CPL is Back: Previewing all 8 Canadian Premier League teams ahead of the ‘Island Games’

The Canadian Premier League’s ‘Island Games’ get going this week in Charlottetown. In this, we take an in-depth look at each of the 8 participants in this competition, as they all look to fight for the ‘North Star Shield’, starting this week. 

Nearly 300 days after they concluded their 2019 season, the Canadian Premier League is finally back for 2020. 

With the CPL’s ‘Island Games’ getting underway this week, it’s the league’s first chance to promote itself since its final last year, as they’ve had a longer than expected wait for year 2 to get underway. 

The plan was to kick off sometime in April, but due to the emerging COVID-19 pandemic that shut everything down back in March, the league had to take a temporary hiatus, before finally announcing its return earlier this month. 

Now, they’ll finally get the train back on the tracks as it pertains to this 2020 season, as they look to build off of the hype of a successful first year, with the ‘Island Games’, a bubble tournament held in Charlottetown, P.E.I., chosen as the solution to help teams play matches. 

After a tumultuous 2020 year for the league, they’ll be excited for the games to finally get back underway once again this week, with 2019 finalists Forge FC and Cavalry FC leading the way on August 13th, setting the table for a month and a half Canadian soccer frenzy. 

In this, we’ll take a look at the 8 teams partaking in the Island Games, and preview what to expect from each of them during this tournament, as they all look to hoist the ‘North Star Shield’ as Canadian champions in September, when this tournament wraps up.   

Heading into a wide-open ‘Island Games’ tournament, it’ll be interesting to see who rises to the crop in year 2, after year 1 was dominated by talk of Cavalry FC and Forge FC, the two finalists who led the league for most of the season.  

(ICYMI) Format: 

In case you’ve missed it, here is our article breaking down the format, safety protocol and burning questions ahead of the tournament.

Team previews: 

Atletico Ottawa:

Schedule:

2019 record: N/A

Head Coach: Mista

The new kids on the block, Atletico have the biggest uphill battle to face, as they’ve barely had a chance to work together as a team, due to a combination of the pandemic and a rash of late signings heading into the tournament. 

So for that reason, it’s hard to know what to expect from the CPL newcomers. There should be pedigree there, as Ottawa has a rich soccer history, and this team is backed by Spanish footballing giants, Atletico Madrid, but even despite that, no one knows what to expect. 

In year 1, where everyone was an expansion team of sorts, there was no clear disadvantage for teams, but there was certainly an advantage to having familiarity, as Cavalry and Forge showed. 

On paper, this Ottawa team should be solid, headlined by signings such as Francisco Acuna, Ben Fisk, Malyk Hamilton and Malcolm Shaw, but there are questions to be asked in terms of how this puzzle will fit together, especially with their limited training opportunities. 

As a result, this tournament will be all about building something for the future, as this Ottawa team is more of a longer-term project, as indicated by the presence of some of the youngsters in this squad.

There is also top-level talent in the fold, but it’ll be more about not finishing last than pushing for first during these ‘Island Games’. 

Atletico can surprise, but they’ll look to play a certain way, as this tournament will be as much about building familiarity and working on tactics as it is trying to win.  

Returning player to watch: Ben Fisk

While Ottawa doesn’t have any returning players, unless someone like Antoine Coupland moving over from the Fury with them counts as one, but they do have Ben Fisk, who had a solid season for Pacific last season. 

A versatile winger/#10, Fisk is going to be a key offensive piece for Ottawa, as he’ll be relied on to help push the needle offensively for this team. After scoring 6 goals and 5 assists for Pacific last year, picking him up was a huge coup for Ottawa, who got themselves a talented player who is also familiar with the league. 

Expansion teams typically struggle to score, so if Fisk can bag some goals and assists for Ottawa, that’ll go a long way towards their potential success in this sort of competition. 

Newcomer to watch: Francisco Acuna

But while Fisk is expected to provide the CPL experience, Acuna is expected to provide the global experience, as the 32-year-old comes to Ottawa after a solid career down in Mexico, in which he’s logged up nearly 100 appearances in Liga MX. 

