3 storylines to watch in 2022 Canadian Championship opening round
The 2022 Canadian Championship is kicking off this week on OneSoccer, with five scintillating all-Canadian match-ups setting up a final eight showdown later in the month.
These one-and-done battles from coast-to-coast are packed with drama – so often the case when you're pitting teams up against one another in a do-or-die showdown.
Oliver Platt has already highlighted (and ranked!) the level of intrigue each of the first five match-ups will likely provide - so let's go one step deeper, shall we?
Here are 3 storylines worth following in the 2022 #CanChamp opening round:
Big fish, meet little fish
Which "cupset" are you most invested in?
Because, by this point, one of 'em is bound to come off. Since joining the Canadian Championship in 2019, the Canadian Premier League's formidable footballing sides have proven a stubborn thorn on the sides of their MLS contemporaries, with the Vancouver Whitecaps particularly prone to taking the "L" in "CPL," as it were.
ICYMI ✨— OneSoccer (@onesoccer) August 27, 2021
Last night, @PacificFCCPL stunned @WhitecapsFC in their #CanChamp clash, defeating their B.C. rivals 4-3 in a WILD back-and-forth at Starlight Stadium ⚽
Here's our breakdown 👇
▶️ (FULL) https://t.co/0OI2XSl4hP pic.twitter.com/1vvp27aKmn
But they're not meeting (or losing to) Cavalry FC or Pacific FC in the opening round of 2022; instead, they've got Valour FC of Winnipeg.
Can Valour be the CPL team that dumps Vancouver out of the tournament for a third-straight year?
It would be comedy for the neutrals, sure ... but if it doens't happen, there are plenty of other fish in this particular sea.
Take, for instance, Guelph United, squaring off against HFX Wanderers FC with former Halifax striker Tomasz Skublak starting up top.
Or, Forge FC taking on CS Mont-Royal Outremont in what is surely the strangest iteration of Ontario vs. Quebec soccer we've seen in recent years. It's no 401 Derby, and yet here we are, all the same.
Then you've got FC Edmonton taking on Cavalry FC, and somehow still looking for their first win over their Albertan rivals, even after four years of trying.
Don't quit hoping after round one, either; CF Montreal isn't invincible themselves, while Toronto FC is in something of a weakened state, too, sans Lorenzo Insigne.
There's plenty to be had 'til tournament's conclusion for those ambitious (and wiley) enough to grab at it.
Atletico, York becoming... 'something'
I remember sitting in the Canadian Premier League office when the talk of rivalries came up.
The staff at the time was in two camps; there were those who believed rivalries should be branded and marketed ahead of time, and those who cautioned to let the natural ebbs and flows of soccer take root, first.
Enter the 905 Derby, where Forge FC and York United were naturally drawn up as sworn enemies, before even kicking a ball.
It made sense on paper, sure - but lately, it feels a lot like York United vs. Atletico Ottawa is the better draw.
"But Armen," you say, pointing to the stat sheet, "haven't these two teams drawn 6 of their 7 total matches, all time?"
Exactly. They can't be separated. York's got the one win. The other six results? 2-2, 1-1, 1-1, 2-2, 1-1, 2-2.
Is it a rivalry? I don't know. No. Probably not, unless someone can come up with a cleverer name than "ONroutico"
But is it worth watching? It's Ballou Tabla vs. Osaze De Rosario (so it sure is).
Which future star will emerge?
It needs to be said that the Canadian Championship isn't just a magical tournament filled with memories (of Toronto and Montreal winning it over and over).
It's also a massive showcase from top to bottom. A talent show, if you will.
The Canadian Championship is where Alistair Johnston was first "discovered."
Ditto that for Mo Farsi (AS Blainville) and Ryan Robinson (Vaughan Azzurri), who went on to sign for CPL teams after appearing (on OneSoccer) in the CanChamp's of years past.
The simple fact is that the Canadian Championship is one of a very limited number of potential scouting opportunities to see how players in semi-pro environments square up against more developed outfits.
Despite the idea that we're doing some decent-level scouting in this country, the reality is that without these intra-league match-ups, there are otherwise very small pools of data to draw any conclusions from.
So, keep your eyes peeled, and if you see something you like, share it. Go to Twitter. Use #CanChamp. Because, frankly, who knows - you're witnessing the first real shot at impressing, after all.
Catch the 2022 Canadian Championship exclusively on OneSoccer, featuring Canadian clubs from Major League Soccer, the Canadian Premier League, League1 Ontario and the PLSQ battling it out from coast-to-coast in the quest for the Voyageurs Cup ... and the 2023 Concacaf Champions League spot it brings! SUBSCRIBE HERE for exclusive access, including pre- and post-game coverage: OneSoccer - your home for Canadian soccer.