While it’s abundantly important to focus on the growth of our own nation in the beautiful game, it’s also abundantly clear that one of the primary aims of the CPL is to develop talent that can be sold to other leagues in the world. In some ways, this is a sad reality as some of our very best players leave early on in the season for pastures new, in some cases only to sit on the bench! But in other ways, it allows our league to gain recognition in the world market, and has the potential to allow Canadian soccer players to take their development to the next level for higher profile teams.
So with that, in the next few months, I’m going to be rolling out an entire CPL scouting database. This will include low-market/high-value players from other realms that CPL clubs should have on their radar, and low-market/high-value players from our league that clubs across the globe should have on their radar.
Today we break into the first of this long-haul series, studying the very best right-backs in the Canadian Premier League. Here is our analysis.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- General Information
- Player Introductions & Brief Information
- Statistical Comparisons & General Player Stats
After a data search for right-backs in the Canadian Premier League, we narrowed our scope down to six standout performers. Their general information has been presented below.
|1||Rezart Rama||Forge FC||21||Wide Warrior (RB/CB)||7.46|
|2||Chrisnovic N’Sa||York United||23||Wide Warrior (RB)||7.40|
|3||Miguel Acosta||Atletico Ottawa||24||Inverted Fullback (RB/CB)||7.25|
|4||Daan Klomp||Cavalry FC||24||Wide Warrior (RB/CB)||7.25|
|5||Olakunle Dada-Luke||Pacific FC||22||Wing-Back (RB/RWB)||7.16|
|6||Zachary Fernandez||HFX Wanderers||21||Wing-Back (RB/RWB)||7.16|
We will delve into these ranks and the reasons behind our Player Ratings throughout, but it’s important to note the relative young age of all six players listed. They all have enough experience to make the next jump in their career, whilst still having enough time in their lives to grow and develop within the game. As you will notice, each also has a contract expiry within a short-time frame, making the present an opportune moment for top-tier clubs to strike.
|1||Rezart Rama||Forge FC||Greece/Albania||2022-11-30||Right|
|2||Chrisnovic N’Sa||York United||Canada||2022-11-30||Right|
|3||Miguel Acosta||Atletico Ottawa||Spain||2023-11-30||Right|
|4||Daan Klomp||Cavalry FC||Netherlands||2023-11-30||Right|
|5||Olakunle Dada-Luke||Pacific FC||Canada/Nigeria||2022-11-30||Right|
|6||Zachary Fernandez||HFX Wanderers||Canada||2022-11-30||Right|
Except for Rama, who arrived in April, all six of our players also played at least 80% of their team’s minutes this season. Importantly, each also hold an estimated market value of below $200k, making each of them low-market/high-value buys for any club.
1. REZART RAMA
Rezart Rama has quickly become a fan-favourite at Forge FC, with his endless energy sources rampaging around the pitch at every turn. An absolute warrior, beast at the back, and more or less a complete defender, Rama made himself a pivotal marker for success that the Hammers endeavoured to have on the ball at every turn. It showed up in the stats, with the 21-year-old completing the most progressive passes and passes into the final third per 90 of any player to make more than 2 appearances in the league this season. He also handled his defensive duties to tremendous effect, always striking the feat into any opposition winger with his bullish style to defending.
SEE MORE: Rezart Rama – Player Analysis
2. CHRISNOVIC N’SA
Chrisnovic N’Sa has had a wonderful first campaign at York United, and arguably performed as their player of the season as a dynamic, up and down ‘Wide Warrior’. N’Sa excels in his 1v1 duels, and possesses a high degree of tactical knowhow within York’s defensive line. Capable of playing anywhere in the back-line, N’Sa completed 3 tackles per game this season (4.5 tackles + interceptions), and perhaps most impressively, found himself dribbled past just 0.9 times per game. Playing every single minute of his 27 appearances, he’s also a master of timing his runs forward, even if his attacking contributions are more occasional than his defensive responsibilities. After Diyaeddine Abzi departed for France, N’Sa grew in his attacking importance for Martin Nash’s team, finishing the season with 5 goal contributions and a 59% dribble success rate. As a 23-year-old, now is the perfect time for N’Sa to make his move.
3. MIGUEL ACOSTA
The master of the long pass, Miguel Acosta was a rare breed in the CPL this season, as a defender who excelled in spraying long passes from deep, and facilitating attacks through his intelligence and vision. Out of possession, Acosta was that tough tackling terrier, throwing his body in the way and never going down without a fight. He won 3.2 tackles per game, winning nearly 70% of his defensive duels within Ottawa’s organized structure. But in possession his role became more of a right-sided centre-half, where he’d be responsible for helping Ottleti break through the thirds and switch play from right to left. This made Acosta an incredibly unique player for Carlos Gonzalez to have at his disposal, particularly within their dogmatic defensive style of play that relied so heavily on quick attacks going the other way.
