April 22nd Edition

It's CanChamp season!

It’s the best time of the year for fans of Canadian club soccer.

The quest to hoist the Voyageurs Cup kicks off this week with a slate of matchups that look as spicy as ever. Despite being one of the newer domestic club competitions in world football (this year is the 17th edition), the competition never fails to provide drama.

Last year, the biggest story was the TSS Rovers, who stunned CPL side Valour in the opening round at the historic Swangard Stadium and quickly became the darlings for Canadian Soccer. In a recent turn of events, it looks like they’ll have the chance to do so again.

More on that, another huge friendly for CanMNT, MLS & CPL recaps, and plenty more ahead in this week’s edition of The Northern Pitch.


Canadian Championship

🏆 It’s CanChamp season!

Tagwa Moyo / Canada Soccer

The kings of Canada will once again be crowned over the next few months, as the 2024 Canadian Championship kicks off this week!

The competition opens in Calgary, where 2023 CPL regular season champs Cavalry FC host the league’s newest club Vancouver FC on Tuesday.

The next night, Toronto FC plays against a semi-pro side in official competition for the first time as they host Simcoe County Rovers at BMO Field. Rovers, a League1 Ontario club partially owned by the likes of Atiba Hutchinson, Cyle Larin, Doneil Henry and Janine Beckie, are making their first appearance in the competition.

This week also brought official confirmation from Canada Soccer that League1 BC champs, the Victoria Highlanders, have withdrawn from the competition and are being replaced by the TSS Rovers.

The Rovers were the darlings of last year’s competition after they became the first semi-pro team to advance in CanChamp history by defeating Valour in the opening round. They will be looking to repeat that magic when they take on Pacific this year, who defeated them in the 2023 quarter-finals.

Rovers and Pacific will meet on Wednesday, May 1 at Starlight Stadium, a day which also sees Atlético Ottawa host Valour, and Forge take on York United in the first CanChamp edition of the 905 darby. The final match of the opening round will take place on Thursday, May 2, when the Halifax Wanderers host CS Saint-Laurent.

The two-time defending champs Vancouver Whitecaps and 2023 finalists CF Montréal were given a bye through the opening round. They await the winners in the quarter-finals.

The first round is just single elimination, while the quarter and semi-finals are home-and-away. The final, meanwhile, is a single match. There will be another draw after the quarter-finals to determine matchups and hosting rights for the final.

With all the nonsense surrounding the US Open Cup down in the States, and Major League Soccer acting like real narcs, it is nice to see a proper cup competition kick off in North America. Long live the CanChamp!


🍷 Les Rouges vs. Les Bleus in Bordeaux

Canada Soccer

What a summer this is going to be for the Men’s National Team. 

Argentina, The Netherlands, Chile, Peru, Mexico and now the World #2 France — and it could be more if they can get out of their group at Copa América.

Canada Soccer announced this week they are taking on the 2018 World Cup champs, and 2022 runners-up, France in a friendly on June 9 in Bordeaux. This is three days after they face the Dutch in Rotterdam.

Those two teams will be preparing for this summer’s Euros, where they will face each other in Group D, so you know they are gonna take this seriously. These are the kinds of tests that CanMNT have long needed in order to reach the next level.

They themselves will be preparing for one of the biggest matches in the nation’s history, playing in a Copa América opener against the team who beat France in the 2022 World Cup opener, Argentina on June 20.

Allez les rouges!


🌊 ‘Caps are on a wave

Vancouver Whitecaps FC

Last week, Vancouver Whitecaps gaffer Vanni Sartini took the Canadian media to task for not covering in enough depth what he believes is an indisputable fact: that the ‘Caps are currently the best team in Canada.

A 2-0 dub over Cascadia rivals Seattle Sounders at Lumin Field on Saturday night made them the first Western Conference team to reach five wins this season (the LA Galaxy also reached five, in one more game played, a day later).

The Caps still haven’t lost away from home this season, which is just one less than all of the 2023 season, where they won just four times away from home in 17 road matches.

