Last week, the Canadian Premier League kicked off for its fourth season, with the opening set of matches featuring a repeat of last season’s Playoff Final. From a personal standpoint, I opened the season with the launch of our Role Continuity Player Evaluation System – our first ever database scoring player habits and on-the-field actions. But anyone who knows this site knows that we’re here for the tactics, and the in-depth scrutinization of each and every team. So after our analysis of every single opening match, here is what each team needs to change ahead of the second round of fixtures.
Atletico Ottawa had a strong opening weekend against the Cavs, despite relinquishing more possession and chances to Wheeldon Jr.’s team. Ahead of the second round of fixtures, Ottleti may want to consider playing a natural wing-back on the right-hand-side, particularly with Drew Beckie now suspended for three matches. The commentary surrounding Tabla’s role in the match overstated his wing-back role, with the young Canadian playing as a right winger in the side’s defensive 4-4-2, and only situating himself higher than that in attacking phases.
But nevertheless, a more defensive player or experienced pro may be needed to fulfill the role, particularly if Ottleti are to continue with a 3-5-2 shape in possession. Miguel Acosta enjoyed a formidable final twenty minutes for the team, even playing a role in winning the spot kick for Brian Wright to convert late in the game. If Acosta starts from the off in the match, Ottawa may be able to achieve greater balance to their attacking set-up, and the team may be better set up to support the omission of their captain from the side against Halifax.
Cavalry failed to convert any of their 16 shots in the opening match against Atletico, and their task only becomes tougher in the second match against Forge. Wheeldon Jr.’s team should target Forge’s weakness from set-pieces, but they need to focus their efforts on the defensive side of the game and the potential for Karifa Yao to be dragged out of position. Daan Klomp’s slightly higher angle in Cavalry’s progression meant that Yao often had to step up and be the defensive warrior he can be, covering that space in behind. With Forge specifically targeting the left side through the likes of Terran Campbell and Kwasi Poku, Cavalry need to ensure the balance in their back-line is not lost, and that Yao can hold his own position. The Montreal man showcased an evident ability to sweep in behind Klomp, but perhaps Cavalry can structure their circulation differently to stop this area of the pitch needing to be covered.
Tommy Wheeldon Jr. also needs to ensure he gets it right with his substitutes this time, and leave his greatest attacking threats like Ali Musse on the pitch for as long as possible.
Perhaps the inspiration for this article, FC Edmonton need to take on a more forward-thinking, control-oriented approach to the second match against York United and not take on such a defensive approach. They offered very little in the first half, and only opened the gauntlet going forward after conceding late in the first half. Aiding in that approach, Tobias Warschewski should play up front from the start, especially given Julian Ulbricht’s horrid night in front of goal last time out. The German missed two big chances to level the score, and Edmonton looked a more dangerous team after he exited the match. Wesley Timoteo excellently pulled the strings from wide, contributing that glorious cross for Warschewski’s game winning goal. With Azriel Gonzalez’s pace on the left and Timoteo’s dribbling ability from out to in down the right, Edmonton will now have a well-balanced front three capable of producing chances to score goals. Warschewski screams number nine, and putting the 24-year-old up top will allow the team’s greatest threat to operate in central areas, closer to goal.
Forge FC had the fiercest of oppositions to play on opening day, and will not be deflated in the slightest after their opening day defeat. They utilized the left-side relentlessly during the opening twenty minutes against Pacific, and then, to some degree, abandoned that approach after Ashtone Morgan’s injury. It will be interesting to see whether or not they re-adopt this approach against Cavalry (minus the abandonment), taking advantage of long diagonal passes into the path of their left-wing-back to advance up the pitch and push Terran Campbell inside. They also used Alessandro Hojabrpour in an advanced role ahead of Bekker and Jönsson, which can be expected to continue with Tristan Borges MIA. Finally, Garven Metusala’s desire to carry the ball out from the back should continue in the spaces that Cavalry leave between Musse and Mason, even if just for my own enjoyment of the 22-year-old.
But the biggest issue of concern for Forge will be the fact that they’ve now conceded a goal from a set-piece in each of their opening matches in 2022. It’s unlikely that they’ll play against another player with the A+ levels of precise movement and aerial threat as Amer Didic at the weekend, but the coaching staff will have undoubtedly paid attention to their defensive set-piece routines this week in training.
Unfortunately for the only Forge player to make our Team of the Week last week, Alexander Achinoti-Jönsson happened to be the player marking Didic and Cruz Azul’s Angel Romero on this occasion back in February.
With a high line away from the goalkeeper, Jönsson found himself attracted to the wrong man shortly after the delivery, and Romero was able to take advantage of the gap in between the midfielder and Metusala. As the team sort this out, double teaming key opposition players may be a potential solution, as would taking a player out of the wall and putting him in the box instead. On both Didic’s goal and this one from Romero, two players lined up in the defensive wall, when one might have done the trick.
