The Canadian Premier League’s “The Kickoff” bubble tournament began this weekend in Winnipeg, Manitoba, with four matches seeing all eight teams hit the turf at IG Field.
Each team will play a pair of matches against teams from the opposite side of the country in the bubble, in an effort to minimize travel later in the season.
Because of that, we’ll see nothing but east versus west showdowns for the next few weeks.
Things kicked off on Saturday with a pair of matches, with two to match on Sunday.
FC Edmonton vs Atlético Ottawa
The first match of the 2021 campaign saw the Eddies and Atlético battle it out. Both teams saw major overhauls to their roster after less than successful performances at the 2020 Island Games.
FC Edmonton head coach Alan Koch made his CanPL debut in a losing effort, that saw his new-look attack featuring names like Shamit Shome, Fraser Aird, Easton Ongaro and Kyle Porter fail to find the back of the net.
Ongaro saw a massive chance get turned aside in the 64th by former teammate Dylon Powley, failing to tap in a pass from Beto Avila.
Some excellent buildup play by Ottawa in the 82nd eventually saw the ball come to the top of the box for Viti Martinez to smash it in, providing all the offence Ottawa would need on the day to capture the three points.
Pacific FC versus HFX Wanderers
In the first Coastal Derby (patent pending) of 2021, two teams that made it to the group stage of the Island Games met again. Similar to the last time these teams met, it was Pacific FC scoring early, with Marco Bustos beginning his season with a nice left-foot finish after being set up by a lovely flick on by Alejandro Diaz in the 17th minute.
Newcomer Ollie Bassett, previously of the English seventh tier, uncorked a howitzer of a volley from long range that beat Christian Oxner to double the Pacific lead.
HFX’s Stefan Karajovanovic gave Pacific FC keeper Callum Irving a strong test in the 67th minute, but the former Ottawa Fury man came up big, and helped earn his first clean sheet of the season in a 2-0 victory.
Forge FC versus Valour FC
The first Sunday game saw back-to-back reigning champions Forge FC take on Valour FC in Valour’s home stadium. While Winnipeg doesn’t yet have fans in the stands (but will starting on July 7th) it was the home side with a somewhat surprisingly good performance against a Forge side that may be showing the rust of a limited ability to train during the pre-season.
In the sixth minute, Austin Ricci was brought down in the box, with the referee pointing to the spot. Moses Dyer calmly deposited the ball into the right side of the Forge net to give Valour the lead. Ricci doubled the Valour lead in spectacular fashion in the 26th, forcing a turnover before cutting between two defenders and then shooting it past Triston Henry.
Forge’s biggest chance of the game came in the 87th minute when Chris Nanco found the underside of the crossbar, but the ball stayed out and the scoreline finished 2-0.
Cavalry FC versus York United FC
The final match of the weekend saw Cavalry take on York. The teams swapped chances early on before Cavalry opened the scoring via a Sergio Camargo diving header in the 32nd minute.
In the 52nd minute, Jose Escalante knocked a pass of the foot of a York defender past Nathan Ingham and into the next on an opportunistic goal to make it 2-0. Diyaeddine Abzi scored a terrific free-kick goal that dipped into the bottom left corner to make it 2-1 in the 79th. A late penalty shout went for not, and Cavalry held on for the 2-1 victory.
Canadian Premier League table
The next round of games happens on Wednesday the 30th and Thursday the 1st. Valour takes on HFX Wanderers on Wednesday (7 pm Eastern), followed by Atlético Ottawa and Cavalry FC (10 pm).
On Canada Day, York United take on Pacific FC at 5 pm Eastern, and FC Edmonton takes on Forge at 8 pm Eastern.