Hot off the heels of Canada reaching their first World Cup since 1986, the Canadian Premier League has returned for its fourth season. There are eight teams, all looking forward to the chance to be Canada’s domestic soccer champions and the long journey to the playoffs begins this week. Starting with a trip to Lions Stadium, for York United versus HFX Wanderers.
York United 0 – HFX Wanderers 1
Reigning CPL player of the year João Morelli made the difference in this game, as HFX opened their campaign with an impressive road win against York. The first half was an even affair with both sides having chances to break the deadlock. Just eight minutes in, York winger Michael Petrasso picked the ball up out wide and showed great skill to take the ball past two HFX defenders and cut the ball back to teammate Sebastián Gutiérrez in the box. The Colombian missed the ball, however, on his attempted shot, but instead, the ball rolled into the path of Roger Thompson, and the York defender’s edge of the box strike forced Wanderers keeper Christian Oxner into an early but easy save.
Ten minutes later, HFX would be the ones putting pressure on York. English-born striker, Cory Bent played a wicked cross into the box that could only be partially cleared by York keeper Niko Giantsopoulos. From the edge of the box, midfielder Aidan Daniels brilliantly jinxed his way past a couple of York challenges, before seeing his effort deflected above the goal.
As the half went on, both teams would come even closer to breaking the deadlock. First, from an Obeng Tabi corner in the thirty-eight minute, HFX captain Andre Rampersad was first to meet the ball at the front post, but couldn’t direct his glancing header on goal and the chance was gone. Then with time winding down, United had the best chance of the game.
With just two minutes left in the half, York played the ball well down the left, playing some good close touch soccer before the ball came into the path of midfielder Noah Verhoeven, who played a vicious ball across the six-yard box into the path of Mouhamadou Kane. But before the Canadian teenager could tap in an almost certain goal, HFX fullback Obeng Tabi got his body in the way and toe-poked the ball away to safety, in what was a great piece of defending, ensuring the game would be 0-0 going into the half.
In the second half, HFX started brightly. Just a few minutes in, Daniels’s had a clear chance from the edge of the box, but his effort went straight into the hands of Giantsopoulos. Then, just a few minutes later, they won a free-kick just inside the York half. Midfielder Jérémy Gagnon-Laparé played a flighted ball into the box that York struggled to clear before United captain Roger Thompson barged into the back of Cory Bent, forcing the referee to award a penalty. From twelve yards out, last years top scorer João Morelli opened his account from the season, calmly slotting the ball into the bottom right corner whilst Giantsopoulos helplessly dived the other way. 1-0 to HFX Wanderers, fifty-two minutes played.
In terms of chances, the game was beginning to open up. York came close to an equalizer in the sixty-third minute, after Petrasso again charged into the box, this time, however, he had an effort on goal, which was deflected perfectly into the path of Lowell Wright. After controlling the ball beautifully to work a shot, the Brampton striker was denied by the post and in the aftermath, fullback Chrisnovic N’sa had his shot smartly saved by Oxner, and the danger was averted.
York came even closer just six minutes later. From the left-wing, Petrasso was continuing to cause problems. He played a dangerous ball across the face of the goal which eventually found its way into the path of Diyaeddine Abzi at the back post, but pressure from HFX’s Tabi, who was once again at the right place at the right time, was enough to force Abzi’s effort wide and preserve the lead. With time winding down, it would now be the Wanderers’ turn to come close.
With four minutes left, a long clearance was met by Gagnon-Laparé, who headed the ball onto Samuel Salter, and the substitute used his pace to burst into the York box and square the ball to teammate Ryan Robinson. His sliding effort was only good enough for the post. There was just enough time left for York’s Mateo Hernandez to deny João Morelli with his arm, and with seconds left on the clock, the referee sent the Argentine off, as HFX came away from York Lions Stadium with a 1-0 win, and get their season up and running with three points.
Atlético Ottawa 1 – Cavalry 0
Two penalties in as many CPL games so far, as the home side won a close game thanks to Brian Wright‘s twelve-yard strike. Playing in yellow and blue colours in support of Ukraine, the hosts began brightly with Keven Aleman’s ninth-minute, strike forcing an instinctive save from Cavalry keeper Julian Roloff. The ball could only be rebounded into the path of Ballou Tabla, whose half volley effort struck the crossbar before going out for a goal kick.
Ottawa would come close again, this time from a long-range free-kick around the twenty-five-minute make. Striker Malcolm Shaw showed excellent technique to curl the ball towards goal, and his effort went just wide of the left post, a couple of inches to the right and it would’ve broken the deadlock. Cavalry’s best chance in the half came just two minutes later when after good work on the left, a cross-goal ball was played just out of reach for striker Joe Mason, and the score remained 0-0 heading into the half.
The second half was full of plenty of chances for both sides, firstly just four minutes in, Cavalry forward Ali Musse went on a galloping run towards the Ottawa goal, before letting rip a curling effort that went just wide, but not before forcing Ottawa keeper Nathan Ingham to fully stretch for the ball. The Calgary-based side then went even closer at the sixty-two-minute mark. Fraser Aird’s free-kick into the box fell to the feet of teammate Joe Mason, and the striker’s effort was dragged just wide of the left post in what was the clearest chance on goal in the game so far.
They came close again just a minute later, this time it was a cross from Musse to the far left post that forced a smart clearance from Ottawa’s Drew Beckie, to deny Sergio Camargo an almost certain goal.
