October 16th Edition

CanMNT taught a lesson by Japan & the CPL Final is headed to Hamilton

CanMNT taught a lesson by Japan & the CPL Final is headed to Hamilton

Happy international break Monday!

We got to see the Canadian men’s national team back in action this past week, and we sort of wish we hadn’t after a humbling 4-1 loss to Japan… more on that later.

Thankfully, we had some excellent Canadian Premier League playoff action to distract us from all that noise as we now know where the 2023 Final will be hosted and plenty more. Plus, CanWNT players stay balling, all ahead in this week’s edition of The Northern Pitch.

André Varty / DARBY Magazine

An absolutely wild Saturday in the Canadian Premier League left only three teams standing in the 2023 playoffs. We also learned that the CPL final is headed back to Hamilton during a dramatic day of postseason action.

The double-header kicked off in Halifax, where for the first time ever the Wanderers hosted a postseason game, and the Wanderers Grounds did not disappoint. Unfortunately, the result did for the Hali faithful, as Pacific FC somehow flew across the country, having played 72 hours earlier against York United, and held on for a 1-0 win. What a season for the Wanderers though, there is something special cooking in ‘the kitchen’ for sure. They will be back.

Speaking of back, Forge FC are damn near inevitable. After a soft finish to the 2023 season, they turned on playoff mode during a 2-1 win against Cavalry FC later on Saturday, one which not only put them in their fifth straight CPL final, but also means they will host it on October 28. Despite winning three of the league’s four finals so far, Forge has never lifted the trophy at home, so they will be motivated to add that to their absurd list of accomplishments.

The loss didn’t mean elimination for regular season champs Cavalry under the league’s new playoff format, who will now host high-flying Pacific in the semifinal on October 21 with a second chance to reach the final. Despite being the league’s most successful regular season team, Cavalry have never won a playoff title. The double is still possible, but the Cavs path will now have to go through Hamilton if they can beat Pacific.

Photo: Canada Soccer

Friday morning (or middle of the night if you were on the West Coast) got off to a pretty rough start for anyone who woke up to watch Canada’s first international match since July, a humbling 4-1 loss to Japan in Niigata.

Okay, let’s get this out of the way, Japan are absolute ballers. They legit might be one of the best teams in the World right now and proved that again facing Canada, who were completely outclassed. This is a squad that should be appointment viewing for any footy fan with their technical and tactical mastery.

With that being said, Canada looked rusty and brought a lot of their own issues on themselves. They failed to clear the ball and were down just two minutes into the match, Phonzie scored on his own net and then a bad giveaway cost them the third goal… and that was just the first half.

Perhaps even more disappointing, we didn’t really see anything different. In Mauro Biello’s first camp in charge, it was the same players, similar tactics and the same ugly result that has seen the men’s team look a bit shaky of late. There were a couple of debuts (more on that later), but overall a lot of questions about what is next for this team.

Canada better turn things around quick, because next month they have a huge pair of Nations League matches that ultimately serve as Copa America 2024 qualifiers. We will know who they will face in that series by this time next week so stay tuned, but we do know that they will be back in Toronto on November 21 at BMO Field for the second leg.

Other news this week

🔵 Ashley Lawrence makes her debut, and Jessie Flemings marks her 100th appearance for Chelsea. While many watched Arsenal versus Manchester City in the Premier League, WSL’s Man City VS Chelsea rivalled the Prem matchup. Unlike the prem match, this game had two goals, one red card and dramatic moments. Moreover, Canada had two starters and were pivotal players in the WSL matchup. Jessie Fleming made her 100th appearance for Chelsea and started in the #10 position. Ashley Lawrence made her debut for Chelsea at right-back. Man City went up 1-0 with an insane Chloe Kelly screamer in the 6th minute. Drama of the game: Alex Greenwood. Remember when Sergio Ramos and Xabi Alonso got a red card for time-wasting in a free kick against Ajax in 2010/11? The same situation happened when Alex Greenwood took 30 seconds to take a free kick. She received a red. Later in the game, Lauren Hemp received a second yellow for a foul on Lauren James. City is down to nine. In the 96th minute, Guro Reiten scored a close-range goal against City, equalizing the game. Wild. See? It's way more exciting than Arsenal versus Man City. Highlights can be found here.

😬 Central Alberta Soccer Association president was suspended for “disgusting and offensive” emails. Alberta Soccer has suspended regional president Jon Mulder in emails displaying disdain toward diversity initiatives and the governing body’s effort to encourage the participation of girls, women, minorities and LGBTQ community members. The suspended regional president, Jon Mulder, has remarked on the diversity initiative as “discriminating towards Canadians, especially young males of European descent.” Lisa Grant, the executive director of Alberta Soccer, confirmed that Jon Mulder had been suspended on Thursday.

