Roundup: Five CPL Talents On National Team Duty This Month
With no less than seven Canadian Premier League players earning national team nods this month and most of them seeing action, we figure we ought to see what ultimately unfolded for each of them.
It was certainly a mixed bag of results, so let’s get right into the highs and lows of the March international break as it pertains to the CPL:
Andre Rampersad (Halifax Wanderers / Trinidad and Tobago)
The long-awaited international debut for Andre Rampersad came about with a stellar three-nil win over the Bahamas in Concacaf Nations League B action, with two former CPL talents finding the scoresheet that match. Rampersad played all ninety minutes for his Soca Warriors debut, with Kareem Moses opening the scoring and Ryan Telfer later making it three-nil in the first half.
The tougher test came against Nicaragua, for whom a win against would slot Trinidad and Tobago top of the group. Rampersad once again featured for side, with his team coming to a 1-1 draw at Dwight Yorke Stadium. The physical midfielder picked up a knock, but saw out the second match of his international career. Trinidad and Tobago now rests second in the group behind Nicaragua after six matches played.
Eugene ‘Pele’ Martinez (Vancouver FC / Belize)
Vancouver FC’s first international signing made history as the first of the club’s players to earn an international call-up, featuring in two Concacaf Nations League B matches against Guatemala and the Dominican Republic this window.
The first match saw Belize suffer 1-2 loss against Guatemala, with the centre-back nearly opening the scoring in the twentieth minute with a lofty header that Guatemala’s goalkeeper was able to tip over the bar.
Belize wouldn’t be able to accrue any points in the second match either, suffering a two-nil loss against the Dominican Republic, with Martinez earning a yellow in the first half. That left Belize locked bottom of the group with five losses and one draw, leaving them rather fortunate that Concacaf cut relegation from Nations League B action this year.
Jonathan Grant (York United / Guyana)
It’s been quite a March for Jonathan Grant, who signed with York United before earning his first call-up with the Golden Jaguars. Featuring in both of their Concacaf Nations League B bouts this window, Grant made his debut on March 25 in a two-nil win over Bermuda, featuring for eighty minutes – more time than he saw with Forge last season.
Donning the number three on the right wing, you’ll see that he played a big role in the country’s opening goal, too:
Grant also cracked the starting eleven for the club’s second match against Montserrat, which ended in a scoreless draw. The results see Guyana land a second place finish in Group B, behind Haiti but ahead of the two teams Guyana faced this window.
Pacifique Niyongabire (Valour FC / Burundi)
New Valour addition Pacifique Niyongabire is one of the newer faces with the Burundi national team: he had two previous caps against the Ivory Coast and Guinea U-23 (scoring against the latter), and added a further two appearances in this March’s double-header against Indonesia.
The first of the two matches saw Pacifique find the scoresheet again, though Burundi suffered a 3-1 loss: he was the top prong in a 4-3-3 and featured for the full ninety under new head coach Etienne Ndayiragije, showing some fast footwork to fire a left-footed shot past the keeper.
The second of the matches would see Niyongabire feature as a second half substitute, with a more-even contest seeing the match play out to a 2-2 draw.
It wasn’t the most satisfying window for 141st-ranked Burundi, especially given that they currently rank ten spots over Indonesia – though given they were initially set to face Kenya for the first match, this international window went off-script right from the get-go.
Mo Babouli (York United / Syria)
York United forward Molham Babouli got his second call-up for Syria this March after featuring against the United Arab Emirates and South Korea just over a year ago. It marked his first national team nod under new Syrian gaffer Hector Cuper, who left him on the bench for the country’s 3-1 win over Thailand before giving him the start against Bahrain.
Babouli slotted in behind the centre-forward for the match, though he couldn’t help the team generate any goals as the squad lost out to Bahrain one-nil.
It’s worth noting that Valour’s Andrew Jean-Baptiste did get the nod from Haiti, but couldn’t accept the call-up after suffering a knock in preseason camp. York United Brem Soumaoro had also been called to Liberia for Africa Cup of Nations action, but did not ultimately feature in either match.
There were a few former Canadian Premier League players who travelled with their national teams this window, too: both Victor Loturi and Dominick Zator cracked the Canadian national team roster, though neither would make their debut in the wins over Curacao and Honduras.
Former Valour forward William Akio got the nod from South Sudan for the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, featuring in back-to-back matches against Congo. The first saw him play the full ninety in a 1-2 win, while the second saw him taken out at the start of the second half in a one-goal loss. South Sudan currently rests bottom of the group, but are just three points away from both Congo and Gambia.
Ryan Telfer made CPL history by scoring the league’s first goal, and the Miami FC striker is still tucking them away on international duty: he scored the final goal in a three-nil win over the Bahamas, and won the penalty which kept things level in a 1-1 draw with Nicaragua. Former Pacific and Cavalry striker Jordan Brown also travelled with Barbados, but did not make his debut for the Caribbean island.
With the 2023 Canadian Premier League season kicking off in just two-and-a-half weeks, focus will now return to club football as each player settles in for what is sure to be a popcorn-worthy season.