I’ve spent many hours across the past eight months watching and scrutinizing over the Canadian Premier League. The 2022 campaign saw several seasoned stars move onto pastures new across Europe, and a race for first that came down to the final day. Now that the regular season has officially come to a close, it’s time for me to pick my 2022 CPL Team of the Season.
GOALKEEPER: NATHAN INGHAM
Nathan Ingham has long been one of the best keepers in the league, but with a solid defensive structure in front of him, the Canadian keeper completely flourished this season at Atletico Ottawa. The 29-year-old swept in behind his back-line to tremendous effect, whilst pulling off some of the most stunning saves of the campaign. That all culminated in a 100% success rate on his runs outside the penalty area, and a 72% save percentage en route to 8 clean sheets in the league.
RIGHT BACK: REZART RAMA
After entering the fold in April, Forge immediately shot out of a cannon, and went on a stunning run of form that saw them briefly top the table. Rezart Rama played a massive part in Forge’s second place finish this season, operating up and down that wide right channel and accomplishing monstrous feats in both attack and defense. Importantly for the Hammers, Rama made more passes into the final third, progressive passes, and forward passes per 90 than any player to make 2+ appearances in the league this season.
SEE MORE -> Rezart Rama – Player Analysis
CENTRE BACK: ALEXANDER Achinioti-JönssonEmbed from Getty Images
Few players in the league could seamlessly transition roles to such a great effect as Alexander Achinioti-Jönsson. After making a name for himself as the ‘Anchor’ in front of Forge’s defense, the Forge vice-captain stepped into the back-line this time around to help the Hammers handle the absences of Dominic Samuel and Daniel Krutzen. As a key force for driving the team on in possession and spraying passes from deep, the 26-year-old Swede excelled in the position. He also handled his defensive duties, winning 68.1% of his defensive duels, and organizing everything at the back.
SEE MORE -> Alexander Achinioti-Jönsson – Player Analysis
CENTRE BACK: KARIFA YAO
Starting the season as the ‘Sweeper’ in Cavalry’s back-three, Karifa Yao completely dominated his 1v1 battles and duels in the air, as a key leader in their back-four throughout the campaign. Tremendous on the ball and a master of timing his tackles, Yao struck the fear in many CPL strikers through the season, and always featured as a tough nut to crack inside Cavalry’s defense.
LEFT BACK: MAXIM TISSOT
After entering the scene from Forge FC in the summer, few would have expected Maxim Tissot to achieve such a rise at Atletico Ottawa, in a completely different left-wing-back role. Out of possession, Tissot galloped back to dominate the wide left-channel and make his presence felt, while in possession, the 30-year-old Canadian made himself a key cog in Ottawa’s attack as he overlapped and underlapped down the left. He contributed 3 goals with 2 assists to Atletico’s first-place finish, whilst playing a massive part in the “experience” that became a hallmark to their resolute defense.
CENTRAL MIDFIELD: OLLIE BASSETT
Arguably the player of the season, Ollie Bassett also made a name for himself in his first season at Ottawa after a change in role, completely dominating central midfield. Frequently drifting out to the right-half-spaces to receive the ball and drive the team forward, Bassett became a force to be reckoned with in creating chances for the regular season champs. But with 8 goals of his own, few opposition defenses could stop the Brit from making his way box-to-box, where his consistent energy ran circles around some of the best midfield units in the league.
CENTRAL MIDFIELD: MANNY APARICIO
Speaking of constant energy, Manny Aparicio also made himself a significant box-to-box presence this season. The Canadian midfielder may have only made 17 appearances this season, partially down to a couple of needless red cards. But he was at the heart of everything good for Pacific, and always a figurehead when the team were at their very best. 2 goals and 3 assists doesn’t necessarily do him justice, as a dynamic dribbler capable of breaking lines through the thirds, and then immediately springing into action in defensive transitions as a combative warrior.
RIGHT WING: MARCO BUSTOS
Marco Bustos terrorized opposition defenses across the league through his dynamic wing-play, wizarding left-foot, and creativity in linking up down the wide right overloads with Olakunle Dada-Luke. His first half of the campaign made him a constant threat in particular, as after the departure of Diaz he struggled to find that same level of connectivity with his teammates. But 2 goals and 6 assists remains a decent tally for a 28-game season, and Bustos always made himself a troublesome force to stop for Pacific.
LEFT WING: SEAN REA
Another candidate for that player of the season award, Sean Rea was a shining star in a Valour FC side that ultimately crashed out of playoff contention toward the end of the campaign. No player created more chances (2.6 per game) or assisted more goals (9) than the Montreal loanee in 2022, as Valour turned to his magic at every turn. A smart passer of the ball capable of playing on both feet, the 20-year-old midfielder must be on every Canadian club’s radar heading into 2023, and should be destined for a move back to Montreal.
CENTRE FORWARD: ALEJANDRO DIAZ
To miss the final month of the season due to leaving for Europe, and still finish as the league’s top scorer takes quite some doing. Alejandro Diaz accomplished that feat with his 13 goals in 18 matches – a stunning goal conversion of 33% from his 2.2 shots per game. Simultaneously accomplishing the style of a ‘Target Man’ despite only being 5’10, Diaz made his presence felt in all phases of the game, from dropping deep to pick up possession to energetically pressing from the front. For those curious about how he’s gotten on since moving to Sogndal IL, his incredible form has only continued – scoring 5 goals in his first 8 appearances.
STRIKER: OSAZE DE ROSARIO
In his first season inside the Canadian Premier League, Osaze De Rosario showed much promise that he could carry on his father’s legacy, scoring 12 goals in his 27 appearances – whilst fulfilling four different positions for his team. Still only 21 years of age, Osaze has all the makings of an MLS forward. He’s astute about when to drop deep and receive the ball, he’s capable of turning under pressure and driving away, and he’s even able to link up with his mates and create chances for others. It’s incredible to think that he’s already York’s leading scorer of all time, showcasing just how much of a miss he will be when he inevitably makes a move across the pond.
SEE MORE: Osaze De Rosario – Player Analysis
SUBSTITUTES: MARCO CARDUCCI (GK), CHRISNOVIC N’SA (RB), THOMAS MEILLER-Giguère (CB), AMER DIDIC (CB), BRETT LEVIS (LB), ABOUBACAR SISSOKO (RB/CM), TRISTAN BORGES (AM), Jérémy Gagnon-Laparé (Cm), BALLOU TABLA (RW/CF), WOOBENS PACIUS (CF)
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