24-years-old now, Acosta plays with the level-headed experience of someone four-five years older, and could easily transfer his skills over to a possession-based team.
4. daan klomp
Another player capable of playing in multiple roles, Daan Klomp became a jack of all trades this season for Tommy Wheeldon Jr., fulfilling his defensive duties to equal effect at right-back and centre-back, in a variety of formations. Another player that falls under that ‘Wide Warrior’ persona, Klomp excels as a defensively-minded fullback, using his physical presence to time his challenges, win his aerial duels, and ensure Cavalry stay organized at the back. As a physical 6’2 defender, Klomp’s even made himself a significant set-piece threat this season – scoring 2 goals with 2 assists.
The 24-year-old Dutchman also stands out in possession of the ball, actively wanting to step out and play progressive passes in any position. He’s not an up and down dynamic wing-back by any means, and perhaps that’s why Roberto Alarcon will be favoured in the position from time to time. But Daan Klomp nicely filled in at right-back throughout the season, even making the position his own in the absence of Fraser Aird.
5. OLAKUNLE DADA-LUKE
At the start of the season, Olakunle Dada-Luke quickly established himself as an unstoppable presence up and down the right wing for Pacific, wonderfully filling the boots of his predecessor Kadin Chung. But even despite his energy up and down the wing and his nice combination play with Marco Bustos down the right, Dada-Luke’s dynamism resulted only in 2 goal contributions in his 23 matches. Completing nearly 70% of his dribbles and over 30% of his crosses, Dada-Luke always made his presence felt in the attack, even if his chance creation and ultimate goal-scoring threat remained low. In order to take his game to that next level, he will need to learn how and when to make darting runs into the penalty area to support the attack, including the development of underlapping runs rather than relying solely on out-and-out wing play down the touchline.
Defensively, Dada-Luke’s performances were also a bit of a mixed bag. He won 3 tackles per game and handled his 1v1 dueling responsibilities well – partially due to his aggressive approach backed up by a sheer sense of physicality and speed. His positional awareness did however look suspect at times, and he often looked out of touch when it mattered most. Still only 22 years old, Dada Luke will have a lot of important growing to do, but could easily develop into a threatening wing-back for a higher level team.
6. ZACHARY FERNANDEZ
Zachary Fernandez is another high-flying wing-back that started the season in stunning form, and who would have been expected to end the season with higher highs in goal contribution. He developed more variety in his attacking play to overlap and underlap Samuel Salter or his right-sided players in different moments, and even held onto his defensive responsibilities well when tracking back the other way. Fernandez will need to up the ante in his confidence on the ball to spray passes, dynamically dribble up the field and play out from the back, each of which will come with time as the 21-year-old learns his trade. For now, he accomplished more than HFX could have asked for in his first season, including 4 assists and 1.5 key passes per game.
All six of our players nicely cover both the attacking and defensive sides of the game, to varying degrees. Rama covers the most ground as a result of playing a pivotal role in the team with the most possession, as Klomp’s airs less on the attacking side due to his split role as a centre-back. N’Sa, Klomp and Acosta all spike red in their own box, due to their excellence in blocking shots and defending in front of their own goal. Dada-Luke and Fernandez represent a very typical heatmap for a wing-back, making significantly more overlapping runs on the outside than underlapping ones on the inside.
All heatmaps are courtesy of SofaScore – our favourite platform for CPL stats.
The following sections break down who I would personally recommend on various categories, using statistical comparisons as a basis for each feature. We recognize the need to find a player who fits your team’s style of play and the role in need, so we endeavour to break the game down into different elements that could help guide your scouting process.
The following table breaks down who I would personally recommend on various defensive categories, using statistical comparisons as a basis for each element.
|1v1 Dueling||Pos. Awareness||Pressing||Aerial Ability||Discipline|
|M. Acosta||C. N’Sa||R. Rama||Z. Fernandez||M. Acosta|
As combative ‘Wide Warriors’, Rezart Rama and Chrisnovic N’Sa stand out in the defensive categories. Klomp’s aerial presence makes him a valuable asset in all phases, but he lacks the same mobility of the other players mentioned, and that means he often relies more on his physicality than his skill in timing tackles to perfection. Fernandez even beats him by quite some margin in the important categories surrounding aerial ability, while Acosta is simply more disciplined and cultured in his approach to defending.
Recognizing Rama’s potential for growth combined with his sheer athleticism and ability to excel in all phases, he cannot be overlooked for teams in need of a defensively-minded fullback. He’s the type of player that would pull his teeth out before willingly letting an opposition player get one over on him, even despite the graphic under-representing his capabilities. Nevertheless, based on a range of defensive attributes captured in the table and beyond, we rank our defenders from first to worst on defensive capability.
|Rank||Player||Tkl + Int.||Def. Act.||Def. Duel %||Aerial %||Drb. Past|
It’s important to note once more that even Zach Fernandez and Kunle Dada-Luke top some defensive categories, and are not irredeemable by any means. Even they excel on the defensive end of the game. Remember, these are the echelon of CPL right-backs, and they have a broad-range of skills that transcend to different elements of the game.
