After a busy last few years, centre back David Edgar is excited to be back in Canada, as he and Forge take a narrow lead into the second leg of the first-ever CPL Finals.
There was a rush of excitement in Hamilton over the weekend.
As they both convened at the aptly named Tim Hortons Field for a few days, Forge FC and Cavalry’s players had some extra jump in their step, as a few had looked like they dipped into some brew in the birthplace of the famous Canadian coffee chain. With the preparations to play in the first-ever Canadian Premier League final underway, it was an exciting few days for Canadian soccer, a process that will soon repeat itself in a few days with the second leg.
For one player, 32-year-old David Edgar, it was an especially exciting time. As he (fittingly) held a cup of Tim Horton’s brew, shortly after having participated in Forge’s official press conference, he shared with BTSVancity what it meant to be playing in this final.
“Yeah, it’s exciting,” Edgar said to BTSVancity on Friday. “You feel the buzz around the place, the build-up to it, (everyone’s) making a big deal of it and it’s pretty special to see.”
“It’s almost emotional (for me), as I’ve put so much into Canadian soccer, I feel it over the years, and to be a part of this culmination of the first year (of CPL), it’s pretty exciting.”
With a national team career that spans over 9 years, without mentioning his professional career of over 14 years, Edgar has seen a few things in his day. Having played for a handful of historic clubs in the English footballing pyramid, including the famed Newcastle United and current Premier League mainstays Burnley, he can say he has participated in some of the most intense atmospheres in England.
He is fresh off his latest stint in the country who’s national football team is nicknamed the “Three Lions”, where he just returned after making his second foray into the English game. Having spent time there from the age of 14 back in 2001 to the age of 29 in 2016, it’s a place that he holds close to his heart. After coming home to Canada earlier than he would have hoped 3 years ago, it was a chance for him to see where he stood in the spectre of English football.
“I think me going back to England was more of a sort of a test to myself, to see if I still had the opportunity over there,” Edgar said. “I kind of left England and I wasn’t sure if I was ready to leave at the time when I came back.”
“So I had to do that for myself, but it was always sort of a plan to come back, and I think the way it’s worked out has been fantastic.”
It’s been a whirlwind couple of years for the Canadian International, who arrived in Vancouver during the summer of 2016, where he slowly established himself as a regular in the Whitecaps lineup. As he adjusted to the league, it was expected that he become a key piece for the Caps in 2017, but then it all went up in smoke, as he tore out his MCL in a hit-and-run accident while on vacation in Arizona that winter.
He missed the entirety of the 2017 season, running out the last year of his deal in Vancouver as he did rehab work with their medical staff, while honing the leadership skills that should make him a coach when the day he hangs up the boots comes. After his contract in Vancouver ran out, up next was a pair short loan stints to Nashville SC and the Ottawa Fury in the USL, both over the course of the 2018 season, before he made the move to Hartlepool in March of this year.
He played a couple of months with the 5th division English side, aiding them in what ultimately turned out to be an unsuccessful bid for promotion to the 4th division. Out of contract once again, Forge came calling, and Edgar got a chance to participate in the first-ever CPL season.
“Yeah, to be honest, I haven’t spoken much about it but to be playing at all after what happened is pretty special,” Edgar said honestly of the whirlwind last couple of years.
“So I’m proud of myself. Just happy to be back and playing, and even more special being a part of this, as I say I’ve been involved Canadian soccer for a long time. So, to be a part of this inaugural final is special.”
He has been part of some special moments already, having played a big role in locking down the backline en route to Forge’s surprise run in the CONCACAF League. In an upstart performance, where Forge took out the Guatemalan champions Antigua GFC before narrowly falling to Honduran giants CD Olimpia, it announced the CPL as a league to watch.
