CanPL after Ten

Not gonna lie, this picture has been getting me through the pandemic.

We’re through ten games in the 2022 Canadian Premier League.

Some teams have played one or two more, Forge are the only team to play a couple less. It’s a good number — not quite halfway, but coming up faster than you think.

There have been all kinds of other stories in Canadian soccer over the past two weeks, not all of them good, and it’s too easy to let the domestic league slip away into its usual summer doldrums, so let’s take a look at where each team is and, in a newly-salvaged spirit of positivity, come up a reason to go spend a sunny afternoon watching your local team.

Ottleti

Record: 5W – 3D – 2L (6 games played at home)

Ottawa has been the spring success story of 2022 — if we were still playing an opening half (as we should, because it’s more fun) people would be raving about Ottawa.

Carlos Gonzalez is a breath of fresh air, the team has an identity it feels like they can build on and around, and they remain young-ish and fun to watch, which is what this league is supposed to be about.

I’ve always enjoyed that Ottawa have bet on reclamation projects. Not all have come off, but they’re getting real contributions out of Ballou Tabla and Zach Verhoven, two players who would likely have been out of professional soccer but for Ottawa. Gonzalez is also getting real contributions out of guys like Ollie Bassett, Ben McKendry, and even Kéven Aleman.

The team’s not without needs, probably mostly the kind of thing — a #1 centre-back, a playmaking midfielder — that would be better added in the off-season.

Key Stat: Zero goals from outside the box

Ottleti are the only team aside from Edmonton without a single goal from distance, a bit of trivia that blew my mind considering how willing Tabla is to bomb a shot from way out.

I actually think this is a mark of improvement for both Tabla and Ottawa as a side. They’re a solidly mid-tier offensive team at this point, and oddly, they’re scoring more away from home when they can get out on counter-attacks and play to the strengths of Brian Wright and Malcolm Shaw, neither of whom scores a lot from distance and who together account for six of Ottleti’s 11 goals so far.

I know the fans at TD Place want to see Ollie Bassett score a banger, though.

Look Forward To…

After two false starts, Ottletico can finally play games at home for real, and the attendance has been a big success in Ottawa, averaging almost 3700 a game, and they’re loud and fun, too.

That number is right back up around the Fury numbers. The Fury could never find a way to build on the baseline of strong support that exists in Ottawa’s multi-lingual soccer community. It was unclear they even wanted to. Atletico, so far, seem much more willing to engage, and with more Ontario teams likely coming soon, now’s a good time to get on the bandwagon.

Keep An Eye On…

Ottawa have a road-heavy run-in once the Redblacks take over TD Place1We gotta get away from the CFL stadiums. Ottawa’s attendance really is a great story, but you’d never know it from the broadcasts because they’re all on the near side of the stadium, and TD seats about 17,000, which is a cavern in CanPL terms — even Forge couldn’t fill 17K for TFC and there’s no need for CanPL teams to even consider that for the time being, at least. The World Cup bid means stadium infrastructure’s in the news for a hot minute, but Canada’s problem isn’t actually a lack of World Cup-sized venues — we’ve got two or three decent ones, which is all a country our size needs. What we lack, almost completely, is anything mid-size — and not just for soccer. We’ve got two or three CanPL teams playing in stadiums that are too small and two or three playing in venues that are way too big. Smaller, multi-use stadia are a lot more politically feasible, too. Remember that the US had Crew Stadium, a small and bare-bones facility, but one of the first of its kind, right-sized for soccer, and played national team games there for years. You need that step before dreaming of 50K+., and their next three will see them criss-cross the country in a way they haven’t had to do yet. It’s these stretches of travel that are tough on the legs and lead to injuries. The road form’s been good, but Ottawa aren’t a deep team. If Tabla, Verhoven, or any of the defenders go down long-term, it could be dicey.

On the other hand, they’re on 18 points right now and undefeated on the road. If they get through June, they’ll be through half the road games — the run-in might not matter.

Unless they want to play them on the road, I guess. Ottleti do have lots of experience with that over the first two and a half years.

Current position: 3rd

My Projection: 7th (whoops!)

New Prediction: In the playoff fight2Yeah, that’s not wildly specific, is it? Ask me again at the halfway point 😉

Cavalry

Record: 6W – 2D – 2L (3 games played at home)

Cavalry are the other team with a really unbalanced home/away mix, thanks to the show-jumping season at Spruce Meadows.

