Everybody’s talking about Canadian wonder goals this week. This is more or less a good thing.
But I’m grumpy this week and in keeping with the grizzled sea captain shtick I’ve got going on aboard this ship, the contrarian in me thinks all three weren’t all that. Let’s evaluate:
- Borges v. Wanderers: This one’s the easiest. An Olimpico corner. You see it in men’s leagues sometimes, followed by exasperated yells from the showboat’s teammates when it doesn’t work. Of course, most of the time, the opposing goalkeeper isn’t semi-conscious. Well, one hopes. It’s a not a bad idea for Borges to try it here given Williams’ situation, but this should never beat a professional goalkeeper unless he’s just been hit square in the face by a shot. In which case, he should be substituted for concussion checks. Borges demonstrated why.
- Thomas v. Valour:
Like you’ve never seen it‼️
— Forge FC (@ForgeFCHamilton) July 22, 2019
Okay, yeah, the footwork. The little toe drag before the chip is actually pretty good, showing good awareness that time can be an ally–good strikers often slow down. But you know where you can see this? Every park in the country. Why? Because superstar dribbling moves against tired, moribund defenders aren’t that hard. It’s 43 degrees at pitch level in that clip. Thomas played about twenty minutes in it. The guys he beat played 90+. Professional defenders should never be beat like this; that they were says a lot about Valour’s problems. Just remember that Valour were a goal down, pushing forward desperately. They’re overaggressive here, and too many guys are way gone mentally. Thomas does well to take advantage, but that’s it.
- Aparicio v. Pacific: This is my pick of the lot. Nobody in purple closes down, but it takes a level of ambition and, in the end, technique from Aparicio to hit a shot that hard from that distance and still beat a decent goalkeeper. That technique has always been a part of Aparicio’s game; the ambition hasn’t. Remember, too, that Pacific are playing without Alexander Gonzalez, their usual defensive midfielder who would have got this no problem. This was a learning experience for a young midfield, and also hell of a shot.
Now go wipe that deck ’til it shines. And check the knots again, young pup.
Cavalry (W 1 – 0 v. York)
One quirk with Cavalry is their schedule.
While the schedule’s been hammering other teams, Cavalry are yet again in another fairly easy stretch–they haven’t played a midweek league game since June 26th, and that was leading into the Canada Day Monday.
Thanks to Forge, they now play only two games in the next three weeks. Some of this is due to show-jumping at Spruce Meadows. Some of it is, frankly, just good luck1Even their road trips have been mostly linear, across the country or back, rather than the back-and-forth jumps we’ve seen other teams do.. You need that sometimes to be good.
You’d think the schedule would condense, but you’d be wrong. They play five games in August, which could become seven with a win in the Voyageur’s Cup. And the schedule elongates a bit in the true fall–Cavalry play only four times in September and October.
That is a massive advantage.
It shouldn’t take away from their performances, however. York pushed them hard on Sunday and Cavalry didn’t break. They’ve been extremely good at shutting teams down once they’re spotted a lead.
They created only a fairly modest ten attempts at goal against York, and hit only three of them. It’s one of the only times this year they’ve been outshot at home. They lost more duels again, as they did last week in Halifax. And they needed a couple nice saves from Marco Carducci to hang on late.
Some of that could be fatigue–Mason Trafford, Oliver Minatel, and Dom Zator all went down with cramp at various stages of the game–or it could just a slightly off night, by Cavalry standards.
It’s on to the cup now. I’d wondered if MLS teams might expose Cavalry’s tendency to play one-goal games, but it doesn’t look like Vancouver is capable of that. They might come out with something to prove though–this is a team that can’t take many more hits to its pride. I expect it’ll be a battle on Wednesday night, but Cavalry have shown they can get results on the road.
(Next: @ Vancouver in the cup on July 24th; @ Valour on July 27th)
York9 (L 0 – 1 @ Cavalry)
I thought this was York’s best game of the season.
Finishing let them down, but they created multiple excellent chances against the league’s best team, and they did it on the road, on short rest. If Kyle Porter scores any of the three sitters he had, this could have been a massive upset.
Instead, it felt a touch like a repeat of Cavalry’s home opener: a preventable early goal doomed York9, this time with Dan Gogarty spiking the ball into his own net. Somehow.
🔥 JUST 10 MINUTES IN AND THE FIRST GOAL IS FOR @CPLCavalryFC 👏
📺 Tune in to https://t.co/hishXepRT3
🐎 CAV 1 – 0 YOR 👽
— OneSoccer (@onesoccer) July 21, 2019
I still think York9 are built to be a punishing, route-one team full of tough tacklers down the middle and big men up front. That’s becoming the go-to strategy against Cavalry, and Jim Brennan went that route in Calgary rather than play the faster, fluid game he’s had York play, to some effect, most of the year.
I don’t think it’s coincidence that Simon Adjei was more involved, that Porter got the chances he’s mostly failed to get this year, that Ryan Telfer looked better when he was playing mostly as a wide forward. If Michael Cox could manage to get healthy, I think this is the kind of game York can win.
