Recapping an entertaining preliminary round of the 2022 Canadian Championship
After a thrilling preliminary round of the Canadian Championship, the bracket for the quarter-finals is now set, narrowing the running for the Voyageurs Cup to just eight teams.
With five games on tap this week, there might not have been any vaunted 'cupsets' quite yet, but there was seemingly everything else on display, from some great goals, to some heated encounters, giving fans a good taste of what this 2022 edition of the tournament is expected to offer.
And coming off a thrilling 2021 tournament, that's exciting, showing why this competition is on the rise right now.
So as we get set for the quarter-finals, which come in just under two weeks' time, here’s a look back at what stood out from this preliminary round, as the race towards silverware (and a Champions League spot) kicked off this week.
HFX Wanderers take care of business against Guelph:
In the first game of the round, we had a potential 'cupset' on the cards, as League 1 Ontario side Guelph United hosted the HFX Wanderers at home Wednesday. Despite existing for just over a year, winning the L1O title in their first-ever season to qualify for this tournament, Guelph had hope that they could sneak through to the next round, although that meant overcoming a stiff test in the Wanderers.
And despite that optimism from the hosts at kick-off, the Wanderers quickly reminded them why they're a sneaky dark horse for this year's tournament, grabbing an early 1-0 lead through Akeem Garcia, before adding to it in the second half with a great goal from Aidan Daniels, allowing them to cruise to the next round.
At the same time, there was a lot to like from Guelph in their first foray into the Canadian Championship. Despite the size of the task, they didn't shy away from it, and overall left a good impression of themselves, as well as their fans, in defeat.
York, Ottawa continue to build budding rivalry:
Simultaneously to that Guelph clash, things were getting heated just over 500 kilometres away in Ottawa, where for the second time in a few weeks, Atletico Ottawa and York United were butting heads in a tense clash, this time for a spot in the Canadian Championship quarter-finals.
Picking up where they left off in an intense battle in CPL action from a few weeks back, where they combined for a 2-2 game with a late equalizer and a red card, they wasted no time in duking things out in this game. Be it physically, as they combined for several hard tackles and a big brouhaha towards the end of the game, to the scoresheet, where they traded goals via York's Diyaeddine Abzi and Ottawa's Malcolm Shaw to get to penalty kicks, the intensity was certainly not lacking in this game, that's for sure.
So if anything, it was only fitting that an intense shootout would be the way both sides would have to separate themselves, marking the seventh time in eight meetings which finished in a draw, with York only finding a way to squeak through after coming out on top 7-6 on spot-kicks.
Cavalry weathers Edmonton to keep sparkling Al Classico record:
On the theme of rivalries, that continued into the last game of Tuesday, when Cavalry hosted Edmonton in the second game between the two teams in less than a week. There, Cavalry, who are undefeated all-time against Edmonton, stormed out to a 2-0 lead in the first half through a Myer Bevan brace, making it look likely that they'd finish with a similar result to their most recent match, where they beat the Eddies 3-0.
Despite that, however, Edmonton mustered up a late push, one that saw them halve the deficit through a Tobias Warschewski penalty, before throwing the kitchen sink forward at the end, narrowly coming close to equalizing the game.
So while Cavalry eventually made it through, continuing their relative success in this competition, as well as versus Edmonton, there was a lot to like with Edmonton's late push, where they showed the sort of resilience that many felt they lacked in the previous Al Classico a few days prior.
Forge calmly navigates tricky CSMRO challenge:
Moving onto Wednesday, the first of two games on the day saw Forge host PLSQ side CS Mont-Royal Outremont in another potential 'cupset', with Outremont making their maiden voyage in this competition.
And despite that, they didn't look fazed by the grandeur of the occasion, either, coming out strong against Forge, looking prime to surprise their hosts. But for how strong they came out of the gates, they weren't able to turn that into any chances, and Forge would then make them pay for that, nabbing a first-half lead through Terran Campbell, before confirming their result late on with a Woobens Pacius tally.
As a result, that allowed Forge to advance to the quarter-finals, showing great professionalism in what proved to be a tough game, especially with Outremont proving to be a formidable test, even despite it being just their first competitive match of the campaign.
Whitecaps finally break CPL duck:
Lastly, to cap off this preliminary round, the Vancouver Whitecaps hosted Valour FC in the last of potential 'cupsets', as they tried to win their first-ever match against a CPL time, having lost two and drawn one of their three previous outings against teams from the league.
But thanks to a strong first-half surge, one that came off the back of a strong Valour start to the game, that'd allow the Whitecaps to cruise to a 2-0 victory, as first-half goals from Russell Teibert and Ryan Raposo would prove to be enough for them to withstand a late Valour push.
So even though it wasn't easy at times, with Valour certainly showing good things despite the loss, the Whitecaps did what they needed to do in the end, allowing them to win their first Canadian Championship tie since 2018.
Seeing all of that, here are some awards from this preliminary round of Canadian Championship action.
Player of the Round: Myer Bevan
Given the task of having to fill in for the always-dangerous Joe Mason with Cavalry FC, new 2022 arrival, Myer Bevan, showed that his side has a very capable secondary threat in him, nabbing a tidy first-half brace in their win versus Edmonton.
Goal of the Round:
With his team narrowly leading 1-0 in the first half of their clash against Guelph, Halifax’s Aidan Daniels decided to put the tie away in style in the second half, lining up an absolute rocket from distance, shocking the fans with a stunning effort.
Moment of the Round:
Fresh off of returning from Ukraine just a week prior, where he had fought on the frontlines of the ongoing war in that country after signing for a club shortly before the onset of that conflict, Guelph's Svyatik Artemenko had a game to remember against the Wanderers, making eight saves despite the loss, keeping his team in the game right until the end.
So now, the quarter-finals will kick off in just under two weeks' time. Here are the matchups for that round.
Cavalry FC vs Vancouver Whitecaps:
In a rematch of the 2019 Canadian Championship, in which Cavalry famously became the first CPL team to beat an MLS side in an entertaining two-legged win over Vancouver, Cavalry will host Vancouver in what is expected to be a very hotly-contested matchup between both sides.
The winner of this match will host either Pacific or York in the semis.
Pacific FC vs York United:
Having got a bye to the quarter-finals after winning the CPL last season, Pacific FC will host York for the second time in five days, as Pacific looks to return to the semi-finals of this tournament for the second straight year, while York looks to make it that far for the first time ever.
The winner of this match will visit either Vancouver or Cavalry in the semis.
Forge FC vs CF Montreal:
Having met in the semi-finals of the 2021 tournament, where penalty kicks were the only thing splitting the two sides in an entertaining match, Forge hosts the defending champions, Montreal, in what is expected to be a hotly contested rematch.
The winner of this match will visit either the HFX Wanderers or Toronto FC in the semis.
HFX Wanderers vs Toronto FC:
Lastly, for the second year in a row, the Wanderers will host an MLS team in the quarter-finals, as after hosting Montreal last year, they get to welcome Toronto FC to town, in what will be TFC’s first visit to a CPL ground in their history.
The winner of this match will host either Forge or CF Montreal in the semis.
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