A tempo-setting midfielder offensively, he’s going to be counted upon to help Ottawa dictate games on both sides of the ball, especially defensively. For a team that is quite green on that end of the pitch, the more Acuna controls the ball and keeps it away from their end, the better. 

In terms of pedigree, he’s one of the biggest CPL signings of the offseason, and he’ll have a lot to prove once Ottawa gets going this weekend. 

Storyline to watch: How cohesive can Ottawa be?

With Ottawa right now, however, their biggest enemy will be time. They’ve got a solid team, they’ve got a decent coach, and they’ve got the backing of one of the biggest clubs of the world, but they just need time to put it all together. 

For that reason, they can be one of the biggest boom-or-bust teams of this tournament. While most expect them to finish 8th, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them shock a team or two and move up the rankings, depending on how they look in their first games. 

That’ll come down to how cohesive they are, which based on the little amount of time they’ve had to train, may prove to be a tall task for them. 

Cavalry FC:

Schedule:

2019 record: 19W-4L-5D

Head Coach: Tommy Wheeldon Jr. 

Cavalry enters this tournament as favourites, and rightfully so, after only losing 4 times in 28 games in year 1. 

Along with their run to the semi-finals in the Canadian championship, in which they knocked out the Vancouver Whitecaps in the quarters before scaring the Montreal Impact in the semis, this team defied expectations in year 1, becoming one of the CPL’s darling teams. 

Heading into this year, things aren’t as rosy, as they lost year 1 standouts Julian Buscher, Dominique Malonga and Joel Waterman, but make no mistake, this Cavalry team is legit. 

They’ve got the best goalkeeper in the league in Marco Carducci, who sits behind a formidable back 4, headlined by Mason Trafford and Dominick Zator, who complement an equally formidable midfield composed of Nik Ledgerwood, Elijah Adedkugbe and former Halifax Wanderer Elliot Simmons. 

Up front, losing Malonga hurts, but newcomer Jair Cordova is a highly touted in Peru, making him one to watch alongside Nico Pasquotti and Sergio Camargo, year 1 offensive standouts for the Cavs. 

There may be a lack of overall game-breaking talent on this Cavalry side, or at least one player you can point to as the straw that stirs the drink, but the strength of this team has always been a collective one, along with their tactical discipline. 

With head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. still at the reins, the latter shouldn’t be a worry, and considering the depth that they still have in this roster, the former should still ring very true, as well. 

Returning player to watch: Marco Carducci

But while Cavalry is expected to be a force to be reckoned with up the pitch, having solid goalkeeping helped them massively last year, as Carducci was a standout performer in goal for the Cavs, with his efforts earning him the league’s goalkeeper of the year award in 2019 

Even though Cavalry is quite solid defensively, having a keeper of Carducci’s calibre is always key for competing, as it allows the Cavalry defenders to take risks they might not otherwise take. 

For a Cavalry team that is already hard enough to play against, having Carducci as the last line of defence is almost unfair at times, as he showed last year. 

Newcomer to watch: Jair Cordova

Offensively, Cordova is going to be a huge piece for the Cavs, who will be looking to replace the lost offence that Malonga, who scored 11 goals last season, left behind with his departure. 

While Wheeldon Jr. has depth to work with offensively, with backup striker options such as Jordan Brown, Marcus Haber and Jose Hernandez, Cordova is expected to be the guy for Cavalry, as he was a big signing out of Peru for them this year. 

Given the fact that he comes to CPL at 24, fresh off scoring 33 goals in 46 games over the last 2 years of Peruvian second division action, he comes to Cavalry at a good age with a good profile, making him one to watch going forward. 

Storyline to watch: Can they keep the pace?

For Cavalry, the big question will be to see if they can repeat their year 1 success at this tournament. Given their pedigree, and the fact that most of their squad is returning, they’re expected to be favourites, but seeing how much teams in that middle range upgraded this offseason, their perch might not be so secure anymore. 

