We’re over halfway into the 2022 CPL season, and since the last time we checked in on the league’s winners and losers, there have been quite a few head-turning moments. Blistering form up front, misses beyond belief, newfound defensive solidity, and defensive collapse have all been apparent to see, and as we continue to go through the hot summer months of soccer, let’s check in with the biggest winners and losers at the week 15 stage.
Winner: Cavalry’s Forward Depth
With just one loss since week three and sitting at the summit of the Canadian Premier League, it’s undoubtedly been a great season so far for Cavalry, and a big part of that is their attacking options. Their latest star has been teenage sensation Aribim Pepple, who in just seven games and 419 minutes has managed six goals, enough for third best in the league. Pepple has caught fire in the summer, which has left Cavalry vulnerable to other teams being interested in him and it is looking very likely that the teenager will be moving to England (at the time of writing).
For most teams, losing a player of such talent would be devastating, but not in Calgary. The Cavs have good forward depth with the likes of Ali Musse, Joe Mason, and Myer Bevan, the three of whom have already combined for thirteen goals so far this season, as all three at different points of the season have been tasked with leading the line for Cavalry, as evident on July 14th when Musse scored two goals against HFX. If Cavalry can get good value for Pepple, and their forwards continue to produce as they have all season, it would mark a fantastic piece of business for the league leaders.
Loser: York’s defence
In their first eleven league games, York conceded just seven goals and registered five clean sheets. Their back four of Abzi, Zator, Wilson, and N’sa was arguably the best in the league, but unfortunately for the Nine Stripes, it wasn’t to last. Star left-back Diyaeddine Abzi left for French Ligue 2 side Pau, and since then, the most reliable component of this underperforming York side hasn’t been the same. In the four immediate games after Abzi’s departure, York lost 3-0 to bottom side Edmonton, 3-1 to Valour at home, 2-0 to Forge at home in the 905 derby, and 4-2 to a Pacific side that hadn’t beaten any team besides Edmonton since May 7th.
These games saw York concede twelve goals, almost double their season total beforehand. York’s attack has faltered this season, but previously, their defence was good enough to earn them points. Now it’s looking like York can’t rely on their defence anymore, and will need their attack to hopefully start producing more. There is reason for hope, however. Since changing to a three at the back in their last two games, York has been playing better, and even managed to stun league leaders Cavalry 1-0 in Calgary. After a rocky stretch at the back, hopefully, this change of system will be the key for Martin Nash’s side to rescue their season.
Winner: Alejandro Díaz
Back-to-back wins for Pacific against Edmonton and York have helped to steady the ship after a shaky few weeks for the Vancouver Islanders, and a big part of that has been the goals of CPL’s top goalscorer, Alejandro Díaz. The Mexican forward failed to score in six league games – a run which coincided with Pacific failing to win a game in that spell, but has quickly been making up for lost time.
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Díaz was in the right place at the right time to head home an equalizer in a 3-3 draw against league leaders Cavalry. He followed that up with an assist against Edmonton, and then away to York, he really shone. Díaz scored from the penalty spot and followed it up with two clean finishes inside the box to help Pacific beat York for the first time in four matches this season. There have been five hattricks in CPL history, and Díaz now has two of them, having gotten his first hattrick against Atlético Ottawa last season. It also gave Díaz considerable distance in the golden boot race. He now has ten goals to his name this season, three ahead of anyone else in the league.
Loser: The League’s Scheduling
It’s week 15, and Forge FC has played just thirteen games. They went 11 days without playing a game and they will follow up with playing a game four days later, which is pretty unnecessary and could’ve been spaced out more appropriately. Meanwhile, Cavalry are playing a daunting six games in just twenty-one days, a run of scheduling no other team will go through in that same period and again, unnecessary. Also in Alberta, Edmonton, a cash-strapped team who would’ve been targeting the nicer summer months as a chance to bring in bigger attendance, have to contend with six (yes, you read that correct) consecutive road games, meaning that between July 9th and August 28th, Edmonton won’t receive any potential summer inflated gate receipts.
Rather, they started the season with six of their first nine games being at home, which again, wasn’t necessary. I don’t pretend to know how the season scheduling works, but it has been leaving me confused all season with how often teams play in short periods versus teams who just seem to never play in comparison. At times, Forge FC has played as many as four games less than Pacific, and even if you account for Forge having two games postponed due to COVID-19 and the 2020 Canadian Championship final, that’s still two fixtures that just haven’t been played yet, which serve to give the Hamilton side an unfairly backed up end of the season compared to teams like Pacific. Hopefully, scheduling inconsistencies are something the league looks at in the offseason, especially with the edition of a ninth team, change for next season’s schedule is almost certainly guaranteed.
Winner: Andrew Jean-Baptiste
It has been an up and down season for the Haitian international, who has missed over half the season so far thanks to injury. But it’s undeniable that when he plays, the Winnipeg side is a better team. Andrew Jean-Baptise didn’t feature between weeks five and eight in a run that saw the team win just one game in five. Since then, Jean-Baptise has played in five of the last six games, and he has played a big part in Valour picking up 11 points in those matches.
Jean-Baptise this season has made nine interceptions, twenty-three clearances, won twenty duels, and won ten aerial duels (whilst losing only four), all whilst only playing 471 minutes, and the vast majority of those minutes coming in Valour’s last three games. Valour and Jean-Baptise had won three games in a row, two wins in Ontario against York and Forge, and a win against fellow playoff rivals HFX, all while conceding just one goal, before drawing with Ottawa on Wednesday night. Before his injury last season, Jean-Baptise was arguably the best defender in the CPL, and if he can maintain his recent performance level, there’s no reason why he can’t get back to his 2021 form.
Loser: Manny Aparicio
The Canadian midfielder’s start to the season went hand in hand with Pacific’s, as he was one of the star men in a run that saw Pacific sail to the top of the table. Aparicio registered two goals and an assist in the first seven games, whilst being a very key component in the midfield. Aparicio was a clear early front runner for CPL player of the season, and then through no fault of his own, Aparicio suffered an injury against York United which saw him sit out five games (was an unused sub in the last game) before making a return to action against Cavalry, a run which also coincided with Pacific failing to win in that spell.
In a game that Aparicio was hoping to make an impact in, he would do just that – but not in a good way. Just under half an hour into the game, Aparicio was sent off after an altercation with Cavalry’s David Norman Jr., and has since missed Pacific’s last two games totalling just twenty-nine minutes of soccer played since May 21st. While the red card was somewhat harsh, and the injury was out of his control, the midfielder has undoubtedly had a tough few weeks that he’ll be hoping to put behind him.
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