Whether they can do it consistently is another matter. But they’re set up well for a similar smash and grab midweek in Montreal. The Impact are not as, uh, impactful without Ignacio Piatti2Who they apparently want to keep through 2020 despite diminishing pace and near-constant injury., and Remi Garde hasn’t seemed particularly happy with any of his other wingers this year, with Okwonkwo, Browne, Taider, Harry Novillo (who’s now gone), Clement Bayiha, and Mathieu Choiniere all seeing time–plus they’ve been rumoured to sign more.
If Anthony Jackson-Hamel is on his game, Montreal should have enough firepower and finish to overcome the lack of identity out wide. Jackson-Hamel hasn’t been at all consistent this year, but it’s the Canadian Championship and that always gets the CanCon going.
If York sit deep, it forces the Impact to open up. Montreal do not do this well at all. That’s where the pace of Telfer, Adjei, and likely Gattas (who was rested for most of Sunday’s game) might tell.
(Next: @ Montreal in the cup on July 24th; v. Halifax on July 27th)
Halifax (L 0 – 2 @ Forge; L 1 – 3 @ Pacific)
The final CanPL team still active in the cup, and the least likely to get out through the third round. Wanderers could use a storming start to the midweek match against Ottawa on the back of a terrible week away from home.
This was never likely to be a stretch where Halifax picked up a lot of points. A sweltering day in Hamilton and then the cross-country trek is just too much on tired bodies and tired minds. They played like it against Forge and, though better in Victoria with a less experimental line-up, still ran out of gas after battling back once.
Losing can become a habit, though, and something has looked slightly off about this team since the hotly contested loss against Ottawa. At the end of that game, Zela Langwa had a noticeably heated conversation with Stephen Hart. He hasn’t been seen since. Neither was he with the other scratches in the Wanderers’ box the following game against Cavalry.
Alex De Carolis has been an able deputy, but he doesn’t offer as much raw energy as the more physical Langwa. Elliot Simmons also went down with a knock in that Ottawa game and his ability to link play from defense to attack has been sorely missed. Elton John and Andre Rampersad haven’t been able to control the ball enough for Stephen Hart’s liking–something he mentions after almost every game.
Mentality is a really tricky thing to manage. Whatever happened against the Fury, Wanderers have a chance to put it right soon, and need to, lest any lingering unpleasantness fester. With a short roster and intense travel, they can’t afford to have guys missing out.
(Next: @ Ottawa in the cup on July 24th; @ York on July 27th)
Forge (W 2 – 0 v. Halifax; W 3 – 1 v. Valour)
This was a stretch where Forge needed full points, and they got them.
Both these games were winnable. Neither team was in great form, and as was pointed out many times by Bobby Smyrniotis and co. after the Valour game, their possession style helped mitigate the heat that played a role in both their games this past week.
All hail the possession.
Don’t say it too loud, but what actually worked is that Emery Welshman broke out of whatever funk he’d been in, and Forge were a lot better about releasing him into space, particularly against Valour. Add in a healthy Tristan Borges, and you get some pretty nice football.
The system has its place in that, too. Forge are moving faster and with more purpose than they did earlier in the season, which means they’re not getting turned over as often in central midfield, which means they’re not giving teams as many chances to run right past Betrand Owundi.
I will be very curious to see how they fare in Guatemala and, should they get there, Honduras. This is not territory that has been kind to Canadian players over the years3Though we’ve had much more noticeable success in club competitions.. But then, Forge aren’t necessarily that similar to yer typical Canadian team. They have skill to compete. They even have that flair and bite–Borges scored an Olimpico and yeah Jan-Michael Williams was concussed but that he tried it is very, very CONCACAF, and then Bekker tried it again later. Kadell Thomas scored the chip goal that everyone’s drooling over.
Their system of play is hopelessly naive, especially for CONCACAF road games, but they managed to win on an apocalyptic pitch already this year, in Calgary. And you know what? Most CONCACAF teams are pretty naive and overconfident. Most have more skill than sense. I expect this to be all kinds of fun, and I think Forge will show well, too.
(Next: @ Edmonton on July 27th)
Valour (D 0 – 0 @ Edmonton; L 1 – 3 @ Forge)
The good news is that their new signings didn’t play.
That, and Tyler Attardo scored again.
Michele Paolucci, whatever he turns out to be, is 33, which means this is the first bit of sensible multi-year planning Valour has done. Paolucci can provide the foundation while Attardo continues developing, then is out of the way when Attardo, hopefully, becomes a regular.
While centre-forward was the most immediate need, this team’s problems are far more fundamental, as the results this week suggest. They still lack balance in deep midfield–José Galan was brought in to help with that, but he’s really just another playmaker, and Valour have about ten. What they really need is someone to break up play and distribute. If Rob Gale is wedded to the 4-2-3-1/3-4-3 hybrid–the key part being the wide players–then he’s stuck needing someone who can both regain and use the ball without a lot of support deep. Raphael Ohin has shown flashes of promise, but he isn’t that.
That was the issue before the team stopped playing at the end of the Forge game.