On top of fellow finalists Cavalry’s run to the semi-final’s of the Voyageurs Cup, where they dropped Pacific FC and Forge before eliminating the Vancouver Whitecaps in a huge upset in the quarters, it’s been a good summer for the CPL. While Cavalry only narrowly fell to another MLS side in the Montreal Impact during the next round, it was all part of another landmark moment for the league, and it’s no surprise to see these two sides do battle in this CPL Final.
Those results also proved to be key for another big reason, as they very likely culminated in the first set of Canadian Premier League players getting called up to the Canadian National team. First, it was Cavalry goalkeeper Marco Carducci in September, before Edmonton’s Amer Didic got the nod in October, as they became the first-ever CPL player and outfield player to don the red and white respectively.
“What the CPL is certainly creating for our domestic players, and particularly our young players like Marco (Carducci) … are those opportunities to play regularly, and to grow and develop,” Herdman said to John Molinaro, head of content for the Canadian Premier League, back in September.
For Edgar, who wants to get back into the national team fold, it’s been a good way for him to get his name back out there, as he was surely considered along with Didic and Cavalry’s Dominick Zator for the last squad. Given that the US game overlapped with a huge Cavalry vs Forge clash the day after, it makes sense that the latter two stayed with their clubs, while Didic got a much-deserved honour anyways.
But for the future of the National Team, Edgar still looks to be one to watch, and he can use this CPL Final as a chance to showcase himself.
“For sure, you’ve seen that John’s already brought in two players,” Edgar said of Herdman’s relationship with the CPL. “He’s not afraid, and knowing the staff in the national team like I do, they’re watching. They’re watching the league and they’ll be watching the final, if not here at the final, so it’s definitely something that they respect and they’re keeping an eye on.”
And Edgar certainly put up a performance for them to keep an eye on, helping Forge keep a clean sheet in a narrow 1-0 victory, winning 4 of his 5 duels, while adding 4 clearances. Add in 85 strong passes, completed at an 85% clip, along with his crossbar rattling volley early in the second half, and it was a complete performance from the veteran. As Forge dominated the game territorially, with 70% possession, while keeping them to a measly shot and target, Edgar, and his partner Daniel Krutzen, gave the Hamilton-based side a good lead heading into the second leg.
So while he will surely have a good talk with Herdman after the finals, as the Canadian coach should be likely to take in that pivotal second leg, he remains focused on getting the job done in the second leg. Forge looked good at home, and they used the perfect crisp fall conditions to get a job done. Should they have won by more? Absolutely, but in a final, where margins are often slim, they’ll take the slim lead to Calgary, knowing that they have a huge advantage if they can nick an away goal.
In a city where the conditions promise to be frigid, despite the weather likely being at what Cavalry coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr described as a tropical 0 degrees Celcius, it will be in Forge’s favour to have that lead. If any snow comes as is possible, it would make an already tough pitch even tougher to play on, and with Cavalry being as good as they are at home, it would make an already daunting task even more difficult for Forge.
But no matter the conditions, Edgar is ready for whatever comes his sides way. As he calmly pointed out, bad weather means bad conditions for both teams, so if they can keep a positive mindset, they can overcome that barrier. And if it does snow, well at least it’ll be great for TV, giving people a very Canadian advert of the Canadian game.
After a year full of memorable moments, it would just be another one for the memory books, so why not have it be a typical Canadian one?
“You can’t get more Canadian than that then really can you? But it’s gonna be the same for both teams. Simple as that,” Edgar said.
“They might be a little bit more used to it, but we’re used to this field (Tim Hortons Field), so that’s why I think the two-legged final works well, there’s no advantage here or there so if there is snow, it shows us how Canadian we are.” he finished.
Up next: Cavalry FC vs Forge FC, Saturday, November 2nd, 2019, 12:30 PST, 13:30 MST and 15:30 EST (Atco Field at Spruce Meadows, Calgary)
Herdman quote from CanPL.ca: https://canpl.ca/article/cavalrys-carducci-1st-cpl-player-to-earn-canada-call-up