The Canadian Premier League is now over a month into the season, and so far, it’s been great to have Canada’s domestic soccer league back. While there’s undoubtedly a lot of soccer still to be played between now and the playoffs beginning, there have been some clear trends being moulded this season, and it will be interesting to see how these five takeaways manifest throughout the season.
1. Lots of Great Goals
It seems that almost every week we have a goal in the CPL that would be highlight-reel worthy in any league in the world. Right off the bat in week one, Tobias Warschewski scored a spectacular overhead kick goal for Edmonton versus Valour that was immediately hailed as a goal of the season contender. Since then, we’ve had an outstanding individual goal for Valours Brett Levis against Ottawa, two great strikes from Alessandro Hojabrpour and David Choinière for Forge versus Cavalry, and a spectator free-kick from Corey Bent against Pacific. Did I mention these were all scored within the first three weeks? Joe Mason had a great strike for Cavalry against Pacific in week four, and week five gave us individual brilliance from York United’s Sebastián Gutiérrez, and another free-kick goal this time from Cavalrys Ali Musse. If this level of goal scoring can be maintained, we will be in for a highly entertaining season.
2. Red Cards and Penalties Galore
Throughout weeks one to four, we have had a total of five red cards and nine penalties in just sixteen games. I’m honestly surprised it’s not higher, it almost feels like every game so far this season has had almost a red card or a penalty to the point that I’m expecting to see at least one of these game-changing decisions in a match. After four weeks, the CPL was on a pace for sixty-three penalties and thirty-five red cards in a 112-game season, which is an astonishing pace.
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Week five, however, bucked that trend, as it was the first round of fixtures this season that didn’t feature either a penalty or a player being sent off, (although Cavalry should have been awarded a clear penalty in their matchup versus Edmonton). I don’t expect the red card pace to continue as players will eventually have to abide by the way referees handle games for the sake of their teams, the pace for penalties though will be something to definitely keep an eye on.
3. The Golden Boot Race is Wide Open
Last season, HFX Wanderers striker João Morelli won the golden boot, scoring fourteen goals in twenty-one games. Unfortunately, just two games into this season, Morelli suffered a season-ending ACL injury and now the question of who will be the top scorer this season is completely wide open.
There are plenty of candidates throughout the league that have made their intent clear, Moses Dyer, Joe Mason, and Osaze De Rosario have all scored three goals so far in the first five weeks and there are seven players just behind them in goals, with names like Terran Campbell and Corey Bent also gunning for the top goalscorer prize. But so far the race for the golden boot is being won by Pacific striker Alejandro Díaz. The Mexican striker has found the back of the net a league-best four times in six games. The league has a lot of playmakers who can help to create goals as well, with names such as Marco Bustos, William Akio and Tristan Borges potentially being just as pivotal in the race for the golden boot as the men on the receiving end of the chances they create.
4. No Place Like Home
Again week five somewhat bucked the trend, but in the twenty matches played so far, ten have been won by home teams, six have been draws, and just four have been won by away teams with half of those wins coming in week five. Edmonton, who were expected to struggle this season has proved to be a tough opponent, having gone unbeaten in three of their first four home games this season, including draws against first-place Pacific and second-place York.
Three teams so far, Pacific, Cavalry, and HFX have 100 percent records at home (although Cavalry and HFX have only played one home game each at this point.) Meanwhile, Valour and Forge are unbeaten so far at home this season. Canada is a huge country, and it makes sense that in a tightly contested league, the advantage of playing with a home crowd and not crossing multiple time zones will make a difference on match day. As the season goes on, teams figure each other out and results become more important, it’s not hard to imagine home form becoming even more important towards the business end of the season.
It’s very difficult to predict a final four based on what we’ve seen so far. Seventh place Forge is separated from second-place York by just four points with a game in hand. Three teams, Cavalry, Ottawa, and HFX are all just one point behind York, with even league leaders Pacific holding just a four-point lead at the top but have played a game more than York.
This has been shown on the pitch with a lot of games being tightly contested, so far a quarter of all games have been 1-0 score lines. Only Valour has a goal difference higher than plus two, largely down to a stunning 6-1 win over Ottawa that leaves Atlético as the only team in the top seven with a negative goal difference. The average goal difference for the top seven is just plus 1.14. Wins in the CPL are tough this year and at this point, it’s anyone’s guess who’ll make the playoffs, which makes for a competitive and entertaining rest of the season ahead of us!
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