PLAYOFF RACE (Sunday update): 3 teams battle for 2 remaining spots in CPL post-season
TORONTO – And then there were three.
The Canadian Premier League's 2022 playoff race is at a boiling point, as FC Edmonton, HFX Wanderers FC and York United FC have now been eliminated from contention, while Atletico Ottawa and Forge FC have clinched their spots for the 2022 post-season.
The hunt for the North Star Shield requires four, leaving just two spots remaining in this, the penultimate week of Canadian pro club action.
Cavalry FC of Calgary, Valour FC of Winnipeg, and reigning champs Pacific FC of Vancouver Island are left to battle for those vaunted post-season berths ... and there's not gonna be enough to go around for everyone.
Here's how things stand for the remaining three contenders still in the race.
(As a reminder, here’s a look at the tiebreaker rules for the league).
X - Atlético Ottawa (12W-9D-5L, 45 PTS)
Remaining matches: Halifax (A), York (H)
Things are looking pretty good for the CPL's newest club, as they officially booked their spot in the playoffs for the first time this past weekend with a road win over Cavalry FC.
That leaves Carlos Gonzalez's side with the simple goal of accumulating the 220 remaining required U-21 Canadian minutes in order to officially be eligible for the playoffs, while also trying to capture the regular season title (and guaranteed home seed for the final) at the same time.
Things look good for them in that quest; with two games against already-eliminated foes, they should be able to comfortably get 220 minutes for their youngsters, while potentially finding a way to get the points they need to secure the first seed.
Speaking of which, they could do that this weekend if they win and both Pacific and Forge lose – even if that doesn't happen, one win and one draw in their last two games should all but guarantee it.
X - Forge FC (13W-5D-8L, 44 PTS)
Remaining matches: Pacific (H), Halifax (H)
With a 2-0 win over York United FC, Forge FC booked their place in the 2022 playoffs on Saturday.
Despite a surprising 1-1 draw with Edmonton last weekend, the turnaround result assured Forge wouldn't be left out of their usual place in the end-of-season affair, with the two-time Canadian Premier League champions looking to take back the North Star Shield they lost in 2021 to Pacific FC.
Now, they'll have their eyes on picking up the regular season title, too – they sit one point behind Atletico Ottawa with a game in hand, and while they won't face them directly, given that they have two remaining games at home, they can certainly make things interesting.
After that? It's do-or-die for the Hammer.
Pacific FC (12W-7D-7L, 43 PTS)
Remaining matches: Forge (A), Cavalry (A)
Pacific FC have done what they needed to do this weekend, defeating FC Edmonton 1-0 via a Marco Bustos header just 27 seconds into Friday evening's clash in Alberta.
Now, things look good for the Tridents, as that win over Edmonton sets them up for a clinched playoff spot IF Valour FC also drops points vs. Cavalry FC on Sunday. That will be all that they need to keep their 2021 North Star Shield defence alive.
It feels like it's only a matter of time until they book their spot as well, which they'd do if they get four to six points out of the last three games.
Otherwise, for the regular season title, they do also control their destiny, although it's going to be tough. It's doable, but not easy as they take on both Forge and Cavalry on the road now. But, if they can pull off results, it could be enough to hold both of those teams back and potentially squeeze past Ottawa, too. It's not impossible, but it won't be easy.
Cavalry FC (12W-5D-9L, 41 PTS)
Remaining matches: Valour (H), Pacific (H)
Cavalry FC can also clinch a playoff spot this weekend with a result.
In their case, a draw is all they need, as they face off against Valour FC, meaning that a single point, or three points from a win, will book their spot in their fourth-straight post-season.
If they fail to do that, however, there will be no other permutations to consider for this particular matchday. Cavalry really does control their playoff destiny for this weekend, with no scoreboard watching required, as such.
However, that's not the case in their quest to win the regular season title – with just two games left, winning both and hoping for others to falter is their best hope there. That alone makes it seem unlikely that they'll add that trophy to their cabinet, unless a miracle occurs.
Valour FC (10W-7D-9L, 37 PTS)
Remaining matches: Cavalry (A), Edmonton (A)
Lastly, we've got Valour FC, who will need a win this weekend to keep the playoff hopes alive. With just two games left, Valour can only reach 43 points, meaning they'll likely need to win both their games just to have a chance, and even then that will leave them needing outside help to get them in
Therefore, losing will need to be out of the question for them this weekend, especially against a Cavalry team they could still catch in the race.
With an absolutely ideal road date against Edmonton in the last matchday, a win over Cavalry could certainly clear up a path towards the post-season. If not, it feels like it could be a second season where Valour FC end up just one point short of the finish line again.
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