On August 21st, Valour were held to a 1-1 draw at home to bottom of the table FC Edmonton, leaving their playoff hopes on a knife edge. It was the third time in as many games against the Eddies that they had dropped points to the leagues eighth best team (in an eight team league) and it left them five points adrift of the playoffs with some very difficult fixtures coming their way.
Phillip Dos Santos‘ men faced three consecutive games against top opposition, first against current champions Pacific, and then a doubleheader against a free-scoring Forge team that had amassed a league-leading forty goals in twenty games. With all the games being played at their home stadium of IG Field, the Winnipeggers knew it was do or die!
Off the strength of a solid defence; made up of the likes of Rocco Romeo, Stefan Cebara, Andrew Jean-Baptiste and the goalkeeping tandem of Rayane Yesli and Jonathan Sirois, Valour stood up to the task. Three consecutive 1-0 wins gave them the points they needed to save their season, and even shake up the CPL by leapfrogging Pacific into fourth place!
It’s been a thought few weeks for the Vancouver Islanders, who at times have looked like the class of the CPL and gave a very respectable account of themselves in this seasons CONCACAF League. Then on August 10th, seemingly out of nowhere…Pacific sold their top scorer Alejandro Díaz to Norwegian side Sogndal. On the surface it seems like good business, the deal has the potential to be the highest transfer fee in CPL history, but for a team that was already gutted in the offseason, it could potentially be a departure too far.
Pacific scored just eight minutes in against Atlético Ottawa in their first post Díaz game, but since then goalscoring has proven to be a problem. Pacific have scored just goal since and more worryingly have lost three games in a row to HFX Wanderers, Valour and before losing convincingly to York United at home by a score of 3-1. Pacific haven’t became a bad team overnight, they have many talented players such as Marco Bustos, Gianni dos Santos and Kunle Dada-Luke, but it’s been tough without their talisman and attacking focal point leading the line.
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Pacific still has a game in hand on Valour and are only one point back, far from panic stations just yet. They do have a lot of tough fixtures remaining, including games against Ottawa, Cavalry, a coast to coast round trip to HFX and two games against Forge.
Speaking of Forge, they’re also looking a bit vulnerable as of late. Just like Pacific, they have at times looked like they were potentially gonna run away with the league while scoring goals at will. They have won games this season by scores 5-1, 4-0 (three times) and 3-0 (three times) en route to having the best goal difference in the league.
But the problem lately has been the drying up of goals. Since July 31st, Forge have failed to score more than one goal in a game and are currently on a three game scoreless streak. To make matters worse, they are winless in five games, having lost four of them. Strikers Woobens Pacius and Terran Campbell, have failed to score in that five game run, while high profile new striker Jordan Hamilton has still not fully establish himself in the side. Forge are level on points with Valour on thirty-six having played a game less. Who is their game in hand against….Pacific, who are at thirty-five points.
The other two playoff-contending sides Cavalry and Atlético Ottawa have a little bit more of a cushion (although not much), but neither are in a rich vein of form at the moment. Cavalry has won just three games since July 14th, but have the luxury of playing four of their last five games in Alberta. They’ll be hoping the lack of travel can lead to points to secure a playoff spot.
As for Ottawa, they’re sitting pretty with forty points, but that’s not the whole story. Ottawa has so far accumulated 1,361 of the necessary 2,000 minutes that need to be played by Under 21 players, if they can’t get another 639 total minutes in their next five games, they will be disqualified from the playoffs. Ottawa more than likely has a plan in place, but they are cutting it close, and might potentially have to sacrifice an important player in their first eleven for a young player in a game they have to win down the stretch.
The CPL Playoff race is giving us the finish we all wanted, five teams all with realistic shots of making it, but just four spaces available. The final few weeks of the regular season will be must watch soccer for Canadians, as their teams sprint towards the finish line!
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