I was so distracted by how well the pitch has held up this year compared to years previous that I didn’t even notice the Cavs ramping up. They’re undefeated in May and June, seven games and counting.

It feels a lot like 2019.

The truth is, as I and others have written before, that nothing is going to matter until Cavalry win the trophy they didn’t win in 2019. To that end, it’s a bit disappointing they went out of the cup, though they gave their fans another memorable night in the process. Ask Wanderers’ fans: sometimes not-quite can even be fun!

Key Stat: 35 yellows… zero reds

One of the things about the way Cavalry play, the “ninety minutes of hell” (to quote Steve Sandor), is the high-press can be beaten with quick play over the top.

Cavalry have always been physical and a little bit scuffly, and they’re the only CanPL team over thirty yellows at this point, but picking up cards isn’t necessarily a bad thing as long as a team is picking them up for the right reasons — that is, to stop that dangerous counter-attack over the press. A whopping 81% of Cavalry’s fouls — 119 of them — come in either the attacking third or midfield. Sure, it’s frustrating to foul out of an attack every so often, but that’s preferable to a failed attack resulting in a dangerous transition the other way.

The art then becomes keeping a cautioned player — usually a defensive midfielder or defender — on the field for the rest of the game, which is why this stat is significant. Cavalry foul — a lot, though it’s worth noting both York and Pacific have more, a case study in how effective that fouling is — but Cavalry keep their players available (where York don’t) and keep the other team from creating dangerous set-plays.

Look Forward To…

The rest of the season, I guess?

After Canada Day, Cavalry have ten of the last 16 at home and should really run away with the table given how hard it is to get a result at Spruce Meadows.

Fans should see some reinforcements once the transfer window re-opens in July, too. Given all their long-term injuries (which makes their form even more remarkable) Tommy Wheeldon Jr. has lots of roster spots to play with. Cap space will be a bit more of a premium, though, since those injured players still count. (There’s some relief, but not a lot.)

Still, off-season recruits like Myer Bevan and local prospects like Victor Loturi and Aribim Pepple are cheap and have been the backbone of Calgary’s success. You should come out and support them.

Keep An Eye On…

There’s been an alarming tendency for Cavalry to wear down as each season drags on, probably mostly a by-product of that high-tempo style. Given the injuries they already have, they can’t risk burn-out.

Wheeldon’s made a couple attempts to diversify the team’s approach, and there are some new wrinkles to Cavalry this year in the way they use Loturi as a pivot (they’re a little more willing to play sideways) and drop Joe Mason deep (a little like Dom Malonga did in 2019), but they’re still pretty much a team that works in transition, and transition only. They get a lot of attacking touches, but a lot of them are headers. They don’t attack that well 1v1, considering. This is how they’ve been frustrated in the past, usually by Forge.

They’re also slightly overpeforming their expected goals both for and against, but not so much I’d worry about reverting to the mean. At least, not yet.

Current: 1st

My Prediction: 3rd, but lower if the injuries bite again

New Projection: Give it time yet

FC Edmonton

Record: 0W – 4D – 7L

It’s been a really game effort from Alan Koch and the Eddies. Their situation can’t be understood or in any way analyzed without understanding the dire situation the club is in. By far the easier option would have been to throw up their hands and play the season at a jog. I honestly wouldn’t have blamed any of the collection of loanees, local heroes, and raw prospects doing that.

But they haven’t. Not only has there been a commendable fight to everything they’ve done, this group has finally, after about a decade, managed to invert if not outright solve the age-old Eddies problem scoring goals.

Watching a team that can’t defend but which can always get itself back into a game is way, way more fun. Eddies games are almost must-watch TV at this point. They’re still not exactly filling the net, but they are scoring some top-quality goals.

This team was never going to win anything this year, but they’re giving fans everything they could ask for.

Key Stat: 162 interceptions

I really, really wanted to find a positive state in which Edmonton led the league.

Interceptions is still a bit of a double-edged sword — teams tend to get a lot of these when they’re gambling in tackles, which Edmonton often do. Luke Singh leads the league in these and gambling is basically his game (he’s got to get a little bit smarter about that if he wants to stick at TFC).

That said, it’s the sort of thing a team can build itself around, if indeed there’s anywhere for Edmonton to build. The other, perhaps more telling stat, is they’ve lost 591 duels this year, far and away the most in the league. You cannot have these two stats together, but if they could only figure out a way to win more of those tackles….

