9,701 days never felt so short, eh? That's how many days Canada endured without a top-flight professional soccer league to call its own – a run of days, ended at last, when York9 FC kicked off the Canadian Premier League in Hamilton. The action-packed 180 mins split over two days delivered the energy all involved in the CPL were looking forward to seeing. Now that the dust has settled on Forge FC's 1-1 draw with York 9 FC and Pacific FC's 1-0 victory over HFX Wanderers, here are some of the storylines that both emerged and stood out:
What's the word of the weekend?

The level of play? Quality. The atmosphere at both Tim Hortons Field and Westhills Stadium? Quality. The supporter's groups? Quality. Add in a pair of three-hour productions from OneSoccer and the league couldn't have asked for a better start. Most importantly, the players on the field answered the biggest question: How good of an on-field product should we expect? Forge FC and York9 set the tone for season one with an entertaining 90 minutes. The next day, Pacific FC's home win over HFX was equally must-watch soccer, as a late red card took the game to the wire. A bit sloppy at times this weekend? Sure, it's to be expected in the first games for all seven teams, but there is no denying we were handed three full hours of action. Had Emery Welshman's bicycle kick drifted a few inches to the left, the league would have had a goal of the season candidate in the first six minutes of existence. Quality was on display this weekend; take a bow all involved.
Young guns unleashed

Stealing a quote from Terry Dunfield on Sunday's OneSoccer post-game show, several young players turned heads on a weekend where a lot of the build-up focused on the veteran talent joining the new league. 20-year-old Forge FC midfielder Tristan Borges brought the crowd to its feet with multiple scoring chances. Only a crossbar and a spectacular toe-save by York's Nathan Ingham denied the Toronto product a brace. Forge teammate Kadell Thomas scored in his first ever professional game while a York9 backline led by Luca Gasparotto (more on him later) featured 22-year-old Daniel Gogarty, who was solid in his own debut. On Sunday, Pacific FC's Noah Verhoeven led the wave of young players, picking up an assist on a perfectly hit corner kick. The 19-year-old was confident on the ball and was key to his club's attacking movements. PFC teammates Kadin Chung (20), Matthew Baldisimo (21) and Terran Campbell (20) all showed well too. HFX's young Canucks Chrisnovic N'sa (20), Ndzemdzela Langwa (21) and Tomasz Skublak held their own. Hopefully, the youth movement continues.
Referees stayed out of the spotlight

Until 45 drones can hover over the field in unison and halt play at every player error, there will not be a perfectly officiated game. But the officials tasked with the pressure of the CPL's first two games did not steal the spotlight from the players. Even when physicality ramped up, and even with a pair of red cards issued over two matches, the referees called only what they needed to call and let the game play out. Nobody will be losing much sleep over how the first two games were called. Though, with the power of hindsight and instant replay, maybe a card should have been issued to Kyle Bekker for his "collision" with Joseph Di Chiara.
Gasparotto stood tall among the rest

A fun topic of speculation among CPL circles is giving predictions on who will be the first Canadian Premier League Player to be called up to Canada's men's national team. Before Saturday, not many would have thrown York9 centre-back Luca Gasparotto's name out there … though you might want to now. The 24-year old who played over 100 games in Scotland looked like a veteran in the middle of York's back three, making several key plays in his own end and provided a calming presence for a team playing on the road in front of thousands of fans. It just so happens that national team head coach John Herdman was at the inaugural game.
'For Canadians, by Canadians'

The odds were good, but it's nice for the history books that Canadian Ryan Telfer will go down as the first goalscorer in league history. A total of 18 Canadians started the league's inaugural game (Note: Emery Welshman and Justin Springer are Canadian but represent Guyana and St. Kitts and Nevis internationally), nine for each of Forge FC and York9. Five more entered the game as substitutes meaning 23 of 28 players involved were Canadian. Both goals in the 1-1 draw were scored by Canadians, too. Sunday was slightly lower with 16 Canadians – 10for Pacific FC, six for HFX. Between the two matches, six players with senior appearances for Canada saw the field among the numerous youth internationals. It's expected that most matches will see both teams exceed the minimum of six Canadian starters. Add in all the Canadian coaches, training staff, front office workers broadcasters, fans, stadium employees and many other roles that make pro soccer work, and the league's motto of "for Canadians, by Canadians" lived up to the moniker.

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