Four Former CPL Players Who Featured In The MLS Opening Weekend
The launch of the 2023 Major League Soccer season saw action aplenty across the United States, with six former Canadian Premier League players cracking the team sheets of four different MLS teams.
Out of those six, four players got minutes on the pitch, with two making their MLS debut. While there’s salt in the wound in that none of the three Canadian teams secured a point, it’s great to see the opportunities come to players who honed their talent in CPL pastures.
Without further ado, here’s four former CPL players who saw MLS action this weekend:
Columbus Crew – Mohamed Farsi
Former Cavalry right-back Mohamed Farsi earned his first Major League Soccer start last night, though Wilfried Nancy’s team lost out 4-1 to the Philadelphia Union.
Farsi, who had impressed so much with the Crew’s MLS Next Pro team that he earned a first team contract last year, madeseven substitute appearances and contributing one assist last year.
Playing a bit further up the pitch against the Union, Farsi had a tough night in one-on-one situations and was substituted out in the 76th minute. He had a big positive with a 95% passing rate, but it was a tough night overall for the overall for the 23-year-old – and the Crew as a whole.
Farsi had spent two seasons with Cavalry, picking up the league’s Best Under-21 Canadian Player of the Year in year one while solidifying his presence as a top CPL right-back in year two before moving on to the Columbus Crew II and, as we know, earning a first team deal a few months later. There’s a lot of season left in front of him.
CF Montreal – James Pantemis
James Pantemis entered the 2023 MLS season as the presumed starter for the side, and did exactly that against CF Inter Miami.
The 26-year-old conceded two goals on the night, though the stats aren’t all stacked against him: he made three saves and had an xGOT faced of 2.5, suggesting that his performance wasn’t terrible under the circumstances. More worryingly, however, is that Pantemis had to be taken off with a shoulder injury that the gaffer said ‘doesn’t look good’, suggesting a spell on the sidelines may arise.
CF Montreal’s season opener marked his 39th Major League Soccer appearance since his loan stint with Valour FC, where his performances at The Island Games in 2020 allowed him to catapult himself into the first team following his return to Montreal.
Having cracked Canada’s World Cup roster in Qatar, it’s safe to say that the former CPL loanee has taken great strides since his time in Canada’s top flight.
CF Montreal – Jonathan Sirois
With Pantemis coming off, another former Canadian Premier League (and Valour) loanee came on to replace him: Jonathan Siriois.
His Major League Soccer debut saw him protect the net for just about seven minutes, during which time he made one save and retained a 100% pass rate from three attempts. It’s a small sample size, but he stepped up and handled things when called upon.
Sirois had spent two consecutive seasons on loan with Valour, winning the golden glove on his first year whilst facing more adversity in the second. The experience left him a better keeper, and he told media in preseason that he was ready to show Montreal what he was capable of.
With Pantemis out with a shoulder injury, Sirois may just get more opportunities very quickly.
CF Montreal – Sean Rea
Also coming off the bench for his Major League Soccer debut was Sean Rea, a young player who had put turned heads aplenty during two strong season on loan with Valour FC. While CPL fans knew Rea was destined for MLS, it was a long journey to his first opportunity to impress.
Despite the overall result, Rea looked sharp on his debut: he made three chances for the side in just 29 minutes on the pitch, delivering three of his four crosses and making two recoveries. Overall, the 20-year-old’s first appearance for CF Montreal ended up being one of the club’s biggest positives on the night.
His last season in the CPL saw him take home the league’s Best U-21 Canadian Player award, a feat which came as no surprise after he produced five goals and nine assists as one of the top chance creators in the CPL. Given that his sub debut saw him generate one chance per ten minutes, we expect he’ll be getting more minutes from Hernan Losada soon.
Given that Karifa Yao and Lukas MacNaughton both rode the bench for the Vancouver Whitecaps and Toronto FC respectively, we might have seen even more former CPL athletes feature in MLS – and given the second-half goals conceded by both teams, perhaps those fresh legs ought to have come on.
With no less than four former Canadian Premier League athletes featuring in Major League Soccer’s opening weekend, it’s nice to see that Canada’s top flight has helped develop plenty of young talent who are now testing themselves at higher levels.
Joel Waterman, who is still recovering from injury, might have added another number to the record figure had he been able to suit up for CF Montreal, too.