Forge also need to ensure they avoid situations like this from second-balls, where focus stays on the ball rather than advancing players making their way into the box.
If Forge can sort this out, Cavalry will undoubtedly have a tough time in front of goal, and could be in for an evening of frustration.
HALIFAX WANDERERS FC
Halifax Wanderers FC had a wonderful opening day against York United, and will need to continue to consider how to get the best out of their free flowing attack and score from open play. Much was made out of Morelli’s supposed false nine role, which I thought was more or less a normal linking role of a genuine reference point up top. Zach Fernandez also earned praise for his adventurous attacks down the right, but lost more than a few of his 1v1 duels up against Michael Petrasso going the other way. In Halifax’s best moments, they were able to use the space seeking of Aidan Daniels into dangerous areas, with Morelli buzzing around the box to box midfielder. As a result, HFX need to ensure that the creative movement of Morelli, Gagnon-Laparé and Daniels work to support one another, rather than the three men competing for space in the attacking half. Utilizing Daniels’ powerful dribbling ability in transition could be one such way that the Wanderers take greater advantage of the 23-year-old’s evident quality. Regardless, Stephen Hart and co. need to find a way where both Morelli and Daniels can have a “free role” in the attack, and identify how those two can best support each other.
Pacific FC arguably had the most valiant performance on opening day, besting 2x CPL Playoff winners Forge FC by a score of 2-1. The only major tactical tweak of note for James Merriman would be to ensure there isn’t an immediate drop-off upon substitutions. Abdou Samake had a shaky final ten minutes, and found himself rooted to the spot on that final corner kick routine. Forge and Achinioti-Jönsson wonderfully exploited the zonal marking, and perhaps they should have put a more colossal figure at the front-post given Forge’s incessant desire to target that area on their corner kicks. Marco Bustos meanwhile had an excellent afternoon, and Merriman will need to find another way to replace his attacking threat should the creative ten fail to last the full ninety. As an aside, they should also leave the long-passing to Meilleur-Giguère over Amer Didic, with the 24-year-old excellently putting on a show of progressiveness against Forge.
For long spells, Valour completely dominated their opening match against FC Edmonton, and had extremely sound tactical ideals. The drop off in the second half allowed Edmonton an eventual way back in, and the Eddies genuinely could have won the match on 39% possession had Ulbricht been up for the task in front of goal. This is a worry for Phillip Dos Santos, who I know from watching him speak live, has an incredible brain for the game. Valour need to identify a way to put the game to bed earlier on, and generate chances in behind a stern back-line. Darryl Fordyce’s wayward attempts from distance did little to trouble Edmonton, and the side would have been better off working Moses Dyer’s movement in between gaps and trying to play passes into the penalty area rather than striking from distance. Andy Baquero boasting three times the number of touches as William Akio (67 to 20) speaks to Valour’s failure to get dangerous players into dangerous positions on the day, and further rotations between Dyer, Akio and Catavolo could be key to unlocking Pacific’s defense this time out. Essentially, the Winnipeg club need to be less patient during their build-up in progressing through the thirds and into the attacking half, and more patient once in the creation stage in finding intelligent runs and overlaps, rather than just letting it fly from range.
Despite their failures in front of goal and lackluster first half, York United came out guns blazing in the second half and could have easily equaled the score on another day. Diyaeddine Abzi has to start this time out against Ottawa, after making a massive difference in the second half. The versatile man of many talents should have won his side a spot kick, hit the post, and helped to generate much of York’s better play in the final half an hour. Martin Nash needs to find a way to fit Abzi into his plans this time, and perhaps even add the electric Isaiah Johnston to that equation. Sebastian Gutierrez and Mamadou Kane were fairly ineffectual on the day, and could be the men to make way. Doing so should help York to establish more of an attacking identity, rather than the frantic nature of their opening day goal-chasing.
Discipline will also be an area for improvement in the second match, after their incessant fouling eventually caught up with the team on the opening day…not to mention the red they received late on. The Nine Stripes couldn’t cope with any injection of pace on the opening day, and this caused them several headaches leading up to the opening goal. Reducing the gaps they create between lines in their high-block will help to curve that concern, combating the open shape that caused plenty of issues against HFX.
All four fixtures should provide entertainment as teams continue to get into an early groove, and Forge vs. Cavalry provides a particularly intriguing match-up this Saturday.
So there it is! The tactical tweaks every team needs to make ahead of Matchday 2 in the Canadian Premier League. Be sure to check out more of our CPL articles, and follow on social media to never miss an update! Thanks for reading and see you soon!
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If you’re reading this article, chances are you love to analyze football. So allow me to help with your love for analysis with this call to action. Stop taking information from single-match occurrences, or single-match statistics, even statistics over time on their own, as a mechanism for making inferences about the wider context at hand. Recognizing patterns over time, and the wider context behind those patterns, are the essentials behind analysis in football, allowing you to more accurately assess performance, and improve upon performance problems.