Until we see them falter, it’ll be hard to bet against them, but it’ll be interesting to see how they handle teams like Pacific FC and York 9, two teams who look like they’ll take a step up this season. 

FC Edmonton:

Schedule:

2019 record: 8W-12L-8D

Head Coach: Jeff Paulus

Up next is Edmonton, a team that has the potential to surprise this tournament, at least based on what we saw last year. 

After a strong start in the spring season, in which they only finished 5 points behind Forge in 3rd, they did taper off in the fall, finishing 6th out of 7. 

But despite their drop off from spring to fall, what remained consistent was their defensive prowess, as they were the best defensive team not named Forge or Cavalry in both the spring or the fall. 

Last year, they were a force defensively, which considering they brought back most of their defensive spine, including Connor James, Amer Didic, Mele Temguia and Jeannot Esua at the back, will likely be the case once again this year. 

Where there are concerns is further up the field, as Edmonton only scored a measly 27 goals in 28 games last year, good for second-last ahead of Halifax, who only scored 21. While Edmonton is expected to keep things tidy at the back, there is a genuine question about who can score goals for this team, which will be essential if they’re to have any hope at progressing. 

There are names to watch, such as Easton Ongaro, who scored 10 goals in just over 1165 minutes last season, and Hanson Boakai, the original FC Edmonton prodigal son that has returned home after failing to live up to expectations abroad, but there are also question marks. 

Can Ongaro translate his production from a bench role to a starting one? Can Boakai find his form from when he was an FC Edmonton youngster? Can Keven Aleman live up to similar levels of hype from several years? Can Tomi Ameobi continue to bang in goals at the age of 32?

If those answers can all be a yes, this Edmonton team can go from afterthoughts to favourites in a real hurry. If not, it could be a long tournament for Jeff Paulus and company. 

But in a tournament format where you’d expect defensive teams to do well, don’t sleep on Edmonton, either. 

Returning player to watch: Amer Didic

While Ongaro is also one to watch, Didic, who trialled at the Vancouver Whitecaps this offseason, is definitely the big piece for Edmonton this season. 

As he looks to translate his strong CPL play to a potential stepping stone move, such as one to the ‘Caps, he’ll want to show that he can elevate his game from last season, where he was a rock at the back for Edmonton. 

A 6’5” vacuum with immaculate passing range, he’s going to be key for Edmonton both defensively and offensively, as he looks to both stop and jumpstart attacks with his ability to get in between the ball and attackers, before playing it forward in a hurry. 

Newcomer to watch: Erik Zetterberg

Newcomers wise, Zetterberg is the one to watch for Edmonton, as he comes to the CPL after toiling away in Sweden. Only 23, he comes having only played 8 top-flight matches in Sweden, mixed in with stints at other levels of the Swedish footballing pyramid. 

Despite that, he’s highly-touted for Edmonton, as his box-to-box play is hoped to help Edmonton step up their transition game this season, allowing them to generate more chances offensively. 

If he can do that, helping Edmonton’s vaunted defence transition the ball to their forwards, they’ll have a better chance at winning. As we saw last year, if you get Ongaro the ball in the box, and he’ll likely score, so having someone like Zetterberg push the ball forward is huge. 

Storyline to watch: Can Edmonton grind out enough results?

So for Edmonton, their goal will be to grind out as many results as possible, allowing them to push through to the second round. Defensively, they may arguably be a top 3 defensive team at this tournament, but offensively, there’s a lot to still be answered there, making them hard to gauge. 

If they can score enough goals to grab 10 or so points, you’d figured that’d be enough to get them in as a top 4 team, so it’ll be interesting to see if their defence-first approach can yield some big results, especially in those early games. 

Forge FC:

Schedule:

2019 record: 17W-6L-5D

Head Coach: Bobby Smyrniotis

As defending champions, Forge enter this tournament as early favourites, and rightly so, after they’ve only gone and really upgraded their roster since winning the ‘North Star Shield’ last year as CPL champions. 

