The Fall portion of the 2019 Canadian Premier League campaign is inching towards its natural conclusion, with a weekend triple-header providing some definitive developments in the table in Week 21. Meanwhile, the 2019 Canadian Championship reaches its midway mark, with the Montreal Impact taking a 1-0 lead into BMO Field for the second leg on Wednesday. Forge FC’s own mid-week result also saw the club reach a milestone mark.
Here’s how it all went down in Week 21 of the CPL season.
7. Forge’s job half-way done
A 1-1 draw isn’t usual cause for celebration, but Hamilton’s own Forge FC will look back on last Wednesday’s dramatic last-minute tie against HFX Wanderers FC with some appreciation, as that single point, coupled with other results on the weekend, secured at least second place in the cumulative standings, which could play a role in getting the team over the finish line at season’s end.
Not content, of course, with conceding the Fall to Cavalry, Forge can take solace knowing that, should they fail to wrap up this second stanza, then a berth in the 2019 CPL Championship is still theirs to celebrate, as no other team would be able to surpass Forge’s 44 total points after 22 matches. That means Forge has one foot in the door for a home-and-away meeting against Spring winner Cavalry, though it’s not wrapped up quite yet – the two teams are currently deadlocked at 25 points each over 12 Fall matches; they meet twice more in their remaining six tilts.
The only way Cavalry takes on another team is if they and Forge lose the Fall title to a third outfit; that means Edmonton, York9, Pacific, and Valour will need to be in tip-top form down this final stretch, and hope other results go their respective ways. The only team out of contention? HFX Wanderers FC, who was eliminated from the race after a 0-0 draw with Valour.
6. Impact’s job also half-way done
The Montreal Impact also have one hand on the Voyageurs Cup, following a 1-0 win over Toronto FC at Stade Saputo on Wednesday courtesy of, you guessed it – Ignacio Piatti.
Leg 1 of this 401 Derby-infused finale proved fairly straightforward for the home team, of course; but that was no certainty pre-match, with Montreal head coach Wilmer Cabrera facing plenty of questions regarding his team’s form, functionality, and formation. As such, a strong showing against rivals Toronto would do more than set up the Impact to win the tournament – it would bring the team back on track, right when it counts.
TFC coach Greg Vanney questioned Montreal’s preparedness after the match, too, musing: “When you’re going through years that are up and down and are a little bit challenging, you find yourself trying to convince yourself that you’re ready for a game like this, when, really, you’re just trying to find where that stable bottom is to build off of it.”
Clearly, Montreal had no trouble convincing anyone of anything, prompting Cabrera to reflect on his short tenure thus far:
“It was really important for us to take this heavy load that we’re carrying off our shoulders after two losses at home,” Cabrera said. “Nobody likes that. We didn’t like it, and we were feeling really bad about it, so today, it was a very good opportunity, in the first leg of the final, to try and go out and shake that off our shoulders. The players did that, they did it well, and it’s a final, so it’s a tough rival. We balanced things in a better way. We didn’t concede any goals, which is very important for us, and we scored, after a few games (without). So, that is very positive. That gave us the possibility to continue believing in what we’re doing.”
Montreal will hope to carry that belief all the way to a trophy on Wednesday at BMO Field (7:30 p.m. ET, available on OneSoccer).
5. So, about that 2020 season
The 2019 season is dwindling down, yes, but you could hardly fault the league’s head coaches for looking a touch down the line to next season, especially during this last run of matches.
As teams find themselves out of Fall contention over the next few weeks, expect to see changes to lineups as players who weren’t necessarily starters throughout the season try and impress with meaningful minutes in an effort to return for 2020. It’s why Jeff Paulus was willing to experiment with his team against York9 FC, and why Cavalry continues to field differing lineups with each passing match. It’s why Stephen Hart’s HFX team will likely take on a new complexion on the weekend, too.
“It’s about guys playing for their jobs now,” York9 FC head coach Jimmy Brennan said, of his team’s final stretch. “Who’s ready to make that jump and be a part of the team next year? What players do we need to bring in to make the squad even stronger? It’s about the process. That’s where we are for the last six games, to continue to build this team.”
Expect to see plenty of newer faces on the field over the course of these next few months, as such.
4. Valour’s social media guy
This isn’t really a profound breakdown of any particular talking point.
Instead, let’s just take a second to acknowledge Valour’s social media guy, who has been a shining light of positivity and charm even in dire circumstances.
… Cavalry FC attacker Jose Escalante? The Honduran footballer turned heads on Sunday with a brace against Pacific FC, but caught our attention for his second goal – a sublime, curling effort struck with his left foot, about as cool as you’d like. Escalante, who previously played for C.D. Olimpia, and also enjoyed a loan spell at MLS outfit Houston Dynamo, has been an electric addition to the Cavalry attack, and his versatility has given Tommy Wheeldon Jr. options across the park, too. He’s a difference maker, in a league that is very accommodating to individual heroics.