CPL players and coaches are set to return to a single-site bubble environment this week for The Kickoff presented by Volkswagen – a 32-match opening stanza to the season in Winnipeg Manitoba with the goal to return to home markets by the end of July. This will be the second bubble session CPL clubs will have to contend with, having taken part in the 2020 CPL season through the Island Games on Prince Edward Island last Summer. While this Summer’s sequestered session (set to open Saturday with FC Edmonton and Atletico Ottawa at 2pm ET/12pm MT) is just the beginning of the CPL regular season – not an all-in scenario like on PEI – coaches can still pick up a few tips and tricks. There’s a great chance to get a head start on the CPL season in Winnipeg, if teams are able to navigate the difficulties of playing their season out in a hotel and with a less-than-ideal pre-season schedule. We at CanPL.ca asked all eight coaches what they learned from the Island Games and what they could take to Winnipeg to get an advantage. We’ll start with FC Edmonton coach Alan Koch who joined the Eddies after the one-of-a-kind Island Games environment but still has a few tricks up his sleeve.
RELATED READING: CPL off-season roster tracker: Who’s in and who’s out? || 2021 CPL season: What you need to know before 'The Kickoff'
Alan Koch, FC Edmonton“I think all of the other teams will be [more prepared than last year]. I think I’m the only head coach that wasn’t in that bubble last year. That’s a challenge, but I think I’ve had enough diverse experience in my career that I think I have a pretty good idea of what it’s like to go into this bubble. “I’ve coached at international competitions, so I’m familiar with going and staying in the same hotel for an extended period of time and playing games, but I’ve never been in a sequestered bubble before.”
Jimmy Brennan, York United"Mentally it was very demanding -- physically as well. Playing in a short period of time and being in a bubble… just the psyche of the players is important. We need to maintain a good balance in the group and keep folks in good spirits. That’s the hard part about going into a bubble."
Tommy Wheeldon Jr, Cavalry FC"Last year, the fact that it was all one location and a tournament setting, you had to give everything you had, so there was no time to get away with injuries or suspensions; you have to perform… We’ve just got to put things into context that we won’t be our best version of ourselves by any shape or form because of the amount of time that has been between games… Forming chemistry, that will take time, so we’re going to start to see what we’re like, with a view to coming back home with as many points as we can in the bank."
Bobby Smyrniotis, Forge FC"We left with a trophy last time so that leaves a good taste in the mouth of the team; anything that went wrong goes to the wayside because we came out of it with what you went in looking for. We’ve been in these situations, also travelling in Concacaf… We’ve been able to create a good environment over this last year, getting into these situations."
Stephen Hart, HFX Wanderers FC"It's not the same as The Island Games which basically was a sort of tournament format. This (The Kickoff) is very much different but really and truly we were going to approach it almost as if it is a tournament in the sense that we're going to take the same sort of steps that we took for the Island games in entering the matches. The adjustment is just about trying to get points rather than a place in the playoffs."
Pa-Modou Kah, Pacific FC"I can only speak for my team, and for our staff, but I think after going to [a bubble environment] last year, we are better prepared, stronger, and more glued together. We’ve been working together as a group now for a long time. We just want to get the season going."
Rob Gale, Valour FC"You need as deep a squad as possible and you need some luck with injuries. That’s going to be especially true after having so much time off between seasons."
Mista, Atletico Ottawa"Island Games was my first experience in the CPL and now I have more experience — study the film, study the language, understand the players better. We better understand the league and that’s the best for our team. Last year we only had a couple of weeks to train and for the player to understand our philosophy– this year it’s completely different and we’ve seen something different."