CPL Power Rankings Week 25: The Penultimate Weekend
This past weekend has set up the craziest final match day in CPL History, hands down.
Check out how these results impacted the Power Rankings:
8th Place: Atletico Ottawa
Lol. Five out of the last six matches have ended up in losses for Ottawa thanks to goals coming in the 88th minute and later. Ottawa is on a seven-game winless streak, they’ve been shut out two matches in a row, and just lost 1-0 to their rivals with their dedicated fans making a ten-hour round trip to witness that loss in person, AND they now have to go into Hamilton and beat Forge for only the second time in club history to clinch a playoff spot.
To make matters worse, if York wins the day before, Ottawa will be eliminated from playoff contention regardless of the result against Forge.
Many points have been dropped from these past five games, and Ottawa has absolutely bottled the playoffs this year. Fans are furious, and there are already talks happening in the circles about not wanting Carlos Gonzales to return next season. There’s not much more to be said about this team. It will take an absolute miracle to get into the playoffs, and I don’t even think this team deserves to be in the playoffs.
7th Place: Valour FC
Valour has officially won the Wooden Spoon. Their only consolation now is that, thanks to their victory over York earlier in September, they won’t hold the record for the least amount of points in a season. Actually, they currently have 26 points, which is the same amount of points Ottawa had when they won the Wooden Spoon back in 2021. If we go back to 2019, Valour finished the season with a combined 28 points – so Valour is technically in danger of having their worst season in club history. So, if you’re a Valour player, there is something to play for…I guess.
Still, the situation in Valour is shambolic and appears to be impacting the on-field performance. Outside of their victories over York and Ottawa, one has to go back to August 11th to find the last time Valour beat or drew a team. Valour now has to face a Halifax side that has the potential to finish in second place with a big victory over Valour. I don’t see how Valour can pull this off based on their recent form and history, but there is something to be said about making a point and playing for pride in front of your home fans on the last match day.
And like I said, a win saves the embarrassment of having their worst season in club history… but will that be enough motivation? Who knows.
6th Place: York United
What a massive victory for York. Kevin Santos’ goal in the 88th minute gave all three points to York, jumping over Ottawa for that last playoff spot. This win gives York a two point gap over Ottawa, meaning that Ottawa now needs to beat Forge (1-4-10 against Forge) AND that won’t even matter if York wins, as a victory over Vancouver FC next Saturday would clinch a playoff spot for York.
However, I’m still not impressed or confident in York. This is an Ottawa side that was winless in six heading into this game, and if it wasn’t for Santos, York could have easily been walking away with a 0-0 draw. Their game next week against Vancouver is also no walk in the park: Vancouver has won four of their last five matches and is riding a three-game win streak. York must also earn 123 U-21 minutes to be eligible for the playoffs.
As mentioned, a win gets them in, but dropping points will open the door for Ottawa. Having to earn 123 more U-21 minutes while facing a searing-hot Vancouver side may be too much for York, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they leave this match needing Forge to help them out.
5th Place: Pacific FC
This was one of the worst bottles of the season. Forge had lost their match earlier in the day, meaning that a Pacific win would have placed them in second place heading into the final match day. Instead, Pacific lost 2-1 at home against their provincial rivals Vancouver FC. Despite 17 shots and 54% possession, Pacific could not capitalize on these chances and dropped crucial points.
This same issue appeared earlier in the season, and everyone thought that Pacific had fixed it: however, now on a two-game losing streak, Pacific has to somehow turn it around and get a massive win against a Cavalry side who have seven wins and one draw from their last eight matches.
Pacific is in a tricky spot: a win against Cavalry plus Forge dropping points would clinch second place for Pacific. However, a loss or draw to Cavalry plus a Halifax win would knock Pacific into fourth place, forcing them into that fourth-versus-fifth playoff play-in. Right now, the second option seems more likely to happen, and it will take a complete turnaround for Pacific to somehow walk away with all three points. Pacific fans will surely be left shaking their heads and asking many ‘what ifs’.
4th Place: Halifax Wanderers
They’ve done it! Halifax has clinched a playoff spot AND will host at least one playoff game. Many will say that Halifax was assisted by the referees this past weekend, but nothing can take away from the fact that they faced 21 shots from Forge and 60% possession and still held firm. Massimo Ferrin scored his seventh goal of the season, and Nimick added a sixth goal to his tally while Fillion made some brilliant saves to give Halifax all three points.