Look Forward To…

Seeing some of these guys on your team next year.

For Eddies’ fans, I’m not sure there’s much I can put here, and the team’s pulling three-figure crowds so I’m not sure there’s anyone around to look forward to whatever I’d put here.

Two of the Eddies’ loanees, Wes Timoteo and Tobias Warschewski, have been great, and both could answer some questions for Wanderers and York, respectively. (Timoteo went and proved this point by scoring against Wanderers this week.) Together, those two make a solid creative tandem, usually from out wide.

Andreas Vaikla’s shown very well in goal and Toronto’s goalkeeping situation is pretty dire so that’s a good sign. Kairo Coore is going to be a steal for some team next winter and Gabriel Bitar has battled his way into this league after a (very) slow start, which is nice to see.

That’s actually pretty eclectic and enjoyable group of creative players, which is not something you see often in Canadian soccer anywhere.

Now’s your chance, Edmonton.

Keep An Eye On…

If Edmonton don’t have an owner within the next couple of months, this fledgling project — by which I mean the whole league — is going to take a hard hit.

This has to be pointed out in places like this because the league can’t directly talk about it, and the league provides most of the media coverage in this league. Attracting new owners is as much a game of credibility and promise as anything, so don’t hold the silence against CanPL HQ, and hope for the best.

But losing Tom Fath, a man who ran a professional team and academy at his own expense for more than ten years, is a blow to the whole idea that this can work, and will make it much, much more difficult to attract new ownership until the league can prove it can be sustainable, which it can’t do until people show up.

Particular mistakes were made in Edmonton from which the rest of the league can learn, and at some point I’ll do a deeper dive into numbers and where this league needs to be. I wanted to keep this post mostly positive, so it’s not here.

Instead, accept this Eddies side — possibly the last in a long and legendary line — for what it is. It’s not going to win, but watching football isn’t about winning.

Current: 8th

My Prediction: 8th

New Projection: A lot more fun than your typical 8th-place.

Forge FC

Record: 4W – 2D – 2L (Four played at home)

Forge always, always start slow. It’s easy to pick on them when this happens because Forge were and are the league’s first-born, but it’s actually a time of transition for them, too, with Bob Young stepping back from day-to-day operations this spring. That’s a big deal, and a turning point for the league.

So I find it encouraging to see Forge round into form, driven as always by “fundamentals”. (I quote it because Bobby would.3Fun fact: Bobby Smyrniotis is one of the nicest post-game quotes in the league. I know he’s intense on the field and he comes off that way on camera, too, but he’s always game to explain how his team is playing or how something went wrong in a game. So far this year, I’ve been to pressers with him and Bob Bradley, and they’re a lot alike, actually — both slightly intimidating but both very eager to share and grow the game. Also, Bob thought Great Big Sea were The Pogues but I think we converted him.) I actually kinda like Forge; yeah, they’re a bit blustery but this is a Canadian club team that pretty much immediately set about creating a clear tactical identity, trains young players in it, and pushes the whole league to up its game. I don’t like watching them beat Halifax 4 – 0 either, but CanPL needs this. It needs to aspire to more on the pitch rather than less, and if there’s one thing you can say about the Smyrniotis brothers, it’s that they aspire to the best. (Costa deserves a lot more credit for building this team than he ever gets.)

That blow-out win in Halifax was something special. Very few teams have been able to do that in a road game in CanPL — anywhere, let alone on a cold night at Wanderers’ Grounds. Forge turned around and did it again last weekend at home against the best team in the league.

Forge have, as they always do, some issues to sort out at the back, and I’ll forever think they’re a bit too reliant on one or two avenues of attack — which as often as not end up working precisely because they execute so well and because the rest of the league is still developing tactically. That’s okay.

Key Stat: 697 passes completed in the attacking third

That is a truly whopping number. Remember: Forge have played two fewer games than most other teams and they’re still nearly 100 passes ahead of Pacific in attack.

Forge actually get the ball forward a bit faster than you’d think, or even than they used to. They can be quite selective (some might say slightly too selective) with shots, and they actually cross more than Wanderers or Edmonton. They wait, switch when it’s on, and move the defense around. Again, fundamentals.

Not a coincidence they’re leading the league in scoring, even with games in hand.