No doubt, losing the 2019 CPL MVP, Tristan Borges, hurts, but aside from that, their roster is mostly intact, and they’ve gone and added to their squad on top of that, adding to what was already among the league’s best teams last year. 

There is a lack of distinct difference-maker on this team, but aside from that, they’re deep at all positions, have lots of veteran poise, but also have some names who have the pedigree to step up and become that new ‘guy’ for this Forge team, anyways. 

Led by Triston Henry in goal, with David Edgar and Daniel Krutzen in the heart of the defence, along with Alexander Achniotti-Jonsson and Kyle Bekker in a midfield pivot, Forge has a strong spine, allowing them to control games, both offensively and defensively. 

Jonsson and Bekker are especially important for that, as they help Forge set the pace in possession, with Bekker himself being one of the best tempo-setting midfielders in the league last year. 

With solid returnees Kwame Awuah, Elimane Cisse, Chris Nanco, Anthony Novak, Marcel Zajac, David Choiniere, Jonathan Grant and Dominic Samuel as options all over the pitch, Forge is usually two-deep at most positions, giving them a leg up depth-wise in this tournament format. 

Along with head coach Bobby Smyrniotis, who’s one of the sharper tactical minds in the league, Forge will be the team to beat, as they can hurt you in so many ways. There are questions to be asked offensively with Borges gone, but if guys like Nanco, Cisse and Novak continue to grow, that worry should dissipate rather quickly. 

Returning player to watch: Chris Nanco

And to look at candidates to step up and replace the production left behind by Borges, look no further than Nanco, a speedy winger who came up through Sigma, Forge’s affiliate partner. 

He only scored 4 goals and added 2 assists last year over 1500 minutes, but based on how his game seemed to grow as the season went along, there’s no doubt that he could be primed for an outbreak of production in a bigger role this season. 

If paired with Kwame Awuah on the left, he could do some damage for Forge offensively, both in terms of goal scoring and chance creation, as he showed in flashes last season. 

Newcomer to watch: Paolo Sabak

But if we’re talking about Borges replacements, Sabak may be the one to watch, as he looks to fill the right wing spot often occupied by Borges last season. 

And pedigree wise, Sabak may be a good shout to replace his production, at least if he can live up to some of the hype caused by his signing. He comes to Forge having come up through the Genk academy, which is highly regarded in Belgium, and at only 21, is hungry to make a difference at the pro level. 

While he’s untested professionally, so was Borges, so in this Forge system, which allows offensive players to shine, don’t be surprised if Sabak turns heads at the ‘Island Games’ with his offensive play. 

Storyline to watch: Can Forge manage the expectations?

So for Forge, this tournament will be all about managing expectations, as they come into the ‘Island Games’ as clear favourites. 

That shouldn’t impact them too much, at least if Smyrniotis has too much to say about it, but at the same time, it’ll definitely be a good test of their mettle, because teams will be hungry to take them down, especially as defending champions. 

Halifax Wanderers:

Schedule:

2019 record: 6W-12L-10D

Head Coach: Stephen Hart

The team who has the shortest distance to travel to arrive at the ‘Island Games’ also has a lot of questions to answer, especially after finishing in last place in the overall 2019 standings. 

There’s no doubt that this Halifax team is solid, especially defensively, but offensively there are questions to offer. Once they figured out that Jan Michael Williams was holding them back in goal, and they inserted local boy Christian Oxner in the sticks, Halifax’s defensive fortunes improved massively. 

Offensively, however, there are questions. After scoring a league-worst 21 goals in 28 games in 2019, they’ll look to give their defenders some more run support this season, which is why they brought in internationals Alex Marshall and Joao Morelli to score and create goals. 

Along with Akeem Garcia, who’s going to play up top for the Wanderers, after playing a lot as a winger in 2019, there are pieces for Halifax to work with offensively. 

You throw in the addition of Cory Bent as the first pick in the 2020 draft, along with the midfield additions of Louis Beland-Goyette and Aboubacar Sissoko, the former of which who was an excellent deep-lying playmaker for Valour, while the latter was a box-to-box force for UdeM in USPorts play, and Halifax should be able to create more chances this year. 

