March 11: Recapping The Last Week In CPL
It’s been a busy week week in Canadian Premier League circles: with eleven players signed, five preseason matches, and four new kits, there’s a lot to catch up on!
We hope you’ve been enjoying our weekly recaps – here’s everything that went down over the last 7 days:
It’s New Kit O’Clock
Both Valour FC and the Halifax Wanderers have unveiled their 2023 threads, boasting several clean looks between them. Both sides feature a sublimated primary look, so we’re curious to see if that theme will continue.
The Wanderers were the first team to release their new looks, with a navy blue primary kit paying homage to Nova Scotia’s black granite rocks. The alternate kit is a clean white look with lines of gray ‘Together From Aways text’, with a tasty colour splash complimenting everything nicely.
Last night saw the Valour 2023 kits come out, revealing a clean, sharp sublimated map motif on the primary kit with IG Field – home – popping up right on the badge. The away look featured a vintage black design with gray graphics, and a big ol’ claw mark on the torso revealing the club’s iconic maroon underneath.
Forge was supposed to have a kit launch on Friday as well, but this was pushed to next Tuesday due to snowy weather in Hamilton.
League1 Alberta Is Coming…Sort Of
It’s official: there’ll be a test drive for League1 Alberta this year, with a summertime exhibition series set to feature five men’s and five women’s teams running from May to the end of July. Our very own David Parkes has covered the progress of this litmus test that could, if all goes well, bring semi-professional football to Wild Rose Country – and maybe the prairies, too.
It’s also worth noting that Cavalry is set to feature a men’s team for the summer exhibition series, which would mark the first time a CPL club would field a League1 Canada squad – something York United came close to on the women’s side a few years ago.
Eleven Players In Players In
It’s been one of the busiest offseason weeks of the entire offseason, with more than half of the league’s clubs confirming new player signings and Vancouver FC bringing in no less than four new faces. Here’s a breakdown on each of them.
Atletico Ottawa – Aboubakary Sacko
The famed Le Havre academy has produced footballing greats like Paul Pogba and Riyad Mahrez, and now Atletico Ottawa has signed one of its most recent grads: Aboubakary Sacko. The box-to-box midfielder rose through the U-17 and U-19 ranks at Le Havre, featuring for the club’s B team five times in the 2022-2023 season. This’ll mark the 20-year-old’s first club stint abroad.
Forge FC somehow finds a way to recruit a highly-coveted Canadian defender with international experience to their backline every year, and 2023 saw Manjrekar James fit the bill. With 17 caps for the national team, over 150 in Europe, and a history with the coach Smyrniotis stretching back to his Sigma days, James looks the perfect replacement – or perhaps even upgrade – on the outbound Daniel Krutzen.
The hammers also secured the return of young goalkeeper Christopher Kalongo, who’s first and only appearance for Forge came in a match against Pacific FC. The youngster reportedly had his contract option declined a few months ago, but a new deal seems to have come together quickly after that. Now he’ll ride the bench behind Henry again, waitingfor his opportunity to impress.
Bekker’s return was probably the worst-kept offseason secret in CPL: following open reports that he was back, the team captain was spotted in the background of social media content aplenty before the club finally said he was coming back on a two-year deal. Having helped Forge to four straight finals with three title winners, he’s the club’s all-time appearance leader, too – this man bleeds orange through-and-through.
York United – Jonathan Grant
After four seasons in the hammer, Jonathan Grant became the third player to cross 905 battle lines to sign with York United. A three-time CPL champion who can play just about anywhere on the pitch, Grant impressed on trial with York United over the last few weeks and will now, it seems, suit up for the Nine Stripes as a centre-back and right-back.
The newest member of the three-team club, Novak’s third stop in the CPL sees him venture to WInnipeg and IG Field, a place where he’s scored quite a few goals before. The veteran CPL striker arrives as a player who knows what it takes to reach playoffs, and with sixteen goals to his name he can certainly contribute to Valour’s efforts. After missing his last season with Cavalry through injury, he’s now fit and raring to go.
The club also inked University of Quebec in Trois-Rivieres defender Guillaume Pianelli to a U SPORTS contract, with the six-foot-four defender making good on his second-ever draft selection. A PLSQ and RSEQ All-Star, he’s suited up for Celtix du Haut-Richelieu and developed with French third tier side EF Bastia, where he arned the nickname ‘Corsican Bull’ in reference to the French island on which he played.
Despite enjoying a hot start with Toronto FC last season, Chung found game time hard to come by in MLS. Mutually terminating his contract with the team, the right-back – who hoisted the North Star Shield with Pacific in 2021 – now returns to CPL action with neighbouring side Vancouver FC. As one of the club’s most proven talents, great things will be expected of him in the club’s debut year.
Ghanaian youth international Nicky Gyimah is a winger who hails from London, England. He’s largely untested, having progressed through the youth ranks of Peterborough United and Slough Town FC before making ten appearances for the Sunderland U-23 team last year. He’s a pacey winger that Ghotbi describes as a creative attacker, so it’ll be interesting to see how he fares in the CPL.
South Korean left winger Kim-jae Kwak has proven to be consistent in the US third tier with NISA clubs AC Syracuse Pulse and California United Strikers FC, where he’s tallied eight goals and earned 2022 NISA Best Eleven honours. Born in Gyeonggi-do province but raised in California, he’s an international expected to settle in and contribute quickly with the expansion side.
English centre-back Ibrahim Bakare has accrued some interesting experience: having developed with League Two side Morecambe FC and the Cardiff Cuty U-23 squad, he may have quite a high ceiling. A move abroad may do the sizable lad well, with the defender having recently bounced around the English lower leagues with Kettering Town FC, Macclesfield FC, sixth-tier Cheshunt FC in recent months.
CanWNT Testifies At House Of Commons
This week saw four Canadian women’s national team members testify to the Heritage Committee, and they didn’t hold back: slamming Canada Soccer’s treatment of the team amid their ongoing labour dispute, they called for the organization to ‘open the books’ and recounted some horror stories as session progressed in the nation’s capital.
Next week will see former Canada Soccer President Nick Bontis and general secretary Earl Cochrane speak to the committee. The embattled organization released the numbers behind a proposed labour agreement hours before the women’s national team testimony, a move which was not well-received by the four player representatives giving testimony hours later.
Preseason Matches Well Underway In CPL
We provided a recap on four different preseason matches that each involved a Canadian Premier League teams, with Atletico Ottawa opening its Spanish camp with a 2-2 draw against UD Sanse, Pacific cruising to a 3-0 win over the University of Victoria, Vancouver FC winning 2-0 over VMSL stalwarts BB5 United, and York United finishing a scoreless draw against Penn State University.
The Nine Stripes would also go on to play the Houston Dynamo 2, falling to a 2-1 loss with De Rosario getting on the scoresheet under the Texas sun.
Cavalry FC has confirmed its Portland trip, with Vancouver FC in Oregon right now. Forge will enjoy a spell in Costa Rica and Halifax will head to Florida, while Pacific will face more local opposition and Valour remains tight-lipped about its own preseason plans – though we know they’ll square off against Pacific at some point.
With most clubs having signed at last 20 players, we’re now getting a near-complete look at essentially all eight Canadian Premier League clubs. Now all that’s left is for each side to complete their respective preseasons and see who hits the ground running in just over a month.
It’s been quite a busy week for each side, so we hope you enjoyed our highlight of everything that’s been going on from coast-to-coast.