The teams would exchange shots on goal before the seventy-ninth minute, where after Cavalry failed to properly clear the ball from their box, the ball fell to Ottawa’s Miguel Acosta. His shot looked set to be on target if not for intervention from Cavalry’s José Escalante, who dived in front of the shot. Unfortunately for the Honduran, the referee deemed the ball to have come off his arm and awarded the home side a penalty.
Atlético’s top scorer from last season, Brian Wright made no mistake from the spot, sending Roloff the wrong way and making it 1-0 to the home side with nine minutes remaining. With five minutes left, Ottawa’s task of holding the lead was made more difficult when captain Drew Beckie was deemed to have stomped on the foot of David Norman Jr., and was given a red card. Ottawa would hold on though to give Carlos Juárez his first win as Ottawa’s head coach.
Edmonton 1 – Valour 1
Edmonton secured a draw in dramatic fashion with what might already be the goal of the season against Valour. The visitors started the game brightly, just three minutes in Matthew Catavolo’s corner wasn’t properly cleared, and the attacking midfielder’s second cross into the box set up a shot that was hit just over the bar.
With a strong wind blowing through Clarke Stadium towards Edmonton’s goal, Valour again threatened from a corner in the twentieth minute. Catavolo came close with another whipped-in ball, and this time, his cross would be goal-bound, forcing Edmonton keeper Andreas Vaikla to tip the ball over the bar.
Valour kept up the pressure. Thirteen minutes later, yet another corner from Valour led to a chance on goal. Catavolo’s latest delivery made its way to the other sideline where it was picked up by Sean Rea, and the winger played a dangerous ball into the box into the path of Stefan Cebara. But from just a few yards out, the defender couldn’t guide his header on target.
Valour’s pressure in the first half looked like it was going to be for nothing as time expired, but with seconds left on the clock, they had one more chance. Rea passed the ball to fullback Andy Baquero, and from just outside the box, Baquero worked room for a shot that found the bottom left corner to give Valour a 1-0 lead, just as the first half whistle blew.
Edmonton had to be better in the second half, and they would have first their real chance at the fifty-ninth-minute mark. From a Valour goal kick, Edmonton fullback Saah Fayia pressed Federico Peña and won the ball deep in Valour territory, his cross into the box was directed just wide by striker Julian Ulbricht. The home side was becoming more and more dangerous. Sixty-eight minutes in, American winger Azriel Gonzalez played a dangerous low ball into the box, that was just out of the reach of the outstretched Ulbricht.
Ulbricht’s big chance would come just two minutes later, again from the service of Gonzalez. This time round the winger on loan from York United worked space for himself at the edge of the box and put in a perfectly weighted ball into the six-yard box, right in front of Ulbricht. With the goal completely open in front of him, the German striker somehow managed to put his effort wide, and was soon substituted off for Mastanabal Kacher, summing up a frustrating day for Ulbricht.
With time winding down, it looked like Valour would hold on, but Edmonton had one last chance in the ninety-forth minute. Wesley Timoteo kept a long ball upfield in play and after a one-two with Courtney Smith. Timoteo’s cross into the box fell into the path of Tobias Warschewski, and with his back to goal, the winger resorted to an acrobatic bicycle effort and struck the ball spectacularly into the top right corner. The Edmonton players and fans were ecstatic as the ref blew for full time, Warschewski had rescued a point for Edmonton, with the game finishing 1-1.
Pacific 2 – Forge 1
The final game of week one saw last year’s champions Pacific begin their title defence against Forge in a rematch of last year’s Canadian Premier League Final. Pacific wasted no time in getting their defence up and running, just four minutes in Josh Heard picked the ball up out wide, and the Welshman demonstrated a powerful burst of pace to take the ball into the box and set up striker Alejandro Díaz. Díaz made no mistake with his first-time finish and gave the Vancouver Islanders the lead.
The home side was riding the feel-good factor and nearly doubled the lead just four minutes later. Manny Aparicio won the ball upfield from Forge defender Dominic Samuel, and after a run into the box, he then gave Díaz the chance to score again, only for the Mexican striker to be denied by debutant Forge goalkeeper Christopher Kalongo. Forge would have a chance to equalize from a free-kick that was perfectly set up for captain Kyle Bekker, but the midfielder couldn’t keep his shot on target as it went wide left.
Forge would come close again thanks to last year’s CPL Final hero. Alessandro Hojabrpour, who scored the winner in last year’s final, was now playing for Forge, and on the thirty-seventh minute, Forge winger David Choinière put a low cross into the box that the Burnaby, BC native got on the end of, but his effort went just too high of the crossbar.
With time winding down in the half, Pacific had one last chance to double their lead from a free-kick. From just outside the box and from the right-hand side of the goal, Pacific winger Marco Bustos got the perfect amount of spin on the ball to get it to curl to the right and was only denied a goal from a diving save by Kalongo, who got a hold of the ball from the follow-up and kept the score at 1-0 going into the break.
Just ten minutes into the second half, Pacific won a free-kick deep into Forge territory out wide. From a Bustos delivery, Pacific defender Amer Đidić rose highest in the air and headed the ball past Kalongo to bag a goal on his Pacific debut. Forge would need to strike next to have a chance of getting a result and came close with twenty minutes to go.
Forge forward Terran Campbell, who was Pacific’s top scorer last year, picked the ball up out wide and worked space to cross the ball into the path of Hojabrpour, but the midfielder was unable to direct his header on target. They would get one goal back though with just two minutes left to set up a nervy finish. An out-swinging corner from Becker was met by Alexander Achinioti-Jönsson at the near post, and the Swede’s glancing header gave Pacific keeper Callum Irving no chance. It was too little too late, however, as just like last December, Pacific got the better of Forge and won their opening game 2-1.
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