With the goalkeeping tandem of Jason Beaulieu and Oxner in goal, and defensive force Peter Schaale at centre back, Halifax has a solid team throughout the pitch, with the only question marks being at full back, where they’re relatively inexperienced, and at centre back, where they need to figure out who slots alongside Schaale in the heart of the defence.  

It’s too early to say how much better this Wanderers team will be compared to last year, but they should certainly take a step forward this tournament, allowing them to contend for the top 4 spots in that first round. 

Returning player to watch: Peter Schaale

On a Halifax team a little thin for defensive depth, Schaale is probably going to play every minute of every game, barring any issues, so we’ll be seeing a lot of the German at the ‘Island Games’. 

And based on what we saw last year, that’s an exciting prospect to imagine. He quickly became a CPL defensive standout last season, before his 2019 campaign was cut short in the summer, as he decided to return back to school for his senior year. 

Having graduated now, however, he’s hitched for the long run, so expect him to lead the Wanderers through this tournament and the years to come, as he’s quickly become an important leader on this young Halifax side. 

Newcomer to watch: Joao Morelli

Arguably the early favourite for the signing of the season, Morelli is going to be crucial for Halifax’s hopes this year, especially after tearing up the Estonian league to the tune of 11 goals and 11 assists last year. 

Still only 24 years of age, he comes to the CPL both in his prime agewise and performance-wise, so for a Halifax team who struggled to score last season, he may have been exactly what the doctor ordered, as he can both score and create with ease. 

If he can translate that play over from Estonia, which is a typically undervalued league, Halifax will be a team to watch this tournament, especially if they can keep things tight at the back. 

Storyline to watch: How quick can they gel?

For Halifax, the big question will be surrounding how quick they’re able to gel as a team, especially after having gone through such big roster turnover this offsesaon. 

With this bizarre offseason, in which players were rested but weren’t able to train for much of it, having that lack of familiarity may hamper them, so it’ll be interesting to see if Halifax will be able to quickly gel under Stephen Hart, who is known for getting a lot out of his players. 

Pacific FC:

Schedule:

2019 record: 8W-13L-7D

Head Coach: Pa Modou Kah

On the other side of the equation, you have the team who travelled the furthest to get to the ‘Island Games’, Pacific, who have made the long trek from Vancouver Island to participate in the tournament. 

And they may also be the most interesting team to watch, for a multitude of reasons. 

First, they’ve got the only new coach (aside from Ottawa), as Michael Silberbauer was replaced by Pa Modou Kah this offseason, with the former Whitecaps defender expected to bring experience to the youngest team in the league. 

Secondly, they’ve got a trove of returning youngsters, most of which whom grew a lot as the year went along last season, making them ones to watch this year. 

Lastly, they’ve got an interesting cache of newcomers as well, coming both from inside and outside of the league, helping round out a solid roster. 

Led by returnee Terran Campbell and newcomer Alejandro Diaz up front, Pacific is expected to score goals, especially with returnees Noah Verhoeven, Zach Verhoven and Alessandro Hojabrpour, along with newcomers Jamar Dixon and Marco Bustos, who will all be doing a lot of the two-way work in midfield.

Defensively, they’re solid, as well, with returnee Lukas MacNaughton expected to form a solid defensive partnership with newcomer Thomas Meilleur-Giguere at centre back, with the veteran Marcel De Jong and youngster Kadin Chung expected to provide good width on either side of them as full backs. 

With their solid options in goal, as Kah will have the tandem of newcomer Callum Irving and returnee Nolan Wirth available to choose from, Pacific is one of the most balanced teams heading into this tournament. 

As a young team with a new head coach, there a lot of questions to be asked of them, but if they can put things together quickly, they’ll emerge as a team to watch quite early on here. 