Fafa Picault has been a revelation adding dynamic quality to the Vancouver attack, Ryan Gauld remains one the best players in the league and Hamilton’s Ryan Raposo deserves a CanMNT look for the way he has started this season.

As for the Canadian Championship, and making the retention of their Canadian crown undisputed, the ‘Caps will take on the winners of Vancouver FC and Cavalry FC in a home-and-away series later in May. After winning just 1 of the first 14 editions of the Canadian Championship, the ‘Caps have gone back-to-back. With the way they are playing right now, a three-peat is looking likely.


Motherwell FC

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Theo Bair was named to the Scottish PFA Team of the Year. Every year, the players in the Premiership vote for the Team of the Year. Theo Bair’s recent surge in performance should surprise no one because he has been named on that list. With 13 goals and four assists, Bair deserves to be on that list. The next list his name should be on is the CanMNT squad. This accomplishment is making a strong case for the Ottawa striker.

🇮🇹 Jonathan David to Napoli? In Napoli, where Calcio is king. When boy meets club, here’s what they say. Strikers become deified. Is this the potential outcome for Jonathan David? It’s been reported that Napoli has reached an agreement with Lille for the Ottawa striker. We’ve all suspected that JD was going to move, but the question was to whom. With Victor Osimhen looking for an out, JD could be the ideal replacement for the former Lille striker. One thing is sure about Napoli: it is a club where forwards become deified and forever immortalized in world football. Diego Maradona, Gonzalo Higuain, Marek Hamsik, Dries Mertens, Lorenzo Insigne. Would Jonathan David enter this pantheon?

🏆 Phonzy to face his future club. With the Champions League quarter-finals wrapped up, Alphonso Davies and Bayern Munich will face Real Madrid in the semis. If Phonzy’s move to Madrid occurs this summer, this is the perfect opportunity to confirm Los Blancos’ decision to sign the Canadian talent. What we’re saying is that we should expect Phonzy to ball out against Real Madrid.

🇨🇦 Smyrniotis or Wheeldon Jr. for CanMNT? Kristian Jack reported that Forge FC manager Smyrniotis and Cavalry FC coach Wheeldon Jr. are on the shortlist for the CanMNT management. Neither name is surprising given the pedigree of each manager. Smyrniotis is the most successful manager in the CPL, and Tommy Wheeldon Jr. is responsible for some of the most exciting football with the Cavalry. One should ask whether going from CPL to CanMNT manager is too big of a jump—only one way to find out.

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Johnston vs Hoilett in Scottish Cup semis. Aberdeen played Celtic in the Scottish FA Cup semi-finals in the historic Hampden Park. The Canadians balled out in this game, with both registering assists. Alistair Johnston assisted the Celtics in scoring their third goal in the first half of extra time. Junior Hoilett came through with clutch last-minute assists in the 90th and 119th minutes. The game ended 3-3, with Celtic defeating Aberdeen 6-5 in pens, with AJ scoring one of the pens.

😮 Chelsea Women first to defeat Barcelona at home. Specifically, Chelsea was the first team to beat Barcelona at home in five years—FIVE. That’s an impressive feat to maintain for the Catalan club, but for the West London club to ruin that stat is even better. Kadeisha Buchanan and Ashley Lawrence were among the starters in Chelsea’s first-leg 1-0 win in the UWCL. If they can hold the lead in the second leg, they will be heading to the finals.

Vermont Green FC

🍁 The Maple Cup is a thing. Vermont Green FC will host Ligue1 Québec Champs CS Saint-Laurent in the 2024 Maple Cup—a delicious name. The dad joke had to be forced in. The game will happen on July 3rd at Virtue Field in Burlington, Vermont. Tickets can be found here.

⚽️ Kadeisha scores for Chelsea. The Brampton defender scores big for Chelsea’s 3-0 thrashing of Aston Villa. One for the books.

🇨🇦 Canada crash out of Concacaf futsal quarters. Canada travelled to Nicaragua for the Concacaf futsal championship, finishing third in the group stage, but was able to qualify for the quarterfinals. Unfortunately, their journey ended there as they were defeated by four-time champions Costa Rica 3-2. This competition would guarantee the top four spots in FIFA World Cup Futsal Uzbekistan 2024. The full game can be watched here.

