Cavanalysis: Week Six in CanPL

Empty seats in the main grandstand at Cavalry's home opener.

Is this thing already over?

For the record, I don’t think Cavalry have won the spring season yet–too many road games ahead–but they’re definitely close.

That’s not especially good news for the league, really. David Clanachan’s talked about incentivizing teams to finish second, but given the league still doesn’t quite know how the final is actually going to work1I know I linked that last week. I’m still boggling at it. it’s hard to find much solace in the spring season being effectively over with more than a month left to play.

In theory, the team that accrues the most points over the season would make the final if Cavalry were to win in both the spring and the fall. But given that their pressing system can lead to over-fatigue and that they’ll likely rotate some younger guys in through the fall, I doubt that’ll happen.

So we’re left with a bit of anticlimax. Unless Cavalry start dropping road games, in which case I’ll change the name of this blog to “I Told You So.”

Cavalry (W 2 – 1 v. Pacific in the cup; @ W 2 – 0 v. Wanderers)

Win your home games. That’s all you can do. Cavalry have had an easier start to the season than other teams, but they’ve also looked very, very good in the process.

I wrote a big thing about their system and the way Tommy Wheeldon Jr. has approached the season pragmatically, so this blurb will be short.

They’re off this week, too–another favour in the schedule as they get a bit more rest and a chance to get José Escalante and Mason Trafford healthy. Both made the bench against Halifax, but neither were needed.

From June 11th to June 26th, they’ll play five games in 15 days, including three cross-country flights on short rest. All with other teams starting to fill out their schedules and maybe catch up.

(Next: @ Forge in the cup on June 5th)

FC Edmonton (bye)

Right now it’s all light jazz for the Eddies.

Maybe they need something for the playlist, since they’ll be spending a bunch of time in airports? They play away to Forge tomorrow, then have two home games that are unfortunately interrupted by another flight to Ontario to face York in the cup.

I actually wouldn’t be surprised if Edmonton left a fair few starters out of that game and gave it over to some of their academy kids, who are currently looking pretty good in the Alberta Major Soccer League.

Eddies first-team signing Prince Amanda had the second goal in that package, by the way.

I don’t necessarily think Jeff Paulus will rest players. Maybe they should, at least if they want to stay in the running for the CONCACAF League–wins over Forge and Valour this week would put them top for that, and I’d like to see CanPL’s oldest team get the first CONCACAF berth.

But the Voyageur’s Cup holds the promise of a tie with the Montreal Impact. Decisions, decisions.

Tough results in May mean the Eddies might want to focus on one of those secondary objectives. They’re not totally out of the running to catch Cavalry–they’ve only played three games–but the home draw against Pacific and the loss at Cavalry are going to hurt in the league table.

More broadly, I’m not sure this is a team that’s ever going to be adept at scoring goals, and cup play at least lets you play for penalties if the long throws don’t work out.

(Next: @ Forge on May 29th; v. Valour on June 1st)

Pacific (L 1 – 2 @ Cavalry in the cup)

The cup match was over before it started, with Pacific down 0 – 2 from their home leg. Marcus Haber scored in his own net a few minutes in and that was that. (He did, at least, put one in the other net, too.)

They needed the bye week this weekend, and Michael Silberbauer has said, “We’re going to take our time now to try to correct some of the things that haven’t been working and try to see if we can also be a little bit better in the things that have been working.”

There are, unfortunately, a lot of things that haven’t been working. In more positive news, Hendrik Starostzik now has at least the beginnings of a return date–downside is it might not be until the middle of the month.

He won’t cure all their problems, but he might make them harder to break down. That’s more often how they’ve approached games lately, and it worked in Edmonton well enough to get a 0 – 0.

They’re out of the running for the spring season unless they get a big result in the return leg of the cross-country derby. Wanderers are not looking like a particularly confident group right now, but they have been better at home and that flight (which involves multiple stops) is brutal. At least Pacific won’t be doing it on short rest.

(Next: @ Halifax on June 1st)

Halifax (L 0 – 1 v. Vaughan in the cup; L 0 – 2 @ Cavalry)

I’m actually not too bothered by the losses. The Vaughan loss was strategic–Wanderers led on away goals, so went through anyway. They were never likely to beat Cavalry on the road, on short rest.

I’m more worried about the team’s confidence, which seems to be ebbing. “There were a lot of nervous players out there today and I can’t put my finger on it why they’re nervous,” Stephen Hart told the league website after the Cavalry game.

A lot of it looks like fatigue to me. This team has a lot of USPORTs players, guys who, while they are used to fixture congestion, are also used to a short schedule with less travel.

Hart set them out to bunker in both games, albeit more so in Calgary. When that’s the gameplan, you can’t give up preventable goals–but the one they gave up in the first half Saturday was itself a product of fatigue. Slow presses, slow reactions, not winning second balls. These things happen away from home.

Bad news for Wanderers: this is a busy stretch. Better news: they finally play at home, and they play beatable teams in York, then Pacific. I’m sure the players want the rematch against Valour, too, after coming agonizingly close to getting a result in Winnipeg.

That should serve as motivation. I wonder if there’s a bit of a leadership void, though, when Chakib Hocine and Luis Perea don’t play. Both missed out through injury again last weekend, and without them, Wanderers are a very, very young team–the back line alone, which is actually mostly a strength for Halifax, is Zela Langwa (21), Chrisnovic N’sa (20), Peter Schaale (22), and Andre Bona (29). When Sukunda, who’s 23, plays, it’s even younger, though he’s hurt now too after a nasty challenge from Sergio Camargo.

If they win the home games, they’re still in contention, at least as much as any non-Cavs team is. It’s easy to see Wanderers having nine points by the end of the week.

