VANCOUVER, BC – Canada is heading to the men’s FIFA World Cup in November, and there has never been a brighter time for the men’s game north of the 49th parallel, including the domestic league entering its fourth season.
The 2022 Canadian Premier League season kicks off on Thursday, April 7, featuring eight teams playing a balanced 28 game schedule and playing in home markets from the first kick for the first time since the inaugural season.
The Championship Final is scheduled for Oct. 29, before Canada’s first World Cup match against Belgium on Nov. 23.
With another year of the CPL set to start, U SPORTS players will be a major factor for another year. As more Canadian university stars join the league, the potential for game-breakers is greater than ever.
As York United prepares to welcome the Halifax Wanders on Thursday night, 49 Sports previews the U SPORTS players to watch in the four eastern teams, with the western previews to follow
Forge FC – Garven Metusala (Concordia Stingers)
Forge FC has seldom turned to U SPORTS talent, which does not change in 2022, with Garven Metusala as the only U SPORTS-related player on the roster. While the Hamilton club came up short in their search for a third straight title in 2021, the Concordia committed defender played an important role.
Forge selected Metusala in the 2020 CPL Draft, despite the Terrebonne, Que. native never playing a U SPORTS match. He had only committed to the school after two RSEQ seasons with the Dawson College Blues.
It may not be the flashiest position, but Metsuala has quickly established himself as a critical piece of Forge’s defence, playing 25 matches, mainly at centre-back.
Forge had the best defensive record in the CPL in 2021, and the youngster was a big part of that, finishing in the top four on the team in tackles blocks, and aerial duels won.
While he never played a U SPORTS match, Metusala has shown a ton of promise in the CPL through one season and could move onto a higher level with another stellar campaign.
York United – Isaiah Johnston (CBU Capers)
York United enters this season hoping to bust out of the funk they have started their CPL history with. Under new management, with former Canadian international Martin Nash replacing Jimmy Brennan, the club is pointed towards success; however, it will take a lot to get there this season.
One of the players that have been positive for York United and will continue to contribute is former Cape Breton Caper Isaiah Johnston, who joined the club after one U SPORTS season, signing through the CPL Draft on a full contract.
Johnston, 20, made 21 regular-season appearances with the nine stripes in 2021, the best being a perfect one-touch finish when he came off the bench against FC Edmonton early in the season.
After playing over 2000 minutes in the 2021 CPL campaign, the Nine Stripes inked the Milton, Ont. native to a three-year contract extension, keeping him around North Toronto until at least 2024.
With his above-average passing ability and his knack for creating chances, expect Johnston to be a major contributor to a new-look York United side in 2022.
Atletico Ottawa – Zach Verhoven (UBC Thunderbirds)
A stalwart since the league’s debut, former UBC Thunderbird Zach Verhoven is a known quality in the CPL, often challenging defences with his quick decision-making and pace on the ball.
While he played a more offensive role for two seasons with Pacific, Verhoven switched to right-back last season at Atletico under head coach Mista. However, with Mista having left the club, Verhoven could be bound to take another step under the new guidance of Carlos Gonzalez.
Coming off the best season of his professional career, the 23-year-old could continue turning heads in the second full season for Atletico Ottawa.
Halifax Wanderers – Cory Bent (Cape Breton Capers)
No club in the CPL turns to Canadian university talent like the HFX Wanders; however, there is little turnover in their U SPORTS contingent with their 2022 squad. Former CBU Caper Cory Bent has already established himself in the league and will continue to thrive in 2022.
Although he only has a single CPL goal through 29 matches, the 2022 season will be critical for Bent’s growth in the role. Stephen Hart will still play him, there is little doubt in that, but with midfielder Joao Morelli destined for bigger stages, Bent will look to improve his goal tally this season.
Although his goal production has not been there, there are a lot of positive takeaways in Bent’s game and little doubt that he will play a role in a Halifax team looking to return to the CPL Final.
Outside of Bent, the Wanderers have U SPORTS players in 2022 CPL Draft pick Colin Gander of the Guelph Gryphons, and U SPORTS grads Pierre Lamothe of the Montreal Carabins, Christian Oxner of the SMU Huskies, and Peter Schaale of the CBU Capers.
The 2022 Canadian Premier League season begins April 7 with the Halifax Wanderers visiting York United at 7:30 pm ET on OneSoccer.