The CPL season is nearly a quarter of the way through and as talked about last week, trends and patterns are starting to emerge and take shape throughout the league. Now it’s time for a closer look at the six players/teams that have stood out so far, three for the right reasons (winners), and three for the wrong reasons (losers), who will be looking to put things right going forward.
Winner: Alejandro Díaz
The Mexican striker knew he would have to carry the goalscoring weight for Pacific this season, after last season’s top scorer Terran Campbell left for Forge. Despite scoring twelve goals last year, the pressure was on for Diaz to step up for a Pacific team that was expected to take a step back this season. So far Diaz, has well and truly helped the Vancouver Islanders move on quickly from Campbell.
Diaz leads the way in the goal-scoring charts with five goals in seven games, accounting for half of the total goals scored by Pacific so far. Better yet, Diaz has scored a couple of important match-winning goals, including his penalty against HFX that secured a hard-fought three points for Pacific in week three and against Ottawa. He was in the right place at the right time to ensure Pacific escaped the capital with all three points in a game they were very lucky to get anything out of. The golden boot award is up in the air this season, and if Diaz can maintain this form, he looks like the odds on favourite to fire the defending champions into the playoffs, and establish himself as one of the stars of the league.
Loser: HFX Wanderers’ Lack of Ruthlessness
Last season, Brazilian forward João Morelli lit up the CPL. The rest of HFX, however, only scored a total of twenty-eight goals last season, which sparked a huge problem when just two games in, Morelli was ruled out for the rest of the season with an ACL injury. The Wanderers would have to step up their attack.
All season, goalscoring has been an issue. Of the seven goals scored by HFX so far in the league, five of those have come from dead-ball situations such as free-kicks, corners, and penalties. Despite having plenty of creative players such as Zachary Fernandez and Jérémy Gagnon-Laparé, who have been able to create chances, the Wanderers have been lacking a clinical edge to put the ball in the back of the net. Combined with some at times questionable goalkeeping, HFX could very easily be sitting with more points at this stage, and will be hoping that two consecutive two-goal games against Guelph and Cavalry can give them some momentum up front going forward.
Winner: Andreas Vaikla
There hasn’t been a lot to smile about in Edmonton. Financial turmoil has left the club ownerless and forced to assemble a squad together made up almost entirely of loan players from other clubs, including Estonian goalkeeper Andreas Vaikla on loan from Toronto FC II. Vaikla has made the most of the situation, and although the Eddies have yet to register a win, Vaikla has starred so far with a league-leading twenty-two saves, many of which have been crucial in winning Edmonton points such as their 1-1 draw with Valour, and their 1-1 draw with York.
Vaikla may not win that many games this season for Edmonton, but the future is bright for the twenty-five-year-old. If Vaikla can continue to impress this season, don’t be surprised to see him playing at a higher level next in 2023.
Try FC13, 13th Man Sports’ Soccer Podcast!
S. 2 Ep. 21: Canada Doing What Canada Does – FC13 Podcast
Loser: Forge FC
It would be very easy to make a case for Forge being the most recognizable name in the CPL. Two-time champions, 2021 runners-up, 2021 CONCACAF League semi-finalists, and the first CPL team to reach both the CONCACAF champions league and the final of the Canadian Championship. The team from Hamilton has known nothing but success and good times, but lately, something is off.
Five games into their season, Forge are languishing in seventh place, nine points behind league leaders Pacific (albeit, they played two games less) and have failed to beat anyone above them so far in the league table, recording just one win against Edmonton. There isn’t a need to panic in steel town, however. The quality is still there with core players such as Tristian Henry, Kyle Bekker, David Choinière, and Tristan Borges having been reinforced with proven CPL talent in Terran Campbell and Alessandro Hojabrpour. But the league table doesn’t lie. Forge has won just one of their three home games and lost both away fixtures so far. Their upcoming fixture away to HFX may already be a must-win game for Bobby Smyrniotis’s side.
Winner: Osaze De Rosario
In 2021, York United failed to score more than one goal in a match in any of their last eight games of the season as they stumbled into the playoffs and crashed out against Forge at the Semi-final stage. In their first game against HFX, York created plenty of chances, but failed to convert any in a 1-0 home defeat, the team needed a spark. Enter Osaze De Rosario. Son of legendary Canadian forward Dwayne De Rosario, De Rosario was set to play in Ukraine this season for FC Rukh Lviv, but De Rosario left Lviv just days before Russia’s invasion, leaving the free agent available for York to sign him for the season.
Since making his first start, De Rosario has been a revelation for the Nine Stripes. His link-up play has brought the best out of teammates such as Diyaeddine Abzi and Isaiah Johnston, and the forward himself has scored three goals this season. He more crucially has brought attacking energy and prowess to York that has helped propel the Toronto-based side up the table. Still only twenty, Rosario looks set to go on and have a great career in the CPL and beyond.
Loser: Edmonton’s Fixture Congestion
Six weeks in, no side has played as many games as Edmonton. The Eddies have played eight games so far in all competitions, and some long away trips have already been taking their toll. Between April 23rd and April 30th, the team played three games in three time zones, accumulating 12,804 kilometres of travel in the process, with away games in Hamilton and Halifax on either side of a home game, putting even more physical pressure on an already depleted squad.
Edmonton followed that up with three games in eight days, although thankfully they had road games closer to home in Calgary and Victoria. Overall, the Eddies have averaged a game every 4.5 days in a twenty-two-game span, not only putting a toll on the players but severely restricting head coach Alan Koch’s ability to train with a side that has been mostly put together hastily at the start of the season. The calendar, thankfully, becomes more merciful to Edmonton going forward, and they’ll be hoping that the extra preparation and recovery time will give the boost they need to record their first win of the season sooner rather than later.
Subscribe to 13th Man Sports to get email notifications when we post!