Slip up at home, and it’s probably more about the cup and the fall season from here on out. Neither of which would be a horrible thing for a young group that has looked like it’s getting there game by game.

(Next: v. York on May 29th; v. Pacific on June 1st; v. Valour on June 5th in the cup)

Valour (bye)

Lots of teams off this week in CanPL.

Valour really, really needed it, though. It was getting touch and go whether they could field a team for a bit.

I’ve not seen anything on the injuries since they played Forge almost two weeks ago. Valour are generally one of the quieter operations in the league, which I like, but we have to assume questions still loom over players like Stephen Hoyle, Michael Petrasso, and Adam Mitter.

The issue tying those together has been some poor defending. In theory–in theory–they should get a bit of a break in playing Edmonton. The Eddies just don’t create much and threaten mostly on long throws, which Skylar Thomas should clear. He’s struggled, though, early in his CanPL career. The partnership that should have been one of the best lock-down tandems in the league, hasn’t been.

Valour feels like a team that, like Wanderers and maybe York, might be waiting for the fall season a bit at this point. They still have cup and CONCACAF matches to play for, but they’re five games down in the league, have played three of them at home, and only have one win. I still like a lot of what they do, but the results haven’t come.

This is a big stretch for their character, too, not just their position in the table.

(Next: @ Edmonton on June 1st; @ Halifax on June 5th in the cup)

York 9 (W 1 – 0 v. Blainville in the cup; L 0 – 2 v. Forge)

York Lions Stadium, which is itself a fairly new venue for the Lions, has not been a smashing success so far.

The club did the right thing after an all-around mess last weekend, issuing fans a free match to make up for the one lightning (and some confused security staff) ruined.

At some point, they need to win a game for the fans, though. It just hasn’t looked likely. Everything York did so well in the inaugural game has disappeared with Joseph di Chiara, and there’s still no word on when his hip problem might clear up.

I watched more of York’s game against Forge than I wanted to (thanks, OneSoccer!) and… this is a very Jimmy Brennan exchange:

Brennan’s always worn his heart on his sleeve, so it’s no surprise his emotion shines through, but York weren’t the better team on the day. They played straight into those counters, bypassing the midfield and letting Forge set easy rotations.

Yeah, they had 20+ shots, but only five hit the net. Rodrigo Gattas, who has not looked like a particularly great signing for York, blootered several of them miles out of the stadium. Ryan Telfer was probably York’s biggest threat–Simon Adjei’s been quiet, and Kyle Porter looks like his offensive game died somewhere in the southeast US.

I don’t think it’s all bad, and I suspect Brennan is trying to talk his team’s confidence back up with his comments, but this team still doesn’t look like a coherent collection of parts. I’m looking forward to seeing them live, since sometimes that effect can be created by squinting at teams across a running track.

They’ll need to find some way to not just control the ball, but prevent Halifax breaking against them.

(Next: @ Halifax on May 29th, v. Edmonton in the cup on June 5th)

Forge (W 2 – 0 @ York)

Bobby Smyrniotis’ men have been better without him.

I don’t know if cause and effect quite align there, but we’ll see this weekend as they’ll finally have him back.

I will say that Peter Reynders did have Forge playing a lot more direct and a lot more pragmatically in their wins against Valour and now York. I’m sure Smyrniotis was involved in preparing that, though, and now they’ve moved away from the Man City-esque approach that very much did not work, they’re getting results.

York let them into a track meet and Forge welcomed it. A month ago, it had thrown them off. This time, they happily bypassed York’s midfield on the dinky pitch and got right at their shaky defense. Nathan Ingham was yet again brilliant, but he can’t do everything.

They threatened off set-pieces, too, which had been missing. Tristan Borges netted his second of the year, and it was a gorgeous goal off a corner:

York’s defense is utterly asleep there, but that’s inventive and incisive. Take the chances you’re given.

It was the best of both approaches for Forge, really–they weren’t just direct for directness’ sake; they ran in behind York, leaving Telfer in particular exposed, and they did a better job finding their central players in more promising positions. Having Kyle Bekker helped, and there’s now no question for me that this is a team that needs a player like Anthony Novak pinning defenders back in the box. This could have been four or five – nil.

Forge have two home games now, then a trip to Spruce Meadows. Win the home games and that June 22nd match in Calgary could be much more interesting than it looks now, not least because they see each other three times in the next three weeks thanks to the cup. Smyrniotis also has Voyageur’s Cup games to think about, but for the sake of the league’s spring run-in let’s hope he puts out some of his cadre of young talent for those games.

(Next: v. Edmonton on May 29th; @ Cavalry on June 5th in the cup)

Apology of the week

One Soccer did it again. After Bumbury and #wipethelens, they managed to cut off 25 minutes of Cavalry – Wanderers because… who knows?

Charitably, I’ll assume they just don’t have anyone in a control room watching the streams. The York – Forge game was, unfortunately given the weather, being broadcast live on CBC, and One Soccer just simulcast that to their three separate web streams, leading to….

Maybe non-apology of the week would be more apt?

They’ve taken past blunders fairly graciously, which is nice, but at this point I’m getting my money’s worth watching what’ll go wrong each week as much as the action on the pitch.

In all seriousness, though, the league needs better if it wants to hook casual sports fans.

What I’ll be watching this week

Three Wanderers games–and I’ll be liveblogging at least the first two of those, just in case One Soccer decides to switch away again. Check back right here tomorrow evening for Wanderers v. York (and remember there’s a chat-room attached to the blog, too).

It’s a busy weekend, too, with a double-header on June 1st as well. All teams involved need the points–Forge and Cavalry are off, so this is where Wanderers and Edmonton, in particular, will make up some of those games in hand. So this week all eyes really should be on what Wanderers will manage at home.

About Dylan Matthias 244 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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