Looking Forward To…

Tristan Borges is scoring over a goal per game right now, and looks like he might finally be returning to the form he showed in 2019. I still maintain his work against Nik Ledgerwood was the key reason Forge won the final that year.

It would be remiss of me to wish he wouldn’t try his luck in Europe again — he is still an OHL player and merely on loan, after all, and he’s got time still to prove he can play at a higher level.

He feels like the kind of star CanPL needs to be about, though, and when he’s comfortable and has some continuity, this feels like a very good level for him. That also reveals a bit of a double-edge for the league: we need stars like Borges to grow the game off the field here, but ours has to be a developmental league, and the financial reality means if a player like Borges doesn’t make it within the next 2-3 years (to be clear, I think he will), it’s hard to make the kind of career that gets you known around a city over the course of a decade, which is part of what brings people out.

Enjoy him while he’s here, is what I’m saying.

Keep An Eye On…

Slow start aside, Forge’s weakest performance of the season thus far, to my eye, was the 1 – 1 home draw against Ottleti.

That is also the only match Kyle Bekker didn’t go 70+ minutes in. He also came off early in Edmonton and Forge just about fell apart.

Bekker isn’t old exactly, but he does cover a lot of tough ground and his control of the backfield is essential when Forge are taking all those attacking touches. Smyrniotis has carefully managed his minutes where he can over the past couple years and has mostly been pretty successful at it, but there are going to be games Bekker can’t play, and they need a back-up plan.

This cloud is mostly still out on the horizon — a next-year problem. And you could see, this past winter, how a player like Alessandro Hojabrpour might help alleviate some of Bekker’s long-term workload. So far, they’ve mostly played together and it’s mostly been a very nice partnership, especially as it lets Hojabrpour be the attacking mid he’s always been.

At some point, though, they need Hojabrpour to drop deeper as a #8, and when he does, he has to read the space as well as Bekker does or else Forge can and will get sliced through.

Current: 4th

My Prediction: 1st

New Projection: Not 4th

Halifax Wanderers

Record: 4W – 2D – 4L (Four played at home)

Through ten games, Wanderers have ten goals.

This is not new. It puts them on pace for exactly 28, which is exactly as many as they’ve scored in both the previous full-length seasons.

Nobody is surprised by this.

Three of those ten goals are from penalty kicks. Another three came set-pieces — the two corners against Cavalry and a scorcher of a free-kick by the now-injured Cory Bent. The remaining four, from open play, all came against Edmonton. (And all of them, including one more in the cup , have come from Sam Salter.)

Nobody is surprised by this, either.

If a team, any team, wants to have anything to say in any professional league anywhere, it needs to manage more than a goal a game. Wanderers can have absolutely no complaints with their record thus far. (Neither does their expected goals suggest they’re wildly off where they should be.)

Key Stat: 165 touches in the opponent’s box

What there has been, this winter in Halifax, is a noticeable evolution in style of play, spurred mostly by new assistant coach Alex Dorado, though there are still very much echoes of both Stephen Hart and Mesut Mert in there.

It’s very easy on the eye, very welcome, and all about getting the ball into promising attacking positions, usually with quick passing play — Wanderers almost never cross this year; they have by far the lowest crosses attempted in the league this year, instead preferring to send the two wide forwards into channels. There’s a lot of Forge’s system in this approach, and a lot of very contemporary tactics in general.

It is very watchable. I am in favour of it.

It would be great if it were working, but it’s not. At least not yet. That total above ranks seventh in the league, above only Edmonton.

Advanced starts are just stats; they tell you no more or less than any stat in the appropriate context. Generally speaking, touches in the opponent’s box is a Good Thing — you usually score more goals there, the chances you generate have a higher expected goals, etc., etc. Any data-driven approach will tell you to get more of them.

That works when you have your pick of some of the world’s best players, or even just players from a larger talent pool than the one in Halifax, Nova Scotia and the Canadian Premier League more broadly. This is not a league that gives you top-end finishers.

Wanderers, and the league more broadly, have a lot of strikers who live for 1 v. 1 play in the channels. There are a lot of players like that in mid-tier CONCACAF, so these aren’t bad players, it’s just that at this level most players are good at just about one thing (e.g., Alex Marshall is really good at pressuring opposing defenders) and none of Wanderers’ strikers really live off touches in the box.

If Wanderers want to get meaningful touches in the box, they need a #9 who will instinctively find space and loose balls. They have never, in their history as a club, had this kind of player.

