Canadian Premier League Commissioner David Clanachan announced on Friday that the league is planning to return to action between mid-June and early July. That timeframe is rapidly approaching, so teams who haven't done so already will be finalizing their 23-man rosters over the coming weeks. We armchair general managers at CanPL.ca have picked out one gap each club needs to fill in their 2021 roster.
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Pacific FC: Another defenderMost of Pacific’s additions this off-season have come either in midfield or up front, with players like Manny Aparicio, Matteo Polisi, and Ollie Bassett joining a squad that’s mostly unchanged from 2020. One area they haven’t quite upgraded yet is the backline; the Tridents were solid defensively at the Island Games last year with the addition of Thomas Meilleur-Giguère, but not definitely not flawless. If there’s an area of the roster that could use a little depth or reinforcement, it’s probably at the back. Pacific’s first-choice back four might be Jordan Haynes, Meilleur-Giguère, Lukas MacNaughton, and Kadin Chung, which is a very strong quartet. Duran Lee would’ve been a candidate for the starting left-back position too, although he will sadly miss the season with an Achilles injury. Beyond those four, Pacific has Abdou Samake and Kunle Dada-Luke available off the bench. Even before Lee’s injury, the side could probably have used another piece in the defensive group, but now it’s even more important for them to find some domestic depth to fill out that part of the lineup.
Cavalry FC: Cover at fullbackRight now, the Cavs have just two fullbacks signed: Mo Farsi and Tom Field. Both are high-profile, young players who are expected to play a significant role in this squad, but if Cavalry is to fill out its squad, that might be a position where they could add depth. It’s possible that Cavalry opts to play with three centre-backs, which would mean a more attack-minded wide player could slot in at wingback if necessary. But in a more traditional back-four setup, they’re pretty much locked into Farsi and Field. If, for instance, Tommy Wheeldon Jr. wanted to give Farsi a start further up the pitch on the wing, he doesn’t currently have a natural right-back who can play behind him. With three roster spots left available, it would be surprising if the Cavs don’t bring in at least one more fullback.
FC Edmonton: Depth at centre-forwardEaston Ongaro is fantastic. He’s a consistent finisher in front of goal, his hold-up play is excellent, and it’s almost impossible to mark him in the box due to his height. That said, he’s one guy. In a 28-game season, Edmonton can’t afford to bank on him being available at every single moment. The Eddies currently have an attacking group that’s set up to play to Ongaro’s strengths, with skillful wingers who can cut inside or whip in crosses to find the towering striker. But nonetheless, some support and depth at that position is vital. Right now, the Eddies have German striker Tobias Warschewski signed to help out at no. nine, but the rest of the attacking group are predominantly wide players. Adding another forward to the mix to either support, or fill in for, Ongaro would help give a little extra kick to Edmonton’s attack.
Valour FC: Replacements for international playersRob Gale has had brutal luck with internationals and visa delays caused in part by ongoing delays from the COVID-19 pandemic. Nestor Monge, a Costa Rican international with some solid pedigree, parted ways with the club last month and was followed by Venzueluan striker Ronny Maza on Friday. Neither player was able to get into Canada and, in turn, has given Gale a couple of spots to fill on short notice. Monge was set to be a key cog in Valour’s middle, pegged as a shuttling midfielder who can create in transition. Valour will have to look at Canadian free agents to fill that significant gap for sure. Recent addition William Akio is likely a replacement for Maza but, regardless, Valour is still a couple of bodies short.
Forge FC: One more strikerWith only three forwards signed at the moment – Chris Nanco, Mo Babouli, and Tristan Borges (on loan from OH Leuven), Forge need some more depth up top. Kadell Thomas, scorer of the first goal in club history, remains unsigned, so a return may not be out of the question there. Marcel Zajac and Gabriel Balbinotti are the other forwards from Forge's triumphant 2020 season whose statuses are currently unclear. More specifically, they need an out-and-out striker. With Anthony Novak heading west to join Cavalry, the only real option to start at striker is Mo Babouli. Borges and Nanco have mostly operated as wide players in the CPL, with Borges operating in midfield as well sometimes. A striker to share minutes with Babouli up top should be the priority for Forge, especially after they found their David Edgar replacement.
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York United: Depth to cover for loaned playersAs it stands, York United are the only club thus far who have 23 players under contract for the 2021 season, but not all of them are currently with the club. They currently have five players out on loan – Mateo Hernández and Lisandro Cabrera (both Atlético Pantoja, Dominican first tier), Michael Petrasso (Barnet, English fifth tier), Dominick Zator (Vasalunds IF, Swedish second tier), and Nicholas Hamilton (Dundee, Scottish second tier). It’s possible that York will need to fill out their roster with domestic players if not all of them can return to the squad in time for the CPL season. Hernandez’s loan is until the end of the year (but York have the right to recall him), so the club will have an eye on local talent as well, just in case they can’t get everyone into the country – a problem CPL clubs have had over the past year. The Nine Stripes have brought in 13 new players from a year ago – including a handful of high-profile CPL free agents. Dominick Zator, Noah Verhoeven and Niko Giantsopoulos are among the newcomers to the squad.
Atlético Ottawa: Reinforcements at fullbackAs it stands, the only wide defenders on Atlético Ottawa’s roster are left-back Vashon Neufville and occasional right-back Zach Verhoven. Verhoven is naturally more of a winger, so if Mista wants to use him further up the pitch, he needs another signing on the right flank. If one of Neufville or Verhoven is unavailable for whatever reason, the only other fullback they have is Keesean Ferdinand, on loan from CF Montreal. He’s a centre-back, but can also play on either flank. The 17-year-old, yet to make a first-team appearance with Montreal, may not be ready to play a ton of minutes just yet, but he should see the pitch as he develops more during the season. The club could probably use one more player on each side or another versatile player who can play both.
HFX Wanderers: General bench depthThe Wanderers have no obvious holes in their squad at the moment, but they need to fill the remaining roster spots (five, at the time of writing). They’ve brought back 13 players from their 2020 squad, many of whom are expected to be in contention for starting minutes. The players they’ll bring in between now and the season will likely be depth options all around the park. If anything, they could do with another couple of bodies in midfield, or at centre-back, but Stephen Hart has signed a well-balanced group of players thus far.