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Vancouver FC Gabriel Bitar Preseason

March 4: Recapping The Last Week In CPL

By on March 4, 2023 0 1046 Views

March is here, and that means that preseason preparations are on ‘full steam ahead’ mode for all eight Canadian Premier League clubs.

There’s been a drop in player signings given that most clubs are now finalizing the last of their roster spots, though that doesn’t mean roster news hasn’t been devoid excitement.

Without further ado, here’s everything that went down this week:

Halifax Wanderers Joao Morelli 2022
Photo Credit: John Jacques

Missing Morelli

Building up to be a significant piece of off-season drama is the fact that Halifax’s star Brazilian forward, Joao Morelli, will miss at least the first half of the season, though there’s suggestion there may be more to it than his post-operative recovery.

With rumours circling that Joao might not return – full stop – a club statement indicated the team looks forward to the ‘possibility’ of him coming back when the time is right. In the meantime, they’ve even given his kit number to Aidan Daniels.

The former CPL MVP has 20 goals in 34 appearances for Halifax, but it remains to be seen if he’ll be part of the Patrice Gheisar era out east.

York United Jonathan Grant
Photo Credit: John Jacques

Guyana Eyes Jonathan Grant

While it remains to be seen if former Forge FC man Jonathan Grant ultimately makes the jump to York United, the versatile three-time CPL champion is now under consideration for a call up for Guyana.

The Nine Stripes saw Brem Soumaoro called up for Liberia this week, while former CPL forward Jordan Brown got the nod from Barbados. It’ll be interesting to see if any other players earn international opportunities within the next few weeks.

Vancouver FC Gael Sandoval
Photo Credit: Vancouver FC / Beau Chevalier

Six Players In

It’s no secret that Vancouver FC had a lot of catching up to do when it comes to forming out a roster, with the club making some big gains in catching up its player count this week. In fact, they accounted for half of them:

Atletico OttawaLuke Singh

Toronto FC defender Luke Singh is set for a second season on loan in the CPL, but this time he’ll suit up for Atletico Ottawa instead of FC Edmonton. The big, physical centre-back featured aplenty for the Eddies last year, but it wasn’t the kind of environment that allowed him to really shine. He’ll be an interesting one to watch in the capital city.

Also, given that he was technically loaned to Pacific before that was nixed for an Eddies loan, we suppose that makes him the first player to get loans to three CPL sides.

Pacific FC – Kieran Baskett, David Brazao

It’s a coastal switch for former Halifax Wanderers netminder Kieran Baskett, who made 21 matches while suiting up for the east coast side over the last two years. He had a bit of a falling out with the coaching staff there last season, and now embarks on a new chapter out west where he’ll face youthful opposition for minutes in Emil Gazdov.

Brazao will occupy the fourth of seven international slots allowed to Pacific FC, with the 21-year-old Portuguese winger arriving from Portugal’s third division. It was there where he tallied up six goals and three assists in 17 appearances for Sintrense, though how he performs at the CPL level remains to be seen.

Vancouver FC – Cristian Mares, Gael Sandoval, Mael Henry

We reported that Club Puebla youngster Cristian Mares was en route for a loan spell with Vancouver FC weeks ago, and the news is now official: touted as one of the best dribblers in the Liga MX youth ranks, this 18-year-old right winger is expected to dazzle crowds in Langley.

Make no mistake about it: on paper, Sandoval is potentially the best international brought in to the Canadian Premier League. A creative attacker in midfield with over a hundred Liga MX appearances to his name, Sandoval had was stolen away from Tepatitlan FC within weeks of the club loudly celebrating his arrival. There are big expectations of the 27-year-old former Mexican youth international out west.

The club also brought in midfielder Mael Henry, a Canadian who had turned heads in the CF Montreal reserve ranks. He’s got an eye for goal and a lot of tenacity on the pitch, though be warned that he’s one ‘referees will remember’, according to his former coach. At 18, he’s a youngster with plenty of upside for Ghotbi to test out.

Vancouver FC Gabriel Bitar Preseason
Photo Credit: Vancouver FC / Beau Chevalier

Vancouver FC Bags 3-1 Preseason Win Over Whitecaps FC2

Afshin Ghotbi’s expansion side is embarking on their first-ever preseason, with the team recently playing three 45 minute periods in a friendly match against MLS Next Pro opposition.

While WFC2 held a one-nil scoreline after ninety minutes, Vancouver FC stormed back with two quick penalty conversions from Ameer Kinani and Gabriel Bitar before former York United striker Mamadou Kane bagged them a late winner.

Just needed the ol’ third half.

Canada Soccer Charmaine Crooks

Canada Soccer Elects Charmaine Crooks As Interim President

With Nick Bontis handing in his resignation amidst Canada Soccer’s highly-public dispute with its national teams and a public inquiry into the organization’s conduct, Canada Soccer was quick to elect former VP Charmaine Crooks to run the ship in the interim.

The five-time Olympian has been Nick’s right hand since he was elected President in 2020, so while she says ‘real progress’ must be made, it’s an actions-speak-louder-than-works type of situation.

Yesterday did see an interim funding deal come to fruition, though. Let’s see how things go.

CF Montreal Sean Rea
Photo Credit: CF Montreal

Rea-lly A Lot Of CPLers In MLS Opening Weekend

The opening weekend of Major League Soccer saw no less than six former Canadian Premier League players crack matchday squads, with four of them going on to feature in the US top flight’s opening weekend.

CF Montreal did the most, with goalkeeper James Pantemis and his eventual replacement Jonathan Sirois getting game time, whilst exciting youngster Sean Rea made a good impression off the bench. All three spent time on loan with Valour FC previously.

We also saw Mohamed Farsi earn his first MLS start for Columbus Crew, while former CPL talents Lukas MacNaughton and Karifa Yao rode the bench lsat weekend.

All eight Canadian Premier League clubs are now in full preseason mode, with most of them embarking on trips abroad: Cavalry, York United, and Halifax are confirmed to be headed stateside, whilst Forge and Atletico Ottawa are headed overseas to Costa Rica and Spain.

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