Halifax is playing with house money now, and somehow they have a shot (a long one, but still a shot) at finishing in second place. To do this, it will require Pacific dropping points in any fashion and Forge losing, while Halifax wins their match by two goals. It’s a lot to ask for, and a lot isn’t in their control, but Halifax plays a day before Forge and Pacific against a Valour side who have officially won the wooden spoon. This match favours Halifax, and the entire team and city will understand the opportunity to play with House money and somehow finish up in second place – giving them the chance to potentially host the CPL Final.
Normally, this motivation alone would move Halifax up the rankings; however, Halifax has shown this past month that they tend to drop games that many expect them to win (i.e. losing to York and Vancouver). Valour may be down and out for the count, but Halifax might not have an as easy game as they expect from Valour.
Alas, a Halifax win plus a Pacific loss would guarantee at least third place, so Halifax will have a lot to play for heading into next weekend. The question is, will they fumble the bag once again?
3rd Place: Cavalry FC
This will cause some uproar, so let me get this straight right away: Cavalry have won four matches in a row and are on an eight game undefeated streak with seven wins and one draw. They are the most in-form team right now and technically should be in first place, BUT they have nothing left to play for. Forge, Pacific, and Halifax are all playing for second place; all three teams have that extra oomph and motivation to help themselves mentally cross that finish line. Conversely, Cavalry has won the league and will be lifting the shield next week.
Forge, as you will read, has a lot to play for and is in great form as well; Vancouver, as you will read, is trying to end its tough season on a high note in front of its fans while attempting to play spoilers for York.
Even Pacific, ranked fifth in these rankings, has more to play for this weekend with a chance to finish in second place. I don’t expect Cavalry to not show up; in fact, I think they’ll want to end the season on a high note, but I expect Pacific to come out with guns blazing, as they know they have a decent chance at finishing in that coveted second place spot.
So, to summarize, technically, Cavalry are in first place, but with all the momentum and mental aspects considered with the teams around them, I’m dropping them to third place.
2nd Place: Vancouver FC
Wow. If this is the true potential of Vancouver FC, then next season might have a new title contender joining. Vancouver won their third straight match this weekend against a Pacific side who had a lot more to play for. Despite being outshot 17-9, Vancouver’s defense held firm and Vancouver’s two first-half goals were enough to come away with a 2-1 victory.
From their past four wins in five matches, Vancouver has defeated Ottawa, Halifax, and Pacific. This team is oozing with confidence right now and has officially avoided the Wooden Spoon. All their pieces are finally coming together. Their defense has tightened up, and their offence continues to score critical goals. Speaking about offence, Vancouver has three players who have scored five goals or more, with Bitar and Hundal on six and Cantave on five, plus they still have Alejandro Diaz on loan until mid-season of next year. If Vancouver can shore up their defense (which they have been doing as of late, only conceding 5 goals from their past five matches), Vancouver will easily be contenders to finish in the top four next season.
Next weekend, Vancouver closes their season at home with the chance to continue their win streak and play spoilers to a York team. A win for York would clinch a playoff spot for them – however, dropping points would open the door for Ottawa to win and clinch the last playoff spot. Nothing would make Vancouver happier than being able to play spoilers and create some drama while ending their season on a four game-win streak at home in front of their faithful fans.
1st Place: Forge FC
Forge fans are probably still livid about this past weekend’s match against Halifax, where it seems every referee’s decision went against them. The silver lining is that Pacific also lost over the weekend, keeping Forge in second place. Forge ultimately controls their own destiny heading into the season’s conclusion.
A win over Atletico Ottawa on Saturday will clinch second place for Forge, granting them a matchup vs. Cavalry to determine who gets a bye to the final and who will host it. As well, second place will mean if Cavalry win the playoffs, Forge would get the last Champions League Spot.
This loss against Halifax was Forge’s first loss since August 4th, and they now face an Ottawa side that has only beaten them once. With a record of 10-4-1 against Ottawa, and with Ottawa currently on a seven-match winless streak, Forge is in the best position to win this weekend and clinch their prize of second place. I haven’t even mentioned the fact that Ottawa’s season could be over before this match even takes place.
It’s a bold pick to put Forge in first place in these Power Rankings after a loss, but on paper and with all the given context, I struggle to see how Forge doesn’t come away with all three points from this match.