Chasing the Golden Boot: Assessing a wide-open race as CPL strikers compete
As the stretch run of this 2022 Canadian Premier League season nears, the race toward the playoffs has heated right up as of late.
With just 9 points separating first and fifth, including just a four-point split between first and fourth, everything is still up in the air right now, which should make for a fun finish to this campaign.
And that's not the only race worth keeping an eye on in the league, either, as while the playoff push has heated up, so has the golden boot race, one that also remains quite wide-open.
Right now, Alejandro Díaz and his 13 goals lead the pack, but with Woobens Pacius, Moses Dyer and Osaze De Rosario all within five goals of him, his lead isn't completely assured quite yet. Especially given the rate that some of the CPL's top attackers have been banging in the goals as of late, a lead such as that could easily disappear over a matter of weeks, which could make for a photo finish in the race towards the golden boot, which does also extend into the playoffs.
So as each team enters the last 10 games of this CPL campaign, plus playoffs, here's a look at how the race currently sits, as well as a look at who has the best chance at finishing it on top, joining Tristan Borges, Akeem Garcia and João Morelli in league lore as past winners.
Alejandro Díaz, Pacific FC: 13 goals (3 penalties), 9.76 xG
To begin, there's no better place to start than with the current leader, Díaz, who since scoring against Forge FC on opening day, has led the golden boot race pretty much the entire way, with the only blip being when Aribim Pepple tied him for a matter of minutes back in June.
Other than that small stumble, however, it's been Díaz's race to lose since day one, and given that he currently leads the league in Expected Goals (xG) and shots on target, and is second in overall shots, it's hard to imagine him losing that lead anytime soon.
GOAL 🔱🔱— OneSoccer (@onesoccer) July 30, 2022
AND JUST. LIKE. THAT. @Pacificfccpl turn around a 1-0 deficit and go up 2-1 😱
Who else but Were Diaz with his 13th goal of the season? 👀#CanPL | 🔴 https://t.co/7JFAUhgjL6 pic.twitter.com/l63DBoTfnr
Plus, having scored against every team at least once this year, he can't be accused of being a 'flat-track bully', either, especially given that eight of his 13 goals have come against teams in the top five, meaning that he's kept consistent no matter the opposition.
You add in his exploits in CONCACAF League, where he also has three goals in two games there, and it's hard to bet against him in this race, as he continues his charge towards becoming Pacific's first-ever golden boot winner.
Verdict: Safe and reasonable choice to win.
EDIT (12:00PM ET): (Also immediately) after the time of this writing, Diaz was sold to Sogndal Fotball in Norway.
Woobens Pacius, Forge FC: 10 goals (2 penalties), 9.23 xG
But while Díaz has been leading the way since day one, a new challenger has emerged in the race as of late, and that's Pacius, who after a strong month of July, now sits just three back of first place as of writing.
Yet, that just shows how good Pacius has been as of late, as after not scoring in his first five games of the season, he now has 10 goals in his last 12 games, including seven in his last six.
He is boosted by a hat trick against Edmonton in there, to be fair, but much like Díaz, he's had a lengthy list of victims, scoring against everyone but Ottawa, which is quite impressive. Plus, given that his xG, which is only bested by Díaz, is a lot closer to his actual goal total, the argument can be made that his scoring is more sustainable, too.
GOAL 🔨— OneSoccer (@onesoccer) August 6, 2022
It's a hammer drop just 2 minutes in, as Woobens Pacius scores his 10th goal of the season to give @ForgeFCHamilton an early 1-0 lead over @HFXWanderersFC #CanPL | 🔴 https://t.co/7JFAUhgjL6 pic.twitter.com/SlMfxHclpO
One thing worth noting, however, is that just three of his goals have come against teams in the top five, which does go against him, but other than that, Pacius does make a good sleeper pick to win, especially if Forge keeps up their league-leading offensive form, offering him plenty of chances to score more goals.
Verdict: Recent form suggests potential value… and never bet against Forge.
