With the 2021 Canadian Premier League season starting on Saturday, followers of the league are doing power rankings and predicting the season ahead. While an impossible job (just look at how many players we snubbed in previous years as proof!), we at CanPL.ca are no different. With a combination of CPL veterans, as well as exciting newcomers (and returnees) to the league, CanPL.ca's Marty Thompson, Charlie O'Connor-Clarke, and Benedict Rhodes combined to come up with the following list.
RELATED READING: ROUNDTABLE: CanPL.ca’s 2021 CPL Awards predictions || 2021 CPL season: What you need to know before 'The Kickoff'
Goalkeepers1) Triston Henry, Forge FC The CPL's all-time record-holder for clean sheets (14), as well as the reigning Goalkeeper of the Year award winner, Triston Henry has backstopped Forge FC to consecutive North Star Shields. He's the most successful goalkeeper in CPL history, and Forge look likely to have another run at the title in 2021. 2) Marco Carducci, Cavalry FC Winner of the inaugural Goalkeeper of the Year award, and the first CPL player to receive a call-up to the Canadian men's national team, Marco Carducci has been Cavalry FC's starter since day one. The Calgarian is second to Henry in all-time CPL clean sheets, making 12 in 32 league appearances. 3) Christian Oxner, HFX Wanderers FC The third goalkeeper to play in a CPL Final is HFX netminder Christian Oxner. After being drafted by the Wanderers ahead of the inaugural 2019 season, Oxner won the starting job and kept it. He was a runner up to Henry for the 2020 Goalkeeper of the Year award, and in 24 appearances in the CPL has picked up eight clean sheets, tying him with Nathan Ingham for third all-time. Also in CanPL.ca's top 5: 4) Callum Irving, Pacific FC 5) Connor James, FC Edmonton
Defenders1) Daniel Krutzen A two-time CPL champion as a mainstay in the Forge FC backline, Daniel Krutzen has been one of the most solid defenders in the league. While strong defensively, he's also an attacking threat -- In all competitions, Krutzen has scored six times for Forge, often from set pieces, including a pair of penalties in the club's 2020 Concacaf League run. He's tied with another player on this list, Dominick Zator -- and teammate Kyle Bekker -- atop the league's all-time regular season appearances list, with 39. 2) Amer Didic, FC Edmonton Going into his third season with FC Edmonton, Amer Didic has made history in the CPL, as the first player from the league to score for the Canadian men's national team, doing so in early 2020 against Barbados. In 23 matches for FC Edmonton in all competitions, Didic's physical, no-nonsense style of defending has caught the eye of many, including the Vancouver Whitecaps, whom he trialed with before the 2020 season. If he has another impressive season, that interest from teams won't go away. 3) Dominick Zator, York United A standout for Cavalry FC in the 2019 and 2020 CPL seasons, and a major signing for York United this offseason, Dominick Zator is another of the league's best centre-backs. As mentioned above, he's one of the players tied atop the all-time appearances leaderboard, and is Cavalry FC's all-time leader as well in all competitions. He also has an eye for goal, finding the back of the net on several occasions, including against the Vancouver Whitecaps in the 2019 Canadian Championship. 4) Kadin Chung, Pacific FC 5) Kwame Awuah, Forge FC 6) Mo Farsi, Cavalry FC 7) Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Valour FC 8) Peter Schaale, HFX Wanderers 9) Thomas Meilleur-Giguère, Pacific FC 10) Dejan Jakovic, Forge FC
Midfielders1) Kyle Bekker Who else would top this list but the reigning CPL Player of the Year, and the captain of the two-time champions? The only player to be nominated for the award in both of the first two seasons, Bekker is Forge's leader on and off the pitch -- captaining the side and controlling matches in the heart of midfield. Everything goes through him, and with his partner-in-crime Tristan Borges (more on him later) back in the CPL in 2021, Bekker could have another massive season. 2) Joseph Di Chiara, Cavalry FC After leading York with three goals at the Island Games, and again impressing with his ability to connect passes, Di Chiara is heading west this year looking to help Cavalry take the next step and win a first league title. He made 33 appearances for York9 FC, scoring five goals in total across the first two CPL seasons. The 29-year-old is good on both sides of the ball and should strengthen an already-impressive Cavalry midfield. 3) Rafael Galhardo, Valour FC Coming to Canada after a very impressive career in Brazil, Rafael Galhardo will be changing his position in 2021, but should still be one of the league's best midfielders. Despite playing right-back for the majority of his 12-year career thus far, the 29-year-old will likely play in midfield for Valour, according to head coach Rob Gale. He's skillful and possesses a ton of experience in Brazil's top flight, so seeing how he evolves as a player will be something to watch this season. Also in CanPL.ca's top 10: 4) Alexander Achinioti-Jönsson, Forge FC 5) Sergio Camargo, Cavalry FC 6) Manny Aparicio, Pacific FC 7) Shamit Shome, FC Edmonton 8) Matthew Baldisimo, Pacific FC 9) Andre Rampersad, HFX Wanderers 10) Chris Mannella, Atlético Ottawa
Forwards1) Marco Bustos An MVP candidate in 2020, and a favourite for 2021, Marco Bustos is one of the most exciting players in the Canadian Premier League. Tied atop the all-time assists list, and one back of first all-time in goals, Bustos has the ability to win matches on his own. Combined with Kadin Chung down the right flank in 2020, that duo could be lethal again in 2021 as Pacific FC look for a first North Star Shield. 2) Tristan Borges After a year away from the CPL, the league's first superstar is back in Hamilton for the 2021 season. After winning the U-21 Canadian of the Year, Golden Boot, and Player of the Year in 2019 -- not to mention the North Star Shield -- Tristan Borges was sold to Belgian club OH Leuven. After struggling for minutes with the first team, he's back with Forge for 2021 on loan from the Belgian club, and if he's anywhere near as good as he was in 2019, watch out. 3) Mo Babouli Former Toronto FC attacker Mo Babouli had a good first season in the CPL in 2020, scoring once in ten appearances in the league, and scoring again in four Concacaf League appearances. He showed off his prowess at running with the ball in 2020, and also assisted the goal that won the title for Forge. He'll play a big part for the club in 2021. Also in CanPL.ca's top 10: 4) Akeem Garcia, HFX Wanderers 5) Joe Mason, Cavalry FC 6) Easton Ongaro, FC Edmonton 7) Ryan Telfer, Atlético Ottawa 8) Anthony Novak, Cavalry FC 9) Alejandro Díaz, Pacific FC 10) Michael Petrasso, York United