The following table breaks down who I would personally recommend on various attacking categories, using statistical comparisons as a basis for each.
|Goal Contribution||Chance Creation||Crossing||Dribbling||Prog. Running|
|Z. Fernandez||Z. Fernandez||Z. Fernandez||O. Dada-Luke||R. Rama|
Zachary Fernandez comes out on top in a few key areas, constantly making himself a useful weapon for HFX Wanderers down the right. If he can improve those longer moments that the ball finds his feet, or when he’s required to inject incisiveness with his passing deeper on the field, Fernandez will be a remarkable player for a future club to work with. For now, he’s still very raw as an up and down wing-back that contributes positively at both ends of the pitch. But if a ‘Wing-Back’ is the type of fullback your club is looking for, Fernandez or Dada-Luke might be the best options.
|Rank||Player||xG + xA||Att. Act||Att. Duel %||Drbl %||Crs %||Prog. R|
Other top attacking contributors include Rezart Rama and Chrsnovic N’Sa, both of whom were not only posting up a nice number of attacking actions per game, but were successful in a variety of those endeavours.
The following table breaks down who I would personally recommend on various on-the-ball categories, using statistical comparisons as a basis for each feature.
|Forward Passing||Carrying||Vision & Awareness||Build-Up||Ball Control|
|R. Rama||R. Rama||M. Acosta||D. Klomp||M. Acosta|
If signing a player to aid the team’s possession, progression through the thirds and overall control, Rezart Rama and Daan Klomp are undoubtedly the best options. Miguel Acosta can hold his own on the ball and might be the smartest passer of the bunch, but Klomp and Rama are more successful with their forward-thinking thrusts, and already play in possession-based teams that strive to dominate the ball.
|Rank||Player||Pass C.||Pass %||Fwd. Pass %||P. Final 1/3||P. Lost / Tch||Dis.|
Both could even play as centre-backs, where they’d use their progressive passing from central channels to organize and orchestrate possession in a different manner. This is the only case where a greater discrepancy arrives, with Dada-Luke and Fernandez struggling to keep pace with the others. Even at that, they each have their strong-suits in possession of the ball, and would have plenty of time to grow in a different system.
When asking the question of what player to sign, it’s important to examine the most relevant information for your context. If you’re after an attack-minded fullback who smartly underlaps and overlaps in the attack, Zachary Fernandez or Olakunle Dada-Luke might be your man. If you’re after a beast at the back who goes full-throttle into every tackle, Chrisnovic N’Sa and Miguel Acosta have what it takes to strike the fear into any opposition winger. But if you’re looking for someone who excels in possession of the ball, you might even consider 6’2 Daan Klomp or Forge’s touch-master Rezart Rama.
While our list evidently is not complete in covering the vast array of all player traits, we can still draw conclusions from our data in finding players who fit the billing as more complete in their approach than others.
|1||Rezart Rama||Forge FC||7.46||3rd||4th||1st|
|2||Chrisnovic N’Sa||York United||7.40||2nd||2nd||4th|
|3||Miguel Acosta||Atletico Ottawa||7.25||1st||6th||3rd|
|4||Daan Klomp||Cavalry FC||7.25||4th||5th||2nd|
|5||Olakunle Dada-Luke||Pacific FC||7.16||5th||1st||5th|
|6||Zachary Fernandez||HFX Wanderers FC||7.16||6th||3rd||6th|
Our statistical comparison illustrates that when looking for well-roundedness, Rezart Rama has to be the man on every club’s radar, with Chrisnovic N’Sa as a close second-place. If Forge ultimately lose their tough-tackling Albanian defender, N’Sa will serve as the perfect replacement for their purposes. For the sake of their development, we hope both players find the right fit at a European club in no time. But for the sake of the league, we hope they stay for years to come.
So there it is! Our complete scouting database of right-backs inside the #CANPL. Be sure to check out more of our Tactical Analyses, and follow on social media @desmondrhys and @mastermindsite. For any further information on the players above, feel free to reach out! Thanks for reading and see you soon! 👊⚽
Not convinced? Check out these CPL players who have already made the move across the pond…
-> Why Victor Loturi caught the eye of Ross County – Player Analysis
-> Diyaeddine Abzi – Player Analysis
-> Why Alejandro Diaz caught the eye of Sogndal Fotball
-> Aribim Pepple – Player Analysis
-> Why William Akio caught the eye of Ross County – Player Analysis
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