Returning player to watch: Terran Campbell

Up front, Campbell remains the one to watch, after he broke out at the end of last season, finishing tied for 2nd in the Golden Boot race with 11 goals. After starting the year as a winger and a midfielder, he became the guy up top for Pacific, quickly emerging as one of the breakout stories of the fall season in the CPL. 

So heading into this shortened season, it’s expected that Campbell will continue where he left off for Pacific last year, especially with the service around him improved. 

With someone like Marco Bustos deployed underneath him, it’s tantalizing to imagine what Campbell can do this year, especially as Pacific looks to contend after an up-and-down first season of CPL action. 

Newcomer to watch: Thomas Meilleur-Giguere

A big part of their first-year struggles? Defensive woes, which is why Meilleur-Giguere is tipped as such a big addition for Pacific, as the young defender was a rock in the heart of the Ottawa Fury defence in the USL last season. 

While Pacific’s issues last season were more with their depth, an issue that still remains, there’s no doubt that a pairing of Meilleur-Giguere and MacNaughton can help Pacific stop shipping goals this year, especially with Irving and Wirth behind them. 

As long as he can stay healthy, which he’s done most of his young career, Pacific is expected to be an improved team defensively at the ‘Island Games’. 

Storyline to watch: Will the kids be alright?

In a tournament like this, it’ll be interesting to see how Pacific’ kids fare. 

Usually, experience is touted in this sort of competition, but as the Pacific kids have shown at times last year, they’re not scared of much.  

If they can continue to step up their game this year, Pacific will not be an easy out for any team, especially if they play a high-octane offensive game, as many expect them to do. 

Valour FC:

Schedule:

2019 record: 8W-16L-4D

Head Coach: Rob Gale

Valour comes into this tournament in an interesting position, especially after a rocky offsesaon, one that saw them lose star players Louis Beland-Goyette, Michael Petrasso and Marco Bustos to rival teams. 

As a result, it’s tough to gauge what’s up with Valour, with most of their problems seeming to stem from off of the pitch. 

On it, things seem alright, as they signed Brett Levis and Fraser Aird to replace Bustos and Petrasso, and brought in Moses Dyer as a #10, but there are question marks to be had in the in midfield and defensively, an area of struggle last year as well. 

Andrew Jean-Baptiste and Chakib Hocine should help at centre back, and Ligue 1 veteran Arnold Bouka Moutou is a huge get at left back, but there is a big hole in midfield, one that may force players to be played out of position to try and fix it. 

With Montreal Impact loanee James Pantemis in goal, however, along with their improved back 4, there is a recipe for Valour to be a snatch and grab team, but they’re going to need monstrous performances in the midfield, and for Levis, Aird and Dyer to take care of business offensively. 

Returning player to watch: Jose Galan

On a team thin in midfield, the veteran Spanish midfielder Galan is going to be huge, as he looks to prove that he can still be a difference-maker at 34. 

As one of the few returnees on this squad, after a tumultuous offseason saw many players leave the club, he’s going to be a key piece for Valour both on and off the pitch, with his club looking to show that they’ve taken a step forward after a rough first year. 

For them to do that, they’re going to need leadership from the likes of Galan, who will be a key deputy for Rob Gale to lean on. 

Newcomer to watch: Brett Levis

Levis is a huge coup for Valour, as the former Whitecaps man will be arguably one of the talented players in the league, at least if his time in Vancouver is any indication. 

Given that he’ll play on the wing for Valour, he’ll be leaned on to both score and create goals for this Valour side, one that had flashes of inconsistent play offensively last year. 

With Bustos and leading goal scorer, Tyler Attardo, both gone, however, Levis is going to need to be a key offensive difference-maker for a Valour squad not particularly deep for them. 

And as long as he can stay fit, a big issue of his in Vancouver, don’t be surprised if he turns some heads in P.E.I.

Storyline to watch: Can Valour own the narrative?

For Valour, it’ll be all about owning their narrative this tournament. After a tumultuous offseason, people will keep an eye on them to see if they explode, so they’ll want to keep a clear head, win or lose. 

