CPL Power Rankings Week 24: Fumbling The Bag
This week saw a champion crowned, and three teams fumble the opportunity to solidify (not clinch) a playoff spot. This drama is a must-watch TV – unless you’re a fan of the three specific teams, in which case you’re wishing this living hell will end soon.
Regardless, a new week has passed, meaning a new edition of the Power Rankings is needed!
8th Place – Atletico Ottawa
They’ve done it again. They’ve lost in stoppage time, this time at home to Valour, thanks to a 94th-minute winner by Walter Ponce. Playing in front of 7,000 fans, Ottawa could not capitalize on any of their glorious chances, and to make matters worse they conceded at the last second to drop all points. Ottawa had seven shots and corners in the second half, with five of those shots coming from inside the box – yet no one could score. It’s been an issue for Ottawa for years, and it’s finally coming to bite them in the rear end.
However, to make matters worse, Ottawa has lost their fourth match in five games in stoppage time: 97′, 91′, 92′ (after equalizing the game in 91′) and now 94′. I don’t think anyone has ever seen this happen before. Carlos Gonzales has lost the locker room, and the players have no idea how to right this ship. Losing four games in stoppage time right at the end of a playoff push is absolutely embarrassing and, worse, season-killing. If we add the four points that Ottawa dropped in these fur losses, Ottawa would be sitting on 37 points, which would place them in fourth place and only three points behind third place.
Instead, Ottawa is in fifth place, only a single point ahead of York… and who do they play next? That’s right, York. Next week’s match is the biggest of the season. If Ottawa wins, they clinch a playoff spot. However, a draw or especially a loss will essentially eliminate Ottawa, as they have to visit Forge on the last gameweek. It’s the same Forge team that Ottawa has a 1-4-10 record against. On the other hand, York has a visit with Vancouver FC, which is no easy matchup, but they definitely have a much better chance of earning three points than Ottawa over Forge.
To sum it up, Ottawa has absolutely bottled this playoff race. They are winless in sixmatches and have lost four of their last five in stoppage time. They now have a must-win game against York. The way the team is playing right now, I struggle to see how they pull it off.
7th Place – York United
Ottawa is in horrible form, but York is doing no better. Another loss to Cavalry means York have now lost three games in a row. Their prior two matches saw consolation goals from York arriving in the 87th and the 86th minute. If we pair these two goals with being shutout this week, York have died on offence and are showing no signs of life.
They now face a must not lose match against Ottawa. Come away with a draw or, even better, a win, and you place yourself in a great position to qualify for the playoffs with your last game against Vancouver. However, a loss and your season is done. This match can go either way, but in terms of power rankings, I’ll give York the advantage over Ottawa based on their strength of opponents to close out the season.
Side note: York still has 213 more U-21 minutes left to play. They earned 181 minutes last week… but lost the game. It will be interesting to see how much of an impact this has on next week’s matchup.
6th Place – Halifax Wanderers
Halifax should be on their knees, thanking their lucky stars that York and Ottawa haven’t taken advantage of their fumbling. Halifax had the chance to increase their gap over Ottawa to six points and York to seven points… if Ottawa and York both lost, and Halifax won. Ottawa and York lost, but so did Halifax – to Vancouver. Now, Vancouver isn’t a team to be taken lightly anymore, but with so much at stake, Halifax needs to be earning points. In fact, if we look at their last five games, they only have one win – the 92nd-minute victory over Ottawa. If it wasn’t for Ottawa, Halifax would be winless in five matches. They aren’t in good form, and now playoffs are at risk.
Okay, ‘at risk’ may be a bit overdramatic, but it’s certainly possible. Halifax now only sits four points ahead of York. If Halifax loses out, and York and Ottawa earn four points from their last two games, Halifax would finish in sixth place. This is a long shot because York and Ottawa play each other before Ottawa visits Forge and York visits Vancouver, but Halifax still needs to play Forge and Valour. Everything is up for grabs with these three teams, and the only reason Halifax is in sixth place is because they hold that breathing room in the standings.
Side Note: Halifax still needs to earn 285 U-21 minutes. They earned a massive 262 minutes last week, but just like York, lost their game. With two challenging games against Forge and Valour coming up, I’m curious to see how Halifax handles this.
5th Place – Valour FC
Valour may have been eliminated from playoffs, but they still have much to play for. Valour currently are in the Wooden Spoon position, although they are tied with Vancouver on points. Right now, Valour are also playing for their city: there have been lots of recent talk about the future of Valour, and I’m sure the players want to represent their city well while fighting for 2024 roster spots. As well, who doesn’t like playing spoilers for other team’s hopes and aspirations?
Valour isn’t in the best of forms right now, but whenever you’re facing a team with nothing to lose, that makes them a thousand percent more dangerous.
4th Place – Vancouver FC
Valour aren’t in the best of forms but are dangerous, so imagine Vancouver, who’ve won three of the past four games and been eliminated from playoff contention but are currently avoiding the Wooden Spoon thanks to their recent results.
Vancouver has beaten Atletico Ottawa, Valour, and now Halifax. This is a team that is playing free-flowing football with nothing to lose other than possibly getting the Wooden Spoon trophy in their first season. Vancouver are in their best form of the season and with matchups against Pacific and York remaining, Vancouver will definitely leave a mark on this season’s playoffs.
3rd Place – Pacific FC
Last week, I explained how there was a chance that Pacific could end up winning the title over Cavalry… that explanation is now useless as Pacific lost 3-1 over Forge. Pacific opened the scoring in the third minute, but the lead quickly evaporated two minutes later. Forge would score two more goals to solidify the three points and move ahead of Pacific in the standings.
Second place is the biggest prize left in this regular season. Not only will this spot grant you a one-off match against Cavalry to determine who gets a bye and host the final, but if Cavalry wins the playoffs, second place will earn the last Concacaf Champions League Spot. Pacific had the advantage heading into this week but gave it to Forge. Now sitting two points behind Forge, Pacific will need Forge to earn no more than four points, while Pacific will need to win out to finish in second place. Since they are the ones playing catchup, Pacific drops in these rankings.
2nd Place – Cavalry FC
Congratulations to Cavalry for winning the CPL Shield. You lot were the best team this season and fully deserve the title. However, you now have nothing to play for: you only need 155 more U-21 minutes, and the next big game will be the playoff first-versus-second matchup to determine who gets a bye and hosts the final.
With their next match against Valour more or less meaningless, I don’t expect Cavalry to come out with the same intensity as before. However, at the same time, why not put on a show for your fans and keep the good form going into the playoffs? Regardless, the same mental push will be missing, and that’s why Cavalry gives up the first spot to…
1st Place – Forge FC
That is correct, Forge FC. They have caught fire at the perfect time. Their 3-1 victory over Pacific jumps them into second place and gives them their third win in four matches. Forge are now undefeated in seven games and holds the advantage over Pacific for that coveted second spot.
Second place is now Forge’s to lose, and they are in great form to keep it, scoring a combined nine goals from their last three wins. With their last two matchups being against Halifax and Ottawa, if Forge comes away with all six points they could become quick favourites to win the playoffs…however, four points or less and Pacific could pass them in the standings, and a cool breeze would quiet this Forge momentum.
It’s all to play for in these remaining games.