last year seeing him earn MVP honours while coming one match away from leading the North Star Shield holders to Champions League heights.
One suspects that his stunner against Pacific isn’t going to be the last time fans will see him pull that out of his toolbox, either.
The Austin Ricci Show
2021 looks like it’ll be known as the year Austin Ricci showed his receipts: the 25-year-old striker finished the bubble with four goals from eight games, silencing critics with some truly impressive goals. His best of the bunch, however, was an absolutely stunning strike that ultimately earned Valour three points over the reigning champions:
While the 25-year-old was prolific leading up to his professional career, the last two CPL seasons showed the physical forward do just about everything but score. Now he’s got the confidence to take on shots like that, and he’s making it count.
What’s more, the players were playing the match under brutal conditions: it was on a turf pitch under 35 degree mid-day heat, so the fact that Ricci produced such a stellar goal that day says a lot about the striker.
FC Edmonton’s Fraser Aird Scores From Another Planet
When your goal gets featured by the likes of Goal and FotMob, you know you’ve put in a good one. Fraser Aird’s first goal in Eddies blue opened the deadlock against York United, with the 26-year-old intercepting a wayward ball from Alvaro Rivero, carrying it forward, and absolutely putting the laces through a long-range effort that ripped beyond the gloves of York United’s goalkeeper:
In the post-game interview, the former Rangers man commented that he did that in training all the time, so we’d like to send our condolences to Eddies goalkeepers Connor James, Darlington Murasiranwa, and Joseph Holliday. It wasn’t his only stellar goal in the bubble, either.
The Canadian Premier League’s bubbled opening to the season saw some 68 goals scored, with each club playing eight matches apiece. With teams now returning to their home markets for the first time since 2019, players will be looking forward to celebrating in front of fans for the first time in a long, long time – and that could give them a some good motivation to produce more breathtaking moments.
The first match out of the bubble will see York United take on Forge FC this Friday. It’ll be the first 905 Derby held in Ontario since October 12, 2019, with Pacific FC then hosting Cavalry FC out on the west coast later that evening.
Photo Credit: CPL / Robert Reyes / William Ludwick