The inaugural season of the Canadian Premier League is now just days away from kicking off, and with that, fans across Canada can begin the treasured tradition of building both hype and hope for their team's chances at the cup come year's end. There's never been a cleaner slate in Canadian soccer, too – there is literally no precedent here, no past results to skew perceptions or brew skepticism, no biases for or against, beyond what we can deduce on paper ... and, in the case of this writer, from taking in pre-season showings down in Punta Cana. As such, and though it may seem premature, here's one reason why your teamyes, YOUR teamis going to win the 2019 CPL Championship ... and one reason why they might not.
Pacific FC

Why they'll win Let's start out west, shall we? Pacific FC has quietly assembled one of the most fearsome attacking trios in the league, combining the prowess of players like Issey Nakajima-Farran and Marcus Haber with the potential-laden quality of Ben Fisk to create an attacking trident of sorts. It's a fitting image, certainly, and one worthy of note, as Pacific FC could be one of the highest-scoring teams in the league on the back of these proven and potent forwards. Outscoring the opposition could be a viable strategy here, and if Pacific's strikers find their scoring boots, who can outscore 'em in return? Why they won't We're not quite sold on Michael Silberbauer's backline quite yet. There are too many unknown variables and it wouldn't surprise many if Pacific FC tries out multiple combinations in the early goings of the season. Silberbauer's brand of football is also a question mark, and the Danish tactician kept his cards close to his chest throughout the week in the Dominican, lending little by way of revealing secrets. Perhaps that's a measure of the man – it could be a smart ploy, in the end – but with question marks floating around the team, is uncertainty also an issue within the team's ranks?
FC Edmonton

Why they'll win Confidence, in spades, defines Jeff Paulus the coach, who has assembled the most locally-sourced outfit in the Canadian Premier League. The addition of Amer Didic gives the Eddies a strong and commanding presence in the backline, while experienced and wiley winger Randy Edwini-Bonsu is a handful on the field. But it is the DNA of Edmonton that gives the Rabbits their biggest advantage – team chemistry and unity could be the difference-maker in Alberta, and, perhaps, the rest of Canada. It doesn't hurt that the Eddies have a plethora of young, hungry players, too. Why they won't Time can be a fickle friend to those who need it early, and that sentiment could prove to be Edmonton's folly in 2019. For, the Eddies' greatest strength – a team born from within its own roots, united by a love for their city – is also their biggest weakness. Edmonton is young. Really young. And a lot of their players are stepping into professional football for the first time. As such, it will take time for the team's teenage contingent to really find their feet. It's not a problem three years down the line, but for 2019? This team might skew a touch too inexperienced at the moment.
Cavalry FC

Why they'll win Simply? Cavalry FC is a team built around champions. Tommy Wheeldon Jr.'s proactive approach to roster-building saw plenty of his PDL-winning Foothills roster move up to the CPL ... and that was by design, too. Wheeldon Jr. has been building something special with Cavalry and brings plenty of familiarity and cohesion to a league that is brand new across the board. That comfort, coupled with a few game-changing players like Sergio Camargo, Mason Trafford, and newcomers Jordan Brown and Dominique Malonga, make Cavalry FC one of the bigger teams to beat in 2019. Why they won't Cutting your teeth in the PDL could be seen as valuable experience, but can Cavalry FC step up another level if the quality of the opposition they face is this much higher? Early indications from camp suggest that Cavalry FC won't have quite so easy a time in the Canadian Premier League, where professional outfits put up much tougher tests than they're used to – and while familiarity gives the Cavs an early advantage, what happens when the rest of the CPL squads start to gel and gain equal levels of cohesion, too?
Valour FC

Why they'll win Head coach Rob Gale is the quintessential man-manager, a players' coach through and through. It's why so many of his former youth national team players have decided to re-join him in this new venture at Valour FC. Playing for the boss is a time-tested phenomenon in soccer, and one that Gale will likely find within his team. Add to that the experienced touch of international attackers Josip Golubar and Stephen Hoyle and the centreback tandem of Skylar Thomas and Jordan Murrell, along with Valour FC's impressive midfield, and you have a recipe for something special here. Why they won't Of all the Canadian Premier League teams, Valour FC is drawing from the least familiar pool of players. There is very little familiarity and cohesion in this squad, with loose connections bringing this team together. This supposed "disadvantage" is mitigated due to the fact that the rest of the league is also newly-formed, but finding chemistry on the field will be a challenge, even if it's not so big an obstacle off of it. Beyond that? This is Gale's first foray at the senior level. Can he translate his training and tactics to the upper echelon of sport in this country?
Forge FC

Why they'll win Forge FC is just ready for it. The squad is experienced, familiar with each other's playing styles, and buying fully into what head coach Bobby Smyrniotis is saying. Attackers like Kyle Bekker, Emery Welshman, David Choiniere, Anthony Novak and Chris Nanco bring potency across multiple positions. Elimane Oumar Cisse might just be one of the best international signings in the CPL. Quillan Roberts might be the league's top goalkeeper, too. There is plenty of promise here, and even more potential already realized at Forge FC. Why they won't The weight of expectations is a heavy burden to bear. Forge FC is the favourite heading into the season, if pundits and plaudits are to be believed, and that pressure in a season already weighed down by history could be too much to bear for what is, still, a new team of players coming together for the first time. Forge FC will also have the eyes of Hamilton eagerly upon their backs, and while a full Tim Hortons Field is never a bad thing, the passion from the supporters can also be a boon if the team doesn't find its footing early. Expectations must be met, after all, if success is to follow.
York9 FC

Why they'll win From what this observer witnessed in Punta Cana, York9 FC has the potential to play some of the dizziest and most dazzling football in the CPL ... IF they can gain an instinctual understanding of one another's playing tendencies and preferences early on. Jimmy Brennan has assembled a squad that could play some of the cleanest technical football with passers like Manny Aparicio and Wataru Murofushi pulling the strings in the team's core. Luca Gasparotto and Roger Thompson are also formidable in the backline. There's a lot of pure talent on offer here from the Nine Stripes. Why they won't It's a big IF in year one. York9 FC's playing style can quickly devolve into physical football if Brennan's lineup doesn't figure each other out. Wayward passes and sloppy pressing are the side-effects of a team that doesn't play to the same beat, and those mistakes could prove fatal in a real-match scenario. So much of York9 FC's success will come down to how consistent they are in their tactics and shape, as their fleet-footed attackers require intricate movements and connections to do damage. Joe Di Chiara is a bruiser in the middle, but he alone cannot out-muscle entire opposition sides.
HFX Wanderers FC

Why they'll win Spirits are just so, so high in this team. There was no team having more fun out in training or out and about in Punta Cana than Halifax, who soaked up the sun and surprised quite a few onlookers with their exciting brand of attacking soccer. Having the fascinating mind of Stephen Hart as instructor proved inspiring to many of these players, even after a pre-season loss. Speed in abundance is a valuable trait for a team, and HFX has it, in spades. Beyond that? Juan Diego Gutierrez is a real player, a true No. 10. He will be one to watch in 2019. Lots of good support in Halifax helps, too. Why they won't There's just not quite enough attacking potency on offer here to successfully turn tilts in HFX Wanderers FC's direction. Striker Luis Alberto Perea is coming off an injury, but if he goes down, there are no real options to replace him up top. Perhaps depth is an issue here, though HFX can turn to a dependable backline and goalkeeper to stave off many an attacking wave during the trying times of the season. And staying healthy will be a challenge here, as midfielders Kouame Outtara and Kodai Iida also battled knocks in Punta Cana. HFX Wanderers FC could really go either way in 2019.

Continue reading...