TORONTO, ON – The last week has given Canadian soccer fans a lot to cheer about. From the Canadian Premier League’s continuation in Winnipeg, the publication of the remaining schedule, the Gold Cup and returning MLS teams, it has been far from a dull week for Canadian soccer.
While former York Lions Mark-Anthony Kaye and Ryan Telfer continue their search for Concacaf glory with Canada and Trinidad and Tobago, respectively, several other U SPORTS names are making noise in the CPL.
We’ve had three weeks of action so far, and each team has played six matches, other than FC Edmonton and the HFX Wanderers.
Player of the week: Christian Oxner (HFX Wanderers/St. Mary’s)
Christian Oxner is an example of a U SPORTS-CPL Draft pick gone right. Selected by the Wanderers in 2019 ahead of the inaugural CPL season, “The Ox” has established himself as one of the league’s elite men between the sticks. He was nominated for the CPL Golden Glove Award in 2020 and showed why in HFX’s 0-0 draw with Pacific FC.
After making the North Star Sheild Final in 2020, the HFX Wanderers can barely buy themselves a goal this season, scoring only a pair through five matches. With a sputtering offence, it leaves just a defence, notably Oxner, to keep the Wanderers in games.
On Tuesday, the former St. Mary’s University Husky made four saves, including three massive stops in a span of 15 minutes. His most notable saves came against CPL All-Time Leading Goalscorer Marco Bustos and league newcomer Ollie Basset.
My first thought was “oh sh-t” […], but I think [Ollie] himself would say that he didn’t make the most of it,” said Oxner post-match of the daylight denial on Basset’s breakaway, as seen above.
In HFX’s first match of the week, Oxner found himself on the losing side but stood firm, making three of four saves against FC Edmonton. While the Wanderers struggle to find success through their forwards, they are well equipped between the sticks.
Second Star: Pierre Lamothe (HFX Wanderers/U de Montreal)
Through three matches this season, former Montreal Carabin Piere Lamothe has been quietly impressive. Jockeying for playing time in the midfield with fellow Carabins Omar Kreim and Kareem Sow, Lamothe has shown that he can calm a game down while also create chances.
He played in both HFX’s matches this week, creating a chance and passing at a 93% completion rate, one of the league’s highest. As we can see above, he makes high-percentage passes, and although they might not break down the team’s defences, they keep the match within reach for the Wanderers. Just look below at his pass completion against Pacific.
While Lamothe and the HFX midfield have been solid, the aforementioned offence has been lacking, casting shadows over a good midfield.
Third Star: Daniel Kaiser (Cavalry/UBC)
As the first player to sign a U SPORTS developmental contract without being drafted, there were mixed expectations for Daniel Kaiser’s first professional season. While some pencilled him in as a defensive stalwart, stepping in for the departed Dominick Zator, others saw him as a long-term project.
So far this season, he has been the former. The UBC Thunderbird has appeared in each of the Cavalry’s six matches and started both games in the last week. Among the league’s defenders, he ranks middle-of-the-pack in nearly every category but has established himself as a critical piece of Cavalry’s defence.
His pass completion rate hovers around 77%, and he has won half of his duels (4/8) in the last two matches. Although Calgary has not looked close to their 2019 form, Kaiser has been serviceable on a league-average team.
Helping his side to a clean sheet against York United certainly helps his case to get into the three stars of the week; however, so does the lack of highlight performances from other U SPORTS players.
49 Sports Match to Watch: York United v Valour (July 18 – 7:30 pm ET)
To see U SPORTS players, watch the HFX Wanderers, who have the most in the league. However, to see players not on the Wanderers, this week’s match to watch is York United against Valour FC.
Valour, the hosts of “The Kickoff” bubble, are the hottest team in the league at 5-0-1 and feature U SPORTS Draft Pick Tony Mikhael, who has been productive from the back in his first few matches. Then former Carleton Raven did not play in their last match, making him likely to start against York.
On the other side, the Nine Stripes have Dominick Zator, one of the league’s finest centre-backs and a former Calgary Dino. At the same time, former Cape Breton Caper Isaiah Johnston has played nearly every minute.
With the U SPORTS players complimented by the additional quality of Diyaeddine Abzi, Moses Dyer and others, you won’t want to miss the Sunday evening clash.