February 18: Recapping The Last Week In CPL
With the 2023 Canadian Premier League season just under two months away, clubs are still topping off their rosters ahead of launch date. It’s been largely transfer news to come from clubs this week, though there’s also been a few leaks between an as-yet-unannounced player loan and a Pacific FC kit prototype, too.
Here’s what you might have missed in league news this week:
Seven Players In
There were six official transfers in this week and one which was leaked online, making it a busy week in terms of player movement. One of the moves was a league-first, coming as a paid transfer between two CPL sides, whilst another move ensured CPL players now represent athletes from ten provinces.
Without further ado, here’s what new faces are showing up in camps from coast-to-coast:
Atletico Ottawa – Jean-Aniel Assi (Loan) and Samuel Salter
Samuel Salter made history this week as the first intra-league move to come through a paid transfer. Moving from Halifax to Ottawa for an undisclosed fee, the Quebec-born striker – who led Halifax’s scoring charts last year – now inks a two-year deal in the nation’s capital.
The other transfer is juicy, too: Jean-Aniel Assi spent last season on loan with Cavalry, with CF Montreal now sending him out on loan to Atletico Ottawa instead. That means he’ll get to suit up against his old teammates this year, with the 18-year-old winger expected to get more minutes in the nation’s capital than he did out west.
Cavalry FC – Udoka Chima
It’s no secret that Cavalry FC has a strong record of successful centre-back signings, and the club hopes to continue this with Nigeria youth international Udoka Chima.
The 21-year-old, six-foot tall centre-back developed with the Burnley Academy, and now arrives to Spruce Meadows after having accrued some senior experience with Scottish side Queens of the South. With Callum Montgomery joining last week, it’s been a great month for Cavalry’s defensive prospects.
Halifax Wanderers – Ryan James and Daniel Nimick
Patrice Gheisar didn’t just secure a veteran left-back presence with Ryan James, but also a leadership figure for the squad itself. The 28-year-old Canadian defender now embarks on his first playing stint north of the border after accruing some 191 professional appearances for USL Championship sides, and looks a good pickup for the Wanderers.
The club also added Canadian-English centre-back Daniel Nimick, who had been picked by the Vancouver Whitecaps in this year’s MLS SuperDraft. The 22-year-old has a sterling reputation from NCAA circles, where he made 65 appearances and scored an astounding twelve goals – making the former Leeds United academy product one to watch on set pieces.
Nimick is also the first CPL athlete to hail from Labrador, marking the tenth province represented by the league at one point or another.
Pacific FC – Manny Aparicio
There was a big question mark on whether Pacific would be able to retain Manny Aparicio, a creative attacker who’s presence heavily influences the Tridents attack when he’s on the pitch.
Aparicio will return for his third season on the isle, where the fast-footed midfielder will be a great boost to the club’s attack. If the club had lost him in addition to Bustos, there’d be big questions on how it will create goals this year – make no mistake, this was a key player for James Merriman to bring back.
Vancouver FC – Cristian Mares
This one isn’t official yet, but we’ve independently confirmed that highly-touted Club Puebla U-20 winger Cristian Mares is set for a spell with Vancouver FC, making him the club’s first-ever known international recruit.
The 18-year-old right winger has turned heads aplenty at the youth level in Puebla, where he scored four goals in 17 appearances for the U-20 side last year. He’s on the verge of being a bench option in the first team, so the move to CPL will offer great opportunity for him to test himself in a professional senior environment.
Pacific FC Kit Prototype Shows Up In Spain
A Canadian Premier League fan in Spain stumbled onto some purple threads of interest in Barcelona, where several prototype 2023 Pacific FC kits showed themselves. While we don’t know what the final version will look like, this iteration features a neat geometric pattern with a bear central to the chest, and also offers a sneak preview on the league-wide CIBC sleeve sponsorships.
It looks like formal kit launch news is about a month away, with Valour recently stamping March 10 as its kit launch date. We imagine other clubs will have a similar timeframe.
CPL Hit By Men’s National Team Diss
There’s a highly-public dispute going on between Canada Soccer and the women’s national team, who are deeply unhappy about pay inequity and significant budget cuts made ahead of both the SheBelieves Cup and the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
The men’s national team penned a letter of support in which they stated a general unhappiness that sponsorship deals earned by the national teams only saw limited returns through Canada Soccer Business, who distribute a chunk of that funding to Canadian Premier League clubs.
While it’s understandable not to like the terms of that, the letter penned by the team called the owners of CPL teams ‘minor league professional club’ owners who directly profited from the deal. It was an odd line to include, and one which the CSB rebuffed. Make no mistake, though: if shots are being fired between the national team and the CPL, it’s a no-win situation.
Pacific Leads The Way For Giving Canadian Players Minutes
A recent post from Northern Football Analysis queried which professional Canadian clubs were giving not just the most minutes to Canadians, but the highest percentage of regular season minutes to them as well. The interesting thought piece can be found here, and it reveals that Pacific is leading the way on both fronts with numbers stretching back to 2019.
When one looks at Canadian clubs from both Major League Soccer and the Canadian Premier League, they’ve combined to give nearly 500,000 minutes of game time to Canadian athletes – a tremendous number, and one looks set to grow in the years to come. The infographic is certainly worth a look.
Checking In On Former CPLers
The good times have kept rolling for former Nine Stripe Diayeddine Abzi in France’s Ligue 2, where he was named the club’s player of the month for January. The past week also saw William Akio bag his first goal for Raith Rovers following his loan from Ross County three weeks ago.
In League1 Ontario pastures, we also saw League1 Ontario side Simcoe County Rovers secure two former CPL athletes in Orlendis Benitez and Alejandro Portal, who both once played for the Cuban national team and helped Vaughan to an invincible season last year.
We’re guessing formal preseason camp announcements will come soon, with York United’s stateside trips now being preceded by a tilt against the CF Montreal Academy, Cavalry hinting that a trek to Portland is on the menu, and Atletico Ottawa once again set to return to Spain.