“It’s not a crisis, before you ask me that rubbish question,” said Rob Gale afterwards.
Giving that kind of answer conveys a lot more than merely being asked the question.
Rob Gale is hot.
Probably quite literally.
But beginning to see more and more of Valour’s internal issues through the cracks.
— The Merchant Sailor (@merchant_sailor) July 20, 2019
This team badly needs confidence, but it feels like more than that. They’ve had runs of form this year, particularly early on, and that hasn’t helped. They still jettisoned Stephen Hoyle and Gale still lit up the team at the end of the spring season.
So either he was massively overreacting or something is very wrong internally.
A match against Cavalry is probably not what they wanted. I’d expect–hope?–that Galan and Paolucci are available for that one, and as with Wanderers, it needs to be a big performance.
(Next: v. Cavalry on July 27th)
Edmonton (D 0 – 0 v. Valour)
Nobody saw this game, so commenting on it is going to be a bit difficult.
The adverse weather conditions severely affected the live broadcast setup to a point we deemed unsafe for our crew to continue working in.
We sincerely apologize and will be issuing compensation through our App to those affected! pic.twitter.com/Ct4JFA6WBk
— OneSoccer (@onesoccer) July 18, 2019
I really wanted to see someone at One Soccer put a face to this apology. It’s come to the point where I think fans of the league deserve someone to say, “Hey, this is what we’re trying to do, this is what happened, here’s what we’re working on.” Everyone can understand that sometimes things don’t go as planned–nothing about that game in Edmonton went as planned–as long as it doesn’t look like you’re trying to spin it or excuse it. The league is what it is–just don’t pretend it’s something its not. Canadian soccer is honest, at its core.
What we do know is that the game was played in torrential conditions, twice interrupted for lightning (and once for fireworks), and the draw is probably not bad, for either side, given that.
At this point, Clarke Stadium is where all the weird stuff happens, and personally, I kind of like that. Let’s not sugarcoat: it’s not a great venue. Anything that adds to its already sorta unique personality just gives it some charm–more quirky than actually awful.
The result ended a long winning run for Edmonton, but they get some time to rest before hosting what will likely be a heavily rotated Forge squad, followed by two more after that at Clarke. This is a make-or-break stand for the Eddies. If they pick up points, the people (like me) who keep pointing out the underlying numbers and winking at each other like drunk data managers at an advanced stats conference will finally have to be quiet. They’ll also be in with a real shout for the fall title.
(Next: v. Forge on July 27th)
Pacific (L 1 – 2 @ York; W 3 – 1 v. Halifax)
Every week I feel like I have to reach for positives with this team. Not this week!
All of a sudden, Terran Campbell’s got seven goals. Victor Blasco scores another free kick. And… did Pacific manage to hold a lead? (Yes, at the second attempt, they did.)
Now, Campbell hasn’t been wildly consistent this year (or any other time), so there’s some requirement to keep it going another few weeks before we really start talking long-term. But he was absolutely the best striker in the league this week. Meanwhile, Marcus Haber is doing interviews with One Soccer ace reporters
He hasn’t played since June, and I can’t make an argument that he should be playing ahead of Campbell–who remember, is 20.
This is exactly what Pacific wanted. It took time, but they’ve now got a couple youngsters beginning to hum a little bit. José Hernandez came on and had a hand in the build-up to Pacific’s third, which was really a very smart move to take advantage of Matt Arnone waiting to be waved back on. Zach Verhoven ran some very good miles. Alessandro Hojabrpour was steady in possession and defensively responsible all at the same time.
What Pacific really need is a young centre-back. They didn’t bring in anyone young there, which was a bit surprising, and the guy they went out and got–Emile Legault, as been either injured or iffy. He’s now injured again. More worryingly, Hendrik Starostzik limped off against Wanderers. Kadin Chung pretty obviously popped a hamstring.
There have been a lot of games this week demonstrating the futility of this year’s schedule. Pacific were forced into using all three subs on injuries. So were Halifax on Wednesday. Cavalry were close on Sunday.
It’s toughest on young players.
The good news is Pacific are into ten days off–another of the several lengthy breaks they’ve had this year (seriously, this schedule is weird)–before playing Valour in Winnipeg, which might be a chance at their first road win. Then they’re off for ten more days, so Chung and Staro might have some time to get healthy.
(Next: @ Valour on July 31st)
Reporter of the week
They do teach you not to be the story. So it’s fitting that not once, during play, has a sideline reporter actually spoken up while their name flashes by. Props to Nick Taylor for reminding us that sideline reports in soccer are a gimmick anyway.
What I’m watching next week
Voyageur’s Cup! I have a pretty good feeling that Cavalry are going to make a bit of history, and a bad as their dominance is for CanPL’s competitiveness, dynastic teams are great fun in cups, especially against higher-level teams.
Honestly, with so very many league games all crammed together, the cup takes on a little more importance. And that’s as it should be–this is the trophy that just keeps finding a way to matter despite all odds.
I’ll have the liveblog going as usual on Wednesday, too. We weigh anchor at 8pm.