There are other stats I could have picked here, too: that they miss as many shots in the box as they hit, for instance. That they only have four headed shots on target this year, which speaks to the lack of the kind of big striker who can mash home the goals that win games in a league like this. Stats go both ways.

I really admire what Wanderers are trying to do and generally support them trying to do it — I think this is a long-term project, and that’s fine. I even think fans will broadly accept it.

If the personnel doesn’t fit, however, it won’t work. That means it’s the last hurrah for this attacking group. They have to top 30 goals this year or very few if any will be back.

Looking Forward To…

Joao Morelli, who will be back in 2023.

The whole system above was clearly designed around Morelli as a false nine playing the two wide players into channels. Remove him, and Wanderers have a massive problem. He’s nigh-irreplaceable in this league.

They need to adapt, and fast. Fortunately, Sam Salter has kicked on nicely and gone from looking like a slightly-overwhelmed PLSQ player to a wide forward who can make dangerous runs into the box at good times — and, maybe more importantly, convert. If Wanderers start crossing the ball more — both Colin Gander and Zach Fernandez can really deliver — he will find them and he can score.

Somebody has to score.

Keep An Eye On…

Cory Bent can play that game, too, and had a really nice start to the year, too, then he got hurt. The back-line’s been shuffled nearly every game, again. Andre Rampersad is spending more and more time lying on the ground each game and can only be taped back together so many times. Peter Schaale’s hurt again. Jérémy Gagnon-Laparé, who is top three in the league in like every possession stat that matters, is in and out, too.

This is a fact of life for Wanderers, a product of the extra travel that eats into rest and recovery.

It also meant only fifteen players made the bench on Tuesday in Edmonton, which is embarrassing for both the club and the league as a whole — there was a non-zero chance of a goalkeeper playing out that night which is the hallmark of unserious Canadian soccer leagues gone by. We don’t need that.

Hart’s been readily rotating players this year, too. There’s only so much one can do. Guys go down. The club’s hard against the cap, with far too much of it going to attackers who aren’t on pace to top five goals.

Current: 5th

My Prediction: 5th

New Projecton: Not for long if they don’t start scoring

Pacific

Record: 5W – 3D – 3L

They’re kind of all over the place, Pacific. They started on an absolute bender, albeit mostly at home, now haven’t won in a month.

This coincides with Marco Bustos going cold as ice — he hasn’t done anything since April 24th. And look, that’s always kind of been the thing with Bustos. He’s brilliant when he’s on, but his approach to consistency is similar to his approach to two-footed play.

Pacific just about hung together until Aparicio finally went down with the nagging injury he’d been carrying. Then they started losing.

This is how it goes in CanPL. I don’t think Pacific are in any real trouble, but they’re a bit less fun to watch when they’re losing by several goals because, boy howdy, is that defense still not exactly airtight.

Key Stat: 25 “big chances”

This is a bit of an oddball stat — big chances are very loosely a chance (usually a shot) that has a very high expected-goals value, so there’s a lot of subjectivity in there — but it’s also what Pacific are all about, maybe even more so this year than in years past.

They don’t care how they get the ball forward. They’ll press for turnovers, they’ll play down the wings, or they’ll hit through-balls from midfield possession (if Aparicio is healthy). They have weapons for all those styles, which is what makes them so hard to defend, especially when they’re playing at Starlight. They get the ball and ram it right into the area before anyone can get set.

I actually think the best way to counter them is not to bother trying to establish a defensive shape, and press them right back, which is a hard thing to do on the road against anyone in Canada due to the fatigue of travel and especially hard to do when trying to defend Pacific. But not all defense has to be deep.

Forge did this last weekend, romping to a 3 – 0 win using the prototype they’d tested against Wanderers, cutting off midfield outlets and forcing the defense into killer turnovers. Valour have done it pretty consistently to Merriman’s men, and York did some of it in the cup.

You live by the big chance, you die by the big chance.

Looking Forward To…

When this team is healthy, I think they’re the best in CanPL.

Many of the reasons are above — they create chances like no one else in the league. Alejandro Diaz is leading the early golden boot race, and it is early but he’s also been really consistent, scoring even as his team dips in form, which is why I suspect they’ll bounce back soon enough. Goals are ultimately what matters.

Good news for the atmosphere out west, not that it needs a boost.