💪 Borough FC is doing things right. When we say things, we mean kits. It’s been a good year for Canadian kits, and new League1 Ontario club Borough FC decided to join that conversation. Their inaugural kit is a map of Scarborough with Lawrence Ave adorned prominently on the chest. That’s local pride, and we’re here for it.

🇨🇴 Juan Quintana to Pacific FC. The Victoria club has signed the 20-year-old Colombian CB to a one-year deal with a two-year option. The Colombian youngster signed from Orsomarso.

🌹 Sinclair and Beckie are banging in goals for Portland. The Canadian pair converted goals for their clubs in the NWSL. Christine Sinclair scored the first goal for Portland’s 4-1 win over Houston Dash with Beckie scoring in stoppage time. Big game for both Canadians.

Sean Pollock / Waking The Red

🔴 TFC over New England. First things first, Prince Owusu may have scored the goal of the season (so far). A likkle cheeky backheel goal in the second half reminding everyone, no Insigne, no problem. It was a convincing 1-0 win over the New England Revolution that was good to see after a 3 game slide.

🔵 CF Montréal held to a draw at home. CFM hosted Orlando City at Stade Saputo over the weekend. MTL saw Josef Martinez and Matias Coccaro on the sideline due to injury and had to start in-form Ariel Lassiter and Mason Toye as strikers. MTL opened the scoring, with Orlando scoring the equalizer, only for MTL to score the tie-breaker deep into the game with Orlando scoring another equalizer in stoppage time. The game ended 2-2. Despite the result, CFM displayed a positive performance.

🦅 VFC continued to fly high as they put up a 2-0 shutout dub over the Halifax Wanderers, who are still looking for their first goal of the season, on Thursday. Rocco Romeo and Alejandro Díaz both bagged for the Eagles.

🔱 Pacific FC pick up second dub. A 2-0 over Valour FC. The Tridents’ 20-year-old goalkeeper, Emil Gazdov, hasn’t allowed a goal yet this season. One to watch for sure.

🏟️ Atlético and Cavalry draw. Ottawa’s Kris Twardek scored another late volley for his new club, although unfortunately, this time it was on his own net as Cavalry equalized late to draw 1-1 with Atléti on Saturday afternoon.

🔨 Forge handled York. The reigning champs thumped York United 3-0 despite a fantastic atmosphere at York Lions Stadium on Saturday. Borges, Bénibanga, Campbell and Choinière are cooking up a madness in attack this year for the Hammers.

Games of the week

📺 What we’ll be watching

Here are our must-watch games this week:

Serie A 🇮🇹
Milan vs Inter Milan (Mon @ 2:45pm ET / 11:45am PT)
↳ Tajon Buchanan (Inter)

CanChamp 🏆
Cavalry vs VFC (Tue @ 9pm ET / 6pm PT)
TFC vs Rovers (Wed @ 7:30pm ET / 4:30pm PT)

York United vs VFC (Fri @ 7pm ET / 4pm PT)
Wanderers vs Atlético (Sat @ 1pm ET / 10am PT)
Forge vs Valour (Sat @ 4pm ET / 1pm PT)

P.S. Signing up with this link helps support The Northern Pitch!


📺 What to watch

As discussed at length above, it’s CanChamp season! If you can, get out there and catch action IRL in Calgary (tickets) or Toronto (tickets).

Also, tune in to OneSoccer’s new weekly recap show Match Night, with Kristian Jack, Gareth Wheeler and Jordan Wilson.

🛍️ What to buy

Nothing! Give the ol’ wallet a break this week, and dive into some spring cleaning. You might just find a forgotten gem waiting to be brought back into rotation.

Who to follow

Lower Block is a platform dedicated to documenting football subculture through photography. Our very own Hanin Mazri was interviewed recently, which is definitely worth a read.


CF Montréal vs Orlando City
📸 Ketsia Nkumbu / DARBY