Moses Dyer, Valour FC: 9 goals (3 penalties), 5.65 xG
While the race between two strikers rages on at the top, however, a surprise name slots in at third on the list, and that's attacking midfielder, Dyer, who thanks to a hot run of form as of late, has quietly snuck up in the golden boot race.
Helping fuel a Valour summer surge, one that has them very much in the thick of the playoff race, Dyer's six goals in his last seven games has gone a long way to helping Valour find themselves where they currently do in the table.
Doing so despite a lower amount of xG than those around him, he has shown his ability to make something out of nothing in moments, leading the league in shots and shots on target, showing why he's so dangerous in that attacking midfield position.
GOAL 🎖🎖@ValourFootball double their lead against @CPLCavalryFC as Moses Dyer rounds the keeper and scores his second of the night!— OneSoccer (@onesoccer) August 4, 2022
Dyer gets his 9th goal of the season and gives Valour a 2-0 lead!#CanPL | 🔴 https://t.co/7JFAUhgjL6 pic.twitter.com/KgZ4LkiEf9
So while that low xG could prove to make it hard for him to sustain his rate, making him hard to project as a potential golden boot winner, that ability to make magic out of nothing does still make him a wildcard, one that could still make some noise in this race.
And seeing that he's scored against everyone except Edmonton, with seven of his nine goals coming against those in the top five, his ability to shine in big games only boosts that idea, especially should Valour make the big dance this season.
Verdict: Much like Valour, don't count him out until the very end.
Osaze De Rosario, York United: 8 goals (1 penalty), 6.14 xG
Returning to the no. 9s, however, that leads us to one of the more intriguing names in the golden boot race, and that's De Rosario, who as one would expect of someone with his name, has been a force since day one.
Despite sitting on a York team with just 14 goals on the season, he's bagged eight of those markers, with seven of them being non-penalty markers. Along with his solid xG numbers, and his shot rate (he's top five in shots, sixth in shots on target), that makes him a threat in most games, even if he doesn't always get the support of those around him.
GOAL 👑👑👑👑— OneSoccer (@onesoccer) August 1, 2022
Osaze De Rosario makes it 4-1 for @YorkUtdFC vs. @HFXWanderersFC as Christian Oxner gets caught out of net for the gut-punch finish#CanPL | 🔴 https://t.co/7JFAUhgjL6 pic.twitter.com/DtpOh5976P
Because of that, that makes him a threat to still keep pace in this race, even despite his team's offensive numbers. Currently on a run of five goals in his last eight games, he's been heating up at the right time, giving him a shot to make a late push towards the crown.
With goals against everyone except Forge, with five of his eight tallies coming against those in the top five, that sort of gamebreaking ability will make him a threat in most games, which will be good news for York, who otherwise haven't had much to write home about in big games.
Verdict: A long, long shot, albeit one with potential for a good pay-off.
Best of the rest
Other than that, however, it's hard to imagine anyone else potentially finishing atop the golden boot race at the end of the season, as the next best goalscorer sits at six goals, a whopping seven off of Díaz.
Of course, you can never say never, especially given how 2022 has gone so far in the CPL, but that may just be too big of a mountain to climb, all but writing them out of the race for now.
If any surprises are to happen, however, there are a few to keep an eye on.
Sam Salter (six goals) is the first one, as while the Wanderers have hit a rut as of late, making it hard for Salter to build off of a strong start to the year, he can be tough to stop on his day, and given the Wanderers ability to win this trophy (they've had two of the three all-time golden boot winners), you won't want to write him out until the end.
Meanwhile, Terran Campbell (six goals) is also one to watch, having caught fire as of late, which considering that he just missed out on winning the 2019 and 2021 Golden Boot races, could make him a late wildcard, as he tries to avenge those near-misses.
Last but not least, Ballou Tabla (five goals), is a very long shot, but one always worth keeping an eye on, as while his mountain is the biggest of them all, his ability to break games open does keep the possibility open, especially seeing that he scored a brace this past weekend.