Points as well for signing and playing draft pick Luca Ricci when injuries hit.

Keep An Eye On…

But, travel. Pacific have to contend in the last-ever edition of the CONCACAF League, and a trip to Jamaica is on their horizon.

Now, that’s going to be a very large amount of fun in the home leg. Pacific always sell out for the big matches, and fans there have been waiting for that kind of game. I fully expect Pacific to go deep, and to do so with emphasis. They should beat Waterhouse, at the very least.

At what cost, though? They’re not the deepest team, especially at the back, and we’re starting to see what they look like without Aparicio, and it ain’t good.

I still think they’ll be around in the fall, and I think this group has a lot of long-term promise, too, but cup competitions can be tough, as they found out last season.

Current: 2nd

My Prediction: 2nd

New Projection: I forgot about CONCACAF when I wrote the previews

Valour

Record: 2W – 4D – 4L (Five played at home)

That is… not a great record.

I would really like to see IG Field become a bit more of a fortress. There’s no question the passion is there in the stands — it’s just the numbers, and the big, wide Prairie air sucking up all the noise.

It seems to really affect the home side. Valour have never won more than half their home dates in a given season; they were considerably worse in 2019 and are looking that way again this year. The change of manager hasn’t helped, at least in terms of giving fans something to cheer about.

I do think it’s helped on the field, but it hasn’t all clicked yet and, now that we’re through a little more than than a third of the season, teams are starting to figure out that you can run down the sides of Valour and have a field day, especially on that giant pitch in Winnipeg.

Key Stat: Sean Rea, 22 chances created

Rea has been a revelation — not that he wasn’t also very good in 2021, but he’s carrying this Valour team in 2022, with two goals and three assists in a hair under 800 minutes so far. That’s very good for a young attacking mid.

That number leads the league, ahead of Jérémy Gagnon-Laparé, Sebastian Gutierrez, and Diyaeddine Abzi, the latter of whom just got a move to Europe largely off his attacking play.

Rea is younger, can play anywhere in attacking midfield, has two good feet, and those chances are evenly split between open play and set-pieces.

Frankly, he should probably be in MLS. But I think the opportunity for him to lead a team at a lower level might be more valuable than spot minutes behind Djordje Mihailovic.

Either way, fair bet he ends up in Europe.

Looking Forward To…

I think this team can and will get better — but it’s looking like it may take time. There are obvious pieces missing, as there have been pretty much since inception, but I do think Phil dos Santos will try to add where he can in the summer — Valour have done well with mid-season additions in the past. Better than winter, anyway.

You can also see the pieces that are in place. Willy Akio was a very clever signing out of NCAA and he’s paying it back this year (he only has one goal but xG suggests he should probably have a couple more). Moses Dyer took a bit to settle into the league, but has become a solid second striker.

Then there’s Andrew Jean-Baptiste, battling back from yet another injury. Daryl Fordyce is playing as a deep midfielder because he can no longer run. Even then, these guys do good work for Valour — Fordyce is always in the right spot for an outlet and the team is completely different with Jean-Baptiste to start and snuff out plays.

They will need to replace those guys soon, though.

And they need a bigger piece, not necessarily a name so much as someone who can get fans out of their seats, to build a team around.

Keep An Eye On…

They are scoring — just a couple back from Cavalry and Forge. It’s that defending, particularly in any kind of space, that kills them.

The priority this summer, depending as always on what cap space is available, has to be a midfielder. They have tried: Josip Golubar got injured. Rafael Galhardo didn’t work out. Jose Galan is gone.

All of those guys were home-run swings — and not the kind of players that fit a dos Santos mode. What Valour need is a Sean Rea on the defensive side of the ball, a young-but-hungry kid who’s going to win everything.

They really miss Raph Ohin, but he isn’t that young, either.

Rea is on loan, of course. It’s quite likely they won’t have him next year, plus he may well miss time with the CanU20s. This is the trick of doing business in CanPL, especially if you rely on loanees.

Current: 6th

My Prediction: 4th

New Projection: Cautiously optimistic

York United

Record: 2W – 2D – 4L (Five played at home)

It’s the same record as Valour, eh?