Talent-wise, this team can be a dark horse for a top 4 spot in the first round, but they need to come together quickly, and find a way to mask their obvious deficiencies, such as the one in the midfield, which as a head coach, Gale will be expected to do. 

If they can do that, and work hard during matches, no matter how they do performance-wise, this will be a good tournament for Valour, one that they can build off of ahead of 2021. 

York 9 FC:

Schedule:

2019 record: 9W-12L-7D

Head Coach: Jimmy Brennan

Last in our previews is York, who comes into this tournament as a team to watch, thanks to an impressive offseason of signing players. 

While the team that wins the offsesaon doesn’t always win the actual season, York was a team that certainly stepped things up as the year went along in 2019, finishing 3rd in the fall table after a 6th-placed spring season finish. 

For those 2 reasons, York is expected to do well this year, especially with their core of returning guys. 

Returnees-wise, they’ve got a solid goalkeeper in Nathan Ingham, a solid centre back in Luca Gasporatto, arguably the best left back in the CPL in Diyaeddine Abzi, the reliable Morey Doner at right back, a solid midfield pair of Manny Aparicio and Joseph Di Chiara, with Ryan Telfer rounding up the returnees list up front. 

Combine that with the additions of Chris Manella in the midfield, and Michael Petrasso, Gabriel Vasconcelos and Alvaro Rivero as attacking options, and this York team should be fun to watch. 

There is genuine worry about their defence, as they only really have 2 centre backs on the roster, which considering that their struggles in 2019 were defensive, not offensive, could be something to watch in a tournament like this. 

But from a neutral perspective, seeing some of the names that they’ve got up front, they will score goals as fast as they might leak them, so if you like to watch exciting games, you should tune into the games that York plays this tournament. 

Returning player to watch: Luca Gasporatto

Given their defensive depth, Gasparotto is going to be huge for York, as he was the only player to play every minute in the first-ever CPL season, and he’ll be counted on to repeat that feat once again this year. 

A no-nonsense centre back, he’ll be relied upon to keep things as tidy as possible at the back, keeping things quiet for Ingham, who was pelted with shots last season. 

From what we saw last year, he should help do that, but he’ll need a solid partner, such as the oft-injured Roger Thompson, because if not, it’ll be a long tournament for Ingham in goal. 

Newcomer to watch: Gabriel Vasconelos

At the other end of the pitch, the 23-year-old Brazilian, Vasconelos is the one to watch, as he comes to the CPL with a solid pedigree. 

Having come up through the Corinthians academy, a highly-touted Brazilian set-up, he’ll be leaned on as a key offensive piece for Jimmy Brennan, but it’s important to note that he hasn’t played much over the past few years. 

But if he can live up to the hype, watch out. He’s supposedly a really tricky dribbler who can press well defensively, and is a solid finisher, so for a York team that will want to work hard, he could prove to be a really important piece. 

Storyline to watch: Can the defence hold up?

While York’s defence is solid, there’s no doubt that it’s the weakest spot on their roster, especially depth-wise. 

Offensively, York might be the best team at this tournament, but they’ll want to avoid having to lean on their forwards too much, so how they defend may dictate how well they fare overall. 

They’ll be a lot of pressure on Gasparatto and Thompson to stay healthy and keep shots down for Ingham, because if they don’t, or if one of them gets injured, York could head home earlier than expected this tournament. 

But on the flip side, if they do lock things out the back, considering the weapons that York has up front, watch out.

Looking Forward:

All-in-all, it should be a fun return-to-play for the CPL, as there are a lot of burning storylines to keep an eye on. 

After a fun debut season, it’ll be interesting to see what ends up happening in year 2, especially considering how much each team has to both lose and win with their play at this tournament. 

At the very least, however, don’t count anyone out, even not Ottawa. 

In this short tournament format, anything can happen, especially as we saw during the MLS is Back tournament, in which Orlando City made a surprise run to the finals. 

So sit back, enjoy, and cheer on your team as they push to be the second-ever CPL champion later this year. 

(Click here for the full CPL ‘Island Games’ schedule)

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