Opening Week Surprise: CPL Week 1 Power Rankings
Just like that, the first week of the 2023 CPL campaign has come to a close. Around 20,000 fans across the country attended the four live matches, and every single one was entertained to the fullest.
Heading into this week, CPL fans had varying opinions on what the final standings would look like. On average, most CPL fans expected Forge, Atletico Ottawa, Pacific, York and Cavalry to be the frontrunners for a playoff spot, with Halifax, Vancouver and Valour struggling this season.
It’s only week one, but after this first round of matches some of these predictions might not be so certain anymore.
In a surprise twist, Valour, the fan-voted Wooden Spoon favourites, find themselves in first place, while York United, a playoff contender if not a title contender on paper, find themselves at the bottom.
However, the standings only tell one-half of the story: to see the whole picture, we’ll have to dive into some Power Rankings. Instead of trying to explain the purpose of Power Rankings, I decided to ask ChatGPT:
The purpose of power rankings, is to provide a subjective evaluation and ranking of teams based on their performance in a given period of time, typically a week or portions of a season. They can be used as a tool to assess a team’s strengths and weaknesses and to make predictions about future performances. However, it’s important to note that power rankings are subjective and can vary widely depending on the criteria used by the evaluator.The Almighty AI
Each week, I will attempt to rank the teams in order from eighth (the weakest) to first (the strongest), by taking in past results, the result that just happened, how the teams played and ‘weaknesses and strengths’. If done correctly, one can see which CPL teams are on a roll and which are struggling, regardless of the standings.
Now with that said, since its Week One, I can only base these rankings on this past weekend’s results, but with that said, Voila:
8th – York United
What a disappointing start to the season for York United. This team has high expectations, with fans agreeing that York should be solid playoff contenders if not title contenders. To come out this flat in your home opener is not a good look.
The first half was an evenly contested match: both teams had an equal share of the ball, with neither team creating dangerous chances. York thought they took the lead until the offside flag went up, and Valour thought they had won themselves a penalty, which the referee waived off. The first half ended scoreless.
The second half was a different story. Regardless of what the statistics say, Valour dominated this half: they took the game to York, coming in waves of attack. It only took six minutes for Valour to score the opening goal (well, technically York scored on themselves), and then 3 minutes later, Valour added another goal. While 2-0 ended up being the final score, realistically, Valour should have finished with 3-4 more goals on the day. York could not handle the pressure from Valour, and on offence, they couldn’t solve the Valour defensive line. It’s only Week 1, but definitely an awful start for York.
7th – Vancouver FC
Despite placing in 7th for both the CPL Standings and my Power Rankings, Vancouver impressed everyone in their CPL debut. They went toe-to-toe with their provincial rivals, sharing 47% of the ball and having periods of the game where they controlled the match’s pace. They faced Pacific’s non-stop attacking waves and were just nine minutes away from earning their first-ever point.
Unfortunately, Manny Aparicio had different plans and slotted in the game-winning goal in the 81st minute to break the hearts of the travelling away supporters.
While the game was close in the scoreline, and while Vancouver held firm defensively, one could say that the game was close due to Pacific’s lack of finishing rather than Vancouver’s defense. Pacific finished with 15 shots, 6 of them on target and 11 coming from inside the box. Against a more clinical team, Vancouver could have found themselves down by multiple goals. On offence, Vancouver only mustered up 7 total shots, with 2 hitting the target. I love that Vancouver wasn’t a pushover in this game, but offence and defense both need work.
6th – Halifax Wanderers
Here is where the complaints will start. Halifax’s performance definitely surprised many CPL fans. Fans weren’t sure what to expect from a re-vitalized team, and Atletico Ottawa sure wasn’t expecting to be down one-nil after 16 minutes. Halifax’s first-half performance was phenomenal and was almost picture-perfect… until Bassett equalized right at the stroke of half. In the second half, Atletico Ottawa came into the game more and started creating more and more chances. However, ATO couldn’t capitalize on the late-game push, and the game finished 1-1.
So why are Halifax in 6th? I honestly think they escaped with a point. Ottawa got behind Halifax’s backline plenty in the second half, and Halifax were lucky that Ottawa’s offence seemed to lack chemistry in the final third. Speaking of luck, Halifax got away with a blatant handball in the box and breathed a sigh of relief as Ollie Bassett narrowly missed on a one-on-one with the keeper.
Overall, it was a solid game from the Wanderers, and they should remain a competitive team. However, their backline needs some work, as once teams start clicking offensively I fear they might get exposed often.
