Have you ever owned a piece of clothing, say a sweater, and noticed way after buying it that there was something surprising about it? You know, maybe a small manufacturer’s defect, or a splash of colour in a place you hadn’t suspected, or the hipster-ish brand had placed some cutesy little inspirational message on the laundry tag? What I’m getting at is that there are always going to be the little things in life that surprise you. And that’s why I choose to wonder. Last week, it turns out my wondering was quite fruitful. I wondered whether the CPL would be reigned over by a Scotland-like duopoly for the foreseeable future — and while there’s no guarantee of that, we do now know for certain that either Cavalry FC or Forge FC will be the inaugural league champs. More on that in a minute. We also know that the Canadian national team will have some CPL flair at centre back, as FC Edmonton’s Amer Didic has been named to the squad that will face the United States in CONCACAF Nations League play later this month. Congrats to Didic, the First Outfield Player Named To A Canada Roster In CPL History © . Lastly, we knew there was a heck of a lot in store in that Voyageurs Cup finale. A penalty shootout? Can’t ask for much more than that — well, unless you’re TFC, in which case you could have asked for a few more converted penalties. Ahem. Anyway, speaking of those CPL Finals…
Who’s gonna get that title?

Well, if the current weather trends in Calgary are any indication, then the team whose players have the most experience making snow angels growing up will have the edge. Sure, one might be inclined to suspect that crummy weather conditions would favour the side from Alberta, should they crop up a few weeks from now. It’s worth remembering, though, that Forge have endured their fair share of suboptimal conditions at Tim Hortons Field throughout this season. Plus, let’s be real: snow and driving rain and the like don’t really favour anybody, except weirdos who enjoy seeing professional athletes reduced to playing a sloppy, choppy, unpredictable version of the sport in question. Then again, we might have perfect weather conditions for both legs. Who do I fancy then? Let me put it this way: I’ll give the nod to whichever side can best control and channel their inner storm clouds.
What’s driving the other five clubs?

While one could say that the other five teams now have "nothing to play for" simply because they’re eliminated from contention, the harsh truth is that if that’s your only standard of worth when it comes to games, then most teams in most leagues at most times have, supposedly, nothing to play for. I mean, the Toronto Blue Jays just played 162 games despite having no shot at a championship, and people still gained pleasure from that! What, too soon? Anyway, there are myriad factors amping these folks up for the remainder of the year, not the least of which is that any of the "other five" teams could mathematically still "earn" the ignominious crown of the First Team To Finish Last In CPL History ©. Beyond that there’s pride (personal, local and national) plus the desire among numerous players to, as the saying goes, put themselves in the shop window. On that note…
Who should we enjoy most in these final few weeks?

There will undoubtedly be some "one and done" players in this league, who’ve used the CPL’s inaugural campaign as a fundamental building block of their pro careers that continue elsewhere. And that’s a good thing. Developing Canadian talent is a big reason this league exists, and development means that some players outgrow their chrysalis and burst into the wider footballing world as beautiful butterflies. So, who might be spreading their wings outside Canada’s borders come 2020? Some names that come to mind are guys who’ve already dipped their toes overseas, such as Tristan Borges (who’s spent time in the Netherlands) and Michael Petrasso (England), or U21 players who’ve burst onto the scene this year with tremendous upside, such as Terran Campbell or Easton Ongaro. There’s also the notoriety and credibility that comes with floating around the national team, which includes Didic, Marco Carducci and Noah Verhoeven, who took part in a Gold Cup training camp this summer. Whoever they may be, they’re out there somewhere. We’re seeing their final weeks in CPL and we don’t even know it yet. All the more reason to realize "ah yes, there is something to play for — and something to care about — in October."
What was Nathan Mavila thinking?

Close watchers of this space (a demographic that numbers in the millions, I’m sure) may note that I’ve wondered about the mental states of players for their on-field antics before. This time, it’s Cavalry’s Nathan Mavila, whose textbook horror tackle against York9 FC sent his side down to nine men in what could be charitably described as a contentious match at York Lions Stadium. If not for a stoppage-time equalizer by the home side, the Cavs would have actually escaped with all three points, despite the numerical disadvantage. It’s not unheard of; self-loathing Toronto FC fans will no doubt recall their side’s loss to a nine-man San Jose Earthquakes setup a few years back. (Yes, I’m really digging at Toronto sports today; whatever, the Raptors are champs, life goes on.) After that debacle, some said that playing against a well-organized team of nine could actually be more difficult than a regular 11-v-11 affair. Y9 manager Jim Brennan echoed the sentiment after this past Saturday’s match as well. And, I dunno, maybe there’s something to it. We probably all have memories of playing in youth leagues where the team with no subs ends up doing better than the team with lots of subs — though in that case, it’s probably because the coach of the shorthanded team isn’t obligated to sub off the really good players. There’s no such excuse at the pro level, so… wait, what was I talking about? Oh yeah — what a silly tackle by Mavila.
Do the Laws of the Game apply to ball kids?

Speaking of memories from our youthful playing days — hey, did you also play lots of games where there were parents or friends or just random people standing behind the goal-line and basically making a nuisance of themselves? Well, so did the members of Pacific FC at Tim Hortons Field on the weekend, when one hometown ball kid was going full-on wacky-waving-inflatable-tube-man behind the goal while Terran Campbell lined up for a penalty — which he missed. Now, it’s not the wildest ball kid involvement we’ve ever seen. There was the time Eden Hazard got sent off for kicking a ball kid back in 2013, and the utterly bizarre scene in Brazil when a ball kid managed to somehow score a goal that counted. Still, it makes me wonder: did the referee have any authority, or mandate, to get the kid out of there? Did the kid have a moral obligation to suppress his support of Forge FC and simply let the opposing player do their job? Where does a ball kid sit in the grey zone between participant and spectator? And, most importantly… if this sort of behaviour is actually A-OK, then, what are the odds we can get that kid over to BMO Field for Oct. 15 when Canada faces the U.S.?

Continue reading...