This segment first appeared on the CanPL.ca Newsroom, a weekly podcast dedicated to the Canadian Premier League and Canadian soccer. Click here to watch, listen, and subscribe.
We here at CanPL.ca have attempted the unthinkable: Predicting the best XIs of CPL clubs going into a 2021 season. It's a fool's errand, sure – but it's worth sizing up the eight teams as they near squad competition. The eastern sides were picked and dissected on this week's CanPL.ca Newsroom. Click here to watch, listen, or subscribe. We covered the western Canadian clubs last Friday. A lot is sure to change in the next while, but for now, here's how the eastern clubs could line up heading into 2021.
RELATED READING: CanPL.ca’s Best XIs: What do the 4 western CPL teams look like right now? || CanPL.ca Newsroom: Telfer reaction, Best XIs part 2 & Cavalry’s Anthony Novak
Forge FCNot much controversy here. As my colleague Charlie O'Connor-Clarke aptly said on this week's CanPL.ca Newsroom: “This is what a Forge FC team looks like.” Former Player of the Year Tristan Borges arrives at right wing as the lone "newcomer" to the Island Games championship-winning side announced so far. Dominic Samuel takes the place of the retired David Edgar – a big hole the club has yet to fill. You could argue Maxim Tissot deserves a spot in this lineup but not at the expense of Kwame Awuah at left fullback. Perhaps this XI will look different by season's start?
Atlético OttawaThe Atlético Ottawa backline is relatively straightforward. Zach Verhoven could be bumped further up the pitch from right fullback while Brandon John and Milovan Kapor retain a first-choice centre-back partnership from the Island Games. Chris Mannella and Ben McKendry make up a wicked double-pivot – whether Mista elects to play them both in a full-strength squad tactically is another issue entirely. Ryan Telfer's last-minute addition gave Ottawa a much-needed boost in attack, joining lone signed centre-forward Malcolm Shaw, Jordan Webb, and Viti Martinez up the middle. These positions could feature Osah Bernardinho or Tevin Shaw, who are set to 'return' to the club after missing the 2020 season due to travel restrictions.
York UnitedEasily the most intriguing XI on this list, York United's off-season makeover creates a murky prediction. Perhaps what's worth noting first is York's flexibility... and its international players. The above 4-4-2, which I doubt they will play often if at all, can easily shift to a back three, with Chrisnovic N'sa tucking in and Diyaeddine Abzi jumping forward. Also, it's still unknown if York's full contingent of international players will make it to Canada this season but, for the sake of this exercise, we grabbed the top 11 players and stuffed them on the field. York's backline is clear-cut: Abzi, Roger Thompson, Dominick Zator, and N'sa have over 100 CPL appearances between them. In midfield, experienced midfielder Jordan Wilson joins recent Pacific FC youngster Noah Verhoeven in the middle. Michael Petrasso retains his right-winger position naturally, while Argentine newcomer Mateo Hernandez takes up the left as an exciting attacking prospect with pedigree. Julian Ulbricht, formerly of German club Hamburger SV, and recent Concacaf Champions League goalscorer Lisandro Cabrera round out the attacking duo. Whether the pair of lumbering strikers will work together is beside the point – we're looking at putting the best players on the pitch and, on paper, they fit the bill.
HFX Wanderers FCAnother status quo grouping, HFX Wanderers FC's best XI thus far is what you would expect – including a couple one-for-one swaps: Jérémy Gagnon-Laparé for departed Abou Sissoko and Morey Doner in place of Chrisnovic N'sa, who has moved to York United. Toss in these changes (and Cory Bent for Alessandro Riggi's spot at left wing) and you have the same starting lineup Stephen Hart fielded for the CPL Final last Summer, showing just how well the Wanderers have done at player retention this off-season. That said, there are a few arguments that could be made for this lineup – Riggi's inclusion chief among them. Halifax also has newcomers like Pierre Lamothe and Samuel Salter that have the potential to emerge and make this best XI look much different by season's end.