Good Monday morning everybody. Today marks the first Monday that we can discuss actual Canadian Premier League matches, with the league kicking off with two matches this weekend, bringing a reality long dreamed of by many Canadian soccer fans to fruition.
On the pitch, Forge FC and York 9 FC played to a 1-1 draw Saturday, with Pacific FC picking up the league’s first victory (and clean sheat) with a 1-0 win over HFX Wanderers FC on Sunday.
But it was off the pitch where the league got high marks, with both matches selling out and fan support running at a fever pitch. It was even theorized that one of the reasons attendance at Saturday’s Caps’ match was so light was because many fans elected to stay in Victoria for Sunday’s CanPL game.
Many in the Twitter-verse remarked on how pleasantly surprised they were with the quality of play in the first couple of matches (granted, a small sample size, but still).
Have to say i've been pleasantly surprised by the entertainment value of #CanPL so far— Caleb Wilkins (@wilkins_caleb24) April 27, 2019
I might be a bit of a homer, but I like what I'm seeing from #PacificFC - a dynamic, attacking side, but solid at the back. Should be a fun year!— Mark Dailey (@markjrdailey) April 28, 2019
This column is going to have less opinion in it than normal (which is where you come in with your comments!) because, as an American, I sadly cannot watch the league. But what I was able to watch from highlight packages, did impress me.
Currently the level of play seems to be around USL-quality, which is pretty darn good for an expansion league. I think it will ultimately rise to between USL and MLS quality, probably closer to MLS but with less room for growth because I don’t envision a scenario in which the Caps, Toronto FC and Impact de Montreal make the jump.
But I think the more important question that was answered this weekend was around fan support—which the two matches brought in spades. Granted, it seems unlikely that 17,000 people will turn up week in and week out, like they did in Hamilton on Saturday. But even drawing a few thousand spectators each week would be a very impressive feat for such a young league. The fact that the first match in Hamilton was somewhat of a local derby didn’t hurt and the league is wise to be cultivating that sooner rather than later.
I’ve long been of the opinion that a rising tide lifts all boats when it comes to Canadian soccer. A strong domestic league gives the Caps a better place to scope out young talent, a place to potentially loan its Academy players and helps provide for a more robust Voyageurs Cup, among other benefits. It is true that Vancouver is the market which is most affected by the CanPL at the moment, given the team in Victoria and the likelihood that there will be an expansion into Burnaby in the future. This is especially acute given the self-inflicted wounds that have plagued the club in the recent past.
But more people in British Columbia and more people in Canada watching soccer is, at the end of the day, a win for the Caps and a win for MLS. Canadian soccer fans have often been treated as ugly stepchildren by MLS, with both Vancouver and Montreal often serving as afterthoughts despite the size of their markets. This makes the fact that they now have a league all their own much sweeter. Big ups to CanPL on a successful first weekend—now just make your games available to stream in the U.S!
Onto the links:
Shameless Self Promotion
We have a full debrief from Saturday’s 1-1 draw with the Union. If you missed the match, get caught up with our recap. Sam Rowan reports from the locker room, as Marc dos Santos says the side “lost 2 points.” And yours truly doles out the grades in the Report Card.
Best of the Rest
The Southsiders again walked out in the first half of a second straight home match but met with minority owner Jeff Mallett before kickoff. The Province offers a rundown of the latest twist in the seemingly never-ending saga
Virgil Van Dijk (and Vivianne Miedema!) earned PFA player of the year honors Sunday. A tough decision to argue with, even as a Spurs fan
A tough match for Phonzie Bear on Saturday with Bayern, as the Bavarian giant drew 1-1 with lowely Nuremberg on Saturday. An ill-timed elbow from Davies drew a potentially decisive penalty in the 89th minute but Nuremberg left back Tim Leibold missed the chance to steal all three points
A nice look from the ever talented Cesar Hernandez at how LAFC fans stamped out the homophobic goal kick chant I won’t name here
That’s all for today folks. We’ll see you back here Friday, same time, same place.