5th – Atletico Ottawa
Don’t worry Halifax fans, Atletico Ottawa are only one spot ahead of you. It was a flat start for the reigning regular season champions overall. Halifax seemed to catch them by surprise and kept Ottawa on the back foot for most of the first half. However, as the first half progressed, Ottawa got more and more into the game and started creating chances.
The biggest issue for Ottawa was that no one wanted to shoot. ATO would create several chances, but the final pass or that extra touch always seemed to be off, leaving Halifax off the hook. Ottawa created even more chances in the second half but appeared to lack chemistry in that final third again. A glance at the statistics shows that Ottawa finished with 8 shots, but realistically they should have finished with close to 15.
Ottawa seems to lack a bit of chemistry, which is a surprise as they just finished an entire month of preseason in Spain. However, ATO definitely created plenty of chances, and once they start clicking in the final third, they should become a very dangerous team. On defense, Ottawa appears weaker than last season. Halifax got behind the backline on multiple occasions, and individual performances bailed out Ottawa. These are two things to watch moving forward.
Why is Ottawa ahead of Halifax? They were robbed of a penalty and created more meaningful chances than Halifax, and while Halifax walked out happy with a point, Ottawa walked out feeling like they deserved three.
4th – Forge FC
Forge vs Cavalry was a brilliant game. These two rivals were itching to gain any advantage over their foe. As usual, Forge played a solid match, finishing with 55% of the possession and 13 total shots. The reigning CPL Champions came back from 2 deficits, making sure Cavalry wouldn’t walk away with all 3 points. The only negative I can think of is the fact that Cavalry scored twice and finished with 12 shots. You want to make your home field a fortress, and I feel like Forge allowed Cavalry too many chances.
Overall, this was an extremely solid performance from Forge. Fans don’t have much to complain about. Therefore I’m placing them in 4th for the week. Solid game, but as the home team, some areas to work on.
3rd – Pacific
Pacific were one of two teams to finish with a win this week. However, I am a little disappointed. Many have Pacific as title contenders, but to have to squeeze out a win in the 81st minute against an expansion team, doesn’t scream the MOST powerful. Pacific dominated the first half, with plenty of scoring chances, and Pacific were unlucky to be still levelled at 0 at the half. However, in the second half, Pacific took their foot off the gas pedal and allowed Vancouver to enter the game, and it looked like Pacific were going to drop points before Manny Aparicio bailed them out.
Overall, Pacific look like a title contending team, but scoring one goal from 15 shots is far from clinical. The reason they are in third is because of their opponent: Vancouver are an expansion side, and although they have brought in some talented players (including former Pacific FC goalkeeper Callum Irving), I expected Pacific to easily win this game and not squeak out a victory with 9 minutes to go. Still, getting a win is not easy, and the fact they walked away with 3 points is good enough for 3rd place.
2nd Place – Cavalry FC
Facing the defending CPL Champions in front of nearly seven thousand fans in the sweltering heat is no easy task. Walking away with a point is no easy task. Taking the lead twice and going toe-to-toe with Forge… now that’s impressive.
Many predicted that Cavalry would take a step back this season, but based on this first game, they might be back to their usual level. Cavalry took the lead twice in this game, and conceded on a penalty and a brilliant volley by Noah Jensen. I know how hard it is to play against Forge, and the fact Cavalry finished with 45% of the possession and 12 shots on the road is very impressive.
Cavalry definitely do not look like a team that has taken a step back, and I am interested to see how they perform next week.
1st Place – Valour FC
I don’t think anyone predicted this. Valour is a team that everyone predicted to be the Wooden Spoon favourites. Yet, after Week 1 they find themselves atop the CPL Table and Northern Tribune Power Rankings.
Valour played a wonderful game against a team that many predicted to be playoff, if not title, contenders. The first half was a bit of a stalemate, but the second half is where Valour exploded. Scoring two goals in three minutes and coming at York with waves upon waves of attacks, Valour were unlucky not to finish this game with four or five goals instead of two. On the defensive ned, Valour showed their worth: York created plenty of chances, but Valour’s backline held firm, turning away York at every chance.
Playing on the road and walking away with three points, a clean sheet, and a dominating performance is worthy of first place in the Power Rankings. Let’s see if they can keep this up next week.
Week 1 Power Rankings should always be taken with a grain of salt. However, these performances will be accounted for in near future rankings, so it is important to start off on the right foot.
Do you agree with these rankings? Let us know in the comments. Want to debate my choices? Tag me on Twitter and let’s discuss. See y’all next week!