I keep feeling, with York, that they’re beating themselves. To be fair, I often feel this about their off-field work as well, but they did get a win there this week selling Diyaeddine Abzi.4Albeit “sale” here is a bit misleading — they apparently got a token sum for him, but he was out-of-contract at the end of the year and could have signed a pre-contract as of July 1st. This kind of thing is the good-faith gesture of the football world and by no means should we turn up our noses at it, as that would be impolite. Just keep it in perspective, especially given York love to honk in misleading ways. Every time I’ve watched York this year, I come away thinking they’ve played pretty well, but the results… just never quite there. Yet.

They’re a young team, basically. They know that, I’m sure. They’ve taken to playing with a pretty much permanent chip on their shoulders, which I’m not sure helps (scroll up to Cavalry’s section) but it does get them moving in the right direction, maybe.

Key Stat: Six goals scored (but 11.6 xG!)

Sometimes the most obvious stat is the best stat.

I include the parenthetical to be fair, though, because that is the kind of split that should make you sit up and say, “yes, something weird is happening here.” Expected goals is not a perfect predictor — there is no cosmic law of the universe, even if you play in the centre of the universe, that makes goals-for = expected goals, and York would do well to remember that, and possibly go read Wanderers’ section, too (enjoy it, even!), because expected goals are models based on likelihoods, CanPL is a young league, that model is similarly new, there’s variability, etc., etc.

Point is, they probably should score a lot more than they do, and it’s not like this doesn’t match the eye test. It also matches the common-sense test: a guy like Lowell Wright should have some goals this year, and the fact he’s been in and out of the squad with U20 duty and some niggling injuries has limited him to 529 minutes.

One other interesting stat (there are so many, thanks to CanPL publicly sharing its data, which is a very good move!): York create far and away the most chances in the league, but are fifth in big chances. I am not well-versed enough in this stuff to go into tremendous detail on the exact differences there, but I can tell you from the eye test that York do not get enough good final balls into the box, and settle for way too many speculative shots….

Look Forward To…

More of Osaze De Rosario. I’ve mentioned him plenty — lots of people have — but it bears mentioning as well that he’s not necessarily even the most talent De Ro, Jr. — Adisa De Rosario is in TFC’s academy and the CanU20 set-up, and could easily end up in CanPL soon enough.

One thing about Osaze — about all the De Ros, actually — is that he’s something of a throw-back attacking mid, almost more a second striker. He’ll fashion chances, and indeed he has three assists, but I wouldn’t call him a playmaker, if you follow. Osaze actually passes more than Dwayne ever did, but he’s still a guy wants to use the ball when he gets it.

York need to find him in the spots he gets into, and stop relying on him to do everything. They’ve made a bad habit of that, over the years, as young teams tend to do. I had been — and still am — pleased with how much of a step Isaiah Johnston has taken this year in controlling the midfield, but he too tends to try and do too much.

Simplify, and find passes, and the net will bulge.

Keep An Eye On…

All of this would be a lot easier if York could sign an international player who could add precisely anything to their team.

I suppose it’s a credit they keep trying, and they have had some rotten luck. At the same time:

  • Matteo Hernandez’s discipline has been a problem
  • Lisandro Cabrera has missed half the year with an injury and… hasn’t looked great since returning
  • William Wallace, who looked really exciting for the 15 minutes he got, is now out for the season
  • Martin Graiciar never made an appearance due to injury
  • Sebastian Gutierrez has 1g/0a again
  • Daniel Obbekjaer played five minutes before getting released on mutual termination

Of all of them, Eduardo Jesus is going to have to do the most work because Abzi’s gone in a couple weeks. He hasn’t looked especially sure in his appearances thus far, but time may help there. Maybe Cabrera comes around, too, but I haven’t seen anything from him yet that suggests it.

It doesn’t help that Oliver Minatel, Max Ferrari, Michael Petrasso, and Austin Ricci have all been injured as well, Petrasso and Ricci chronically at this point.

The cap space freed up by Abzi’s departure will be enough to punt on at least one bigger signing — bigger than Robbie Kratt, who the club announced yesterday, who’s never played senior minutes. He’ll miss the first chunk of July with the U20s anyway.

There are issues in the back as well, particularly in giving away bad penalties, but if York can sign one decent international playmaker, they’ll be a playoff team.

Current: 5th

My Prediction: 6th

New Projection: Close enough

About Dylan Matthias 230 Articles
Captain of this motley crew. Formerly editor-in-chief at The Dalhousie Gazette, covering university soccer and Halifax news from a student perspective. Once a Vancouverite, always a Haligonian.

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