February 25: Recapping The Last Week In CPL
With March approaching, we’re now seeing clubs top off the majority of their roster builds and open preseason camps. It’s business time.
This week saw an average of more than one player signing per day, but there were other things happening from coast-to-coast too: we’re nearing kit launch o’clock, while Nik Ledgerwood spoke candidly on his aspirations to land a head coach role within the league.
Without further ado, here’s a recap of the last week in CPL:
With less than two months until the season kicks off, kit reveal dates are starting to come forth from clubs. The first to announce their kit launch was Valour FC (March 10), with this week also seeing Halifax (March 7) and York United (March 16) put up some dates.
Clubs have been fairly coy about their new threads, though we’ve heard that the collar style on the leaked Pacific concept kit will make its way around the league. This year will also see CIBC introduced as a sleeve sponsor for all eight teams, whilst the Nine Stripes will sport a kit with new club sponsor Carlsberg.
York United Preseason Opens With A Bang
Speaking of the Nine Stripes, their seven match preseason campaign got underway with a healthy four-nil win over the CF Montreal Academy. An opener from new signing Markiyan Voytsekhovskyy, a brace from Kevin Dos Santos, and a tidy finish from trialist Trivine Esprit got camp off to a hot start.
There’s still a few interesting trialists in camp, including three-time CPL Champion Jonathan Grant. York has the most fleshed-out roster out of any team, though there’s still a couple spots up for grabs.
(Oh, and here’s our dossier on who’s trialing out west with Pacific, too.)
The Hamilton Spectator penned a piece indicating that Kyle Bekker will be returning to Forge FC, a team in which the club captain has helped to three North Star Shield wins in just four years.
The midfield engine was the first player to hit a century of appearances for the hammers, who are set to enjoy an eight-match preseason window that will feature a two-week stay in Costa Rica.
Ledgerwood Wants To Land A Head Coach Role In CPL
This week we spoke with Cavalry FC assistant Nik Ledgerwood, who’s set to return for a second season assisting Tommy Wheeldon Jr. for the perennial playoff contenders.
The former Canadian international has transitioned well into his coaching career, where he describes having a higher ceiling than his playing days had allowed for. In fact, the Cavalry FC and Canadian women’s national team coach says he wants to make history by earning a head coach role for himself in the CPL.
“There’s some good players, like David Edgar, Mauro Eustaquio, and myself who have had good careers and stepped into coaching jobs. So, why not?”, he ponders. “Why not in the near future be a head coach? I think that’s our goal at the end of the day, is to step into it. I think it’s just a matter of time before an ownership group or a franchise reach out and really trusts an ex-international with a chance for his first head coaching job.”
Eight Players In
With club rosters starting to largely slant towards the end stages, four teams kept active over the last week with some intriguing signings. All-told, five of this week’s eight signings are first-year professionals (and seven have yet to make a pro debut), so it’ll be interesting to see who’s able to stick things out in Canada’s top flight.
Atletico Ottawa – Gianni Dos Santos, Gabriel Antinoro
The last time Atletico Ottawa scooped an international from Pacific, it worked out well. Gianni Dos Santos is an intriguing pickup: the Cape Verdean international is an absolute baller on the wing when he’s on, but he has his quiet moments. Still, he shows up on big days – like when he assisted the title-winner for Pacific.
The club also added Brazil-born midfielder Gabriel Antinoro, a CF Montreal U-23 prospect with speedy pace and fast feet. At just 18, he looks set to help the club accrue domestic U-21 minutes for years to come. There were a few clubs sniffing at him, but it was Atletico Ottawa who got him over the finish line.
Halifax Wanderers – Armaan Wilson, Kosi Nwafornso
Halifax topped up their allotment of domestic U-21 athletes with the acquisition of rookie recruit Armaan Wilson, a 20-year-old midfielder who arrives from Providence College circles. The six-foot-three youngster also featured for the Woodbridge Strikers last year, making him yet another League1 Ontario player turning pro with Patrice.
Continuing that theme is Kosi Nwafornso, who stormed to a nineteen-goal season with Vaughan Azzurri last season. The League1 Ontario invincible will now reunite with Patrice Gheisar for his second go in the CPL, having signed with Forge in 2021 before seeing his season curtailed through injury.
Valour FC – Jordan Tisseur
As the first player to land a U SPORTS contract for the upcoming season, Jordan Tisseur currently stands as the main competition for Rayane Yesli. The 22-year-old had signed for the Ottawa Fury in 2019, and most recently helped FC Laval to a PLSQ Championship last season.
The big question mark? He’s on a U SPORTS deal that, by default, will need to end in the fall. If Tisseur returns to university in Montreal, the club will need to sort out a replacement for him.
Vancouver FC – Eugene ‘Pele’ Martinez, Jeremy Zielinski, And Nima Moazeni Zadeh
Expansion side Vancouver FC held two local combines that brought in over 250 trialists, and from that batch came three signings. All of them arrive from the university sports circuit in their mid-twenties, with all three signing their first pro deals with VFC.
Jeremy Zielinkski arrives as goalkeeper competition for Callum Irving, with the six-foot-two shot-stopper coming in from Hawaii Pacific University. Moazeni Zadeh comes from the closer pastures of Capilano University, with the Iranian-Canadian attacking midfielder earned high praise from Ghotbi, who described him as an athlete who could be one of the top midfielders in Canada.
The third of the bunch is Eugene ‘Pele’ Martinez, a Belizean international. Despite the moniker, he’s a centre-back who arrives from NCAA Division II side Cal Poly Pomona Broncos.
Changing Of The Guard: Valour’s Assistant Coach Changes
It was a somewhat quiet change, but Valour FC assistant coach Damian Rocke has left the club after being part of its coaching staff from the get-go.
The born-and-raised Winnipegger penned a farewell letter to fans, stating that he had a lifetime bond with the club and would continue to support it as a fan. Rocke assisted former head coach Rob Gale through the first two-and-a-half years of the club’s history, and spent one-and-a-half seasons under Phillip Dos Santos before departing ahead of the 2023 CPL season.
Stepping into the role will be former team captain Daryl Fordyce, who brings in plenty of professional experience to lean on as Dos Santos aims to crack a playoff spot for the first team in club history.
With March just over a week away, we expect to see clubs reveal their preseason plans within the next week or so, with kit launch information set to come from those who haven’t teased it already.
With rosters filling up and team’s embarking on full training sessions, the air is full of promise from coast-to-coast. It’s been a long offseason, but we’re getting there!