St. John’s, NL- And then there were four. 28 first-round matches later and the number of teams vying for Canadian Premier League Island Games supremacy has been cut in half. Heading into the next round are last year’s finalists in Cavalry and Forge, with those two joined by coastal clubs HFX Wanderers and Pacific FC.
That leaves York 9, Atletico Ottawa, FC Edmonton, and Valour headed back home and back to the drawing board for the next time they take to the pitch, whenever that may be. While the disappointment of exiting the bubble before the final will be fresh in the minds of these players, it was far from all doom and gloom for the bottom four teams, particularly with some U SPORTS alumni doing their part to try and get their side into the top four.
Of all the U SPORTS players who appeared for the eliminated outfits, some showed better than the rest and were prime examples for the existence of the CPL. 49 Sports takes a look at the top player from each eliminated side after seven matches.
York 9 FC: Ryan Telfer
Missing out on a spot in the second round by just one point, York were undefeated through their first six matches before dropping a decisive 1-0 result to Cavalry in their final match in PEI.
Conceding just seven times in seven matches, York’s four draws can’t be chalked up to the problems in their own end. In the end, their own scoring dried up at the worst possible time, and one of their top offensive weapons in Ryan Telfer failed to pick up a single goal or an assist in the competition.
The former York Lion featured in all seven matches, sitting out just ten minutes across the whole tournament for Jimmy Brennan’s Nine Stripes. In credit to the Mississauga native, his inability to find the back of the net was not a result of a lack of effort as his 13 shots, including seven on target, were both tops on his team.
Considering his 10 goals in 2019 across all competitions, it’s fair to assume the club, Telfer included, will be expecting his fortunes in front of goal to come around in the near future.
The next closest U SPORTS alumni in minutes played behind Telfer was fellow York University player Matthew Arnone, who played just 62 minutes across two appearances off the bench in the tournament. As a result, the 26-year-old forward earns top spot for York 9 in the U SPORTS recognition department for now.
Valour FC: Dylan Carreiro
Another former York University player makes our list, Dylan Carreiro was one of the few bright spots for the Winnipeg based side. Carreiro’s goal against Atletico Ottawa in their 4-0 rout over the new kids on the block was his lone tally of the tournament.
The bigger issue for Valour was that the hometown kid tied atop the scoring department as none of Rob Gale’s attackers managed to score more than once in Charlottetown.
Playing 333 minutes across seven appearances, the 25-year-old led his side in crosses/corners played into the box with six. Even more impressive than his delivery from out wide was his discipline, drawing a team-high 13 fouls while not giving away a single free-kick in the process.
Selected second overall in the 2018 CPL-U SPORTS Draft by Valour, Carreiro scored twice and added a pair of assists in 23 league appearances last season. As he continues to find his feet in the CPL, expect to see him take his game to an even higher level with hopes of producing offensively on a more consistent basis.
Honourable mention to former University of Saskatchewan star Brett Levis whose two assists in the tournament were tied for the team lead.
Atletico Ottawa: Ajay Khabra
As one of the big question marks heading into the Island Games, Ottawa more than held their own considering their inaugural match came in their tournament opener. With many of their players new to the CPL scene, the squad members with previous experience in the league were expected to rely on heavily to help make the transition for the expansion side that little bit easier.
Former FC Edmonton and Alberta Golden Bear midfielder Ajay Khabra fit the bill as one of those CPL ‘veterans’, having played almost 2000 minutes for the Eddies in 2019. After starting in Atletico’s tournament opener, Khabra’s minutes were reduced as the competition went on, ultimately playing a cumulative 308 minutes in seven matches.
Considering his experience and the ability he’d already demonstrated in the league, it’s a testament to the quality of Ottawa from the hop that Khabra was unable to secure a regular place in their starting XI.
The 25-year-old Edmonton native might not have been brought to the Nation’s capital for his goal-scoring abilities but he’s no stranger to finding the back of the net when it counts the most. In his time with the University of Alberta, Khabra brought his team to a U SPORTS National title, scoring the lone goal in a 1-0 win over UQAM back in 2016.
Standing as the lone U SPORTS rep for the time being in the Ottawa squad, Khabra is a player whose impact is hard to measure through any statistical category. As a simple, lead by example type figure in the Atletico midfield, he’ll surely continue to play a key part in the development of a very new squad moving forward.
FC Edmonton: Easton Ongaro
Only the Eddies failed to win a single match in the Island Games, picking up just one point in a 2-2 draw against Ottawa. Little to none of the blame however can be placed on the shoulders of Golden Bears alumni Easton Ongaro.
After a slow start, the 6’6 striker finished with three goals in seven appearances for Edmonton, accounting for 60% of his side’s offensive output in PEI as they managed to score just five times across seven matches played.
Scoring 10 times in 22 appearances last season, many expected the 22-year-old to have another standout season in the CPL. With little support cast surrounding him, Ongaro managed to make his mark in the tournament despite some early struggles.
His towering presence and ability to convert chances consistently are exactly the assets that earned him a call-up to the Canada under-23 camp for the since cancelled Tokyo Olympic games.
Special shoutout to fellow University of Alberta alumnus Connor James whose kick save on Cavalry’s Marcus Haber earned him save of the first round honours on CanPL.ca