🇨🇦 November schedule for CanMNT: Nations League Quarter Final and Copa America qualifier. Canada Soccer has announced that BMO Field will host the pivotal matchup in October. The Concacaf quarter-final game will double as a qualifying match for 2024 Copa America. Canada will play in a two-legged match on November 21. If Canada were to lose, they would have another opportunity to qualify for Copa America in a play-in match in the States. One thing is for sure: November in Canada is Iceteca. On the shores of Lake Ontario, pray that Canada’s opponent gets frostbite. But also, don’t need to pray for the opposition.

🇵🇹 Marie-Yasmine Alidou is the main character of Benfica. The Montreal-born player is making Lisbon her home. Benfica defeated Apollon 7-0 this week in a UEFA Women’s Champions League qualifier. Since joining Benfica from Famalicão, she has become a key fixture for Benfica’s lineup. Moreover, she has earned a call-up to Canada due to her performance. The former Université de Montréal Carabins star inherits Cloé Lacasse’s spot as a star Canadian player in the Portuguese capital.

CF Montréal

1️⃣ Mathieu Choinière and Harry Paton makes their first caps for CanMNT. Enfin. Finally. Those words must’ve gone through both players' heads when they came off the bench. Harry Paton came on for Samuel Piette in the 62nd minute. Fulfilling the missed opportunity to feature for Canada at the 2021 Gold Cup. In the 61st minute, CF Montréal’s most consistent player all season, Mathieu Choinière, comes off the bench for Jonathan Osorio. Mathieu enjoyed a good week with CFM as they picked up a win and goal against Portland Timbers at Stade Saputo. Despite the positives, Canada lost 4-1 to Asian giants Japan. If there’s any silver lining for the 24-year-old Québecois, he finally got his first cap. Deservedly so. He has proven to be a key MTL player and consistently performed in the biggest league matchups. Moreover, he’s an adaptable player who can play in any position in the midfield. Choiniére has received praise from Alistair Johnston and Mauro Biello for his ability, footballing IQ and noticeable talent. All we have to say: Awaille Mathieu, continue comme ça.

😕 The potential CF Montréal and Whitecaps-linked player Eden Hazard, retires from football. Why include a Belgian in a Canadian footy newsletter? Hazard would have been playing for the Caps or MTL in another universe. Nonetheless, this is sad news. At 32-years-old, the Belgian and Chelsea legend has announced his retirement. If the Whitecaps had acquired Hazard, the 2023 season would officially become the most successful transfer season in Canadian soccer history: Richie Laryea, Sam Adekugbe, Junior Hoilett and Eden Hazard in one year. Damn. CF Montréal does not sign superstars, but this would have been the one that Saputo would’ve made an exception. A francophone player of that level cannot be ignored in the second largest French-speaking city in the world. With fellow Belgian and MTL club legend Laurent Ciman as assistant coach, Hazard’s move to Québec felt most plausible. Alas, we will never know. Hazard’s solo goal against Arsenal will forever live in our memories rent-free.

🇮🇹 Evelyne Viens scores for Roma. In a similar situation to Marie-Yasmine’s Benfica, Roma faced Vorskla Poltava in a UEFA Women’s Champions League qualifier. The match ended 3-0 for Roma as Viens scored the opening goal in the 15th minute. Canadians are balling out in Europe.

Sheldon Mack / Pacific FC

⚽️ While Canadian MLS clubs are on break, it means one thing: CPL play-off baby! On Wednesday, Pacific hosted York United in the first round of play-offs. Fourth-placed Pacific defeated fifth-placed York United 1-0 at Starlight Stadium. York came out swinging, they went full throttle attacking as much as possible. Notably taking numerous chances for a possible banger outside the box. Exciting football. Despite the pressure, Pacific found a way through a late game-winner by Adonijah Reid in the 91st minute. As a result of this win, Pacific travelled to Wanderer’s Ground to take HFX Halifax.

Northern Picks

Gems from at home and across the pond.
This week’s picks come from Victor Edeh (@eddehjr)

Victor Edeh is a Nigerian photographer and art director. His photography reflects his community and fashion within Nigeria. Using bold and vibrant colours he brings his subjects to life with each photo.

📺 What to watch

I’m very much into documentaries and action movies but at the moment, I’m watching David Beckham’s documentary “Beckham” on Netflix. I’ve been a Manchester United fan for 19 years, watching the David Beckham story gave me nostalgic feelings. It felt like I needed to go back to the good old days as a Red Devil, like the 1999 treble-winning team [a story I was told as a child] I mean it’s a lot of memories. It feels really good to see what I was told as a child concerning Beckham to be talked about by the person himself, being David Beckham.

🎧 What to listen to

Music is a huge and important part of my day and working process, I think most people can relate to this. It's almost impossible for me to get work done at the studio without having something playing in the background or headset. Currently, I’m listening to “Great Guy” by Asake, his melody, his use of the Yoruba language in his songs, you could feel this authenticity in his craft. Asake is very intentional with his sound, visuals and style of edits as well. The song makes me feel exactly like the title of the song, “A great guy”. Also, I’m listening to “Finish me” by Ligi. An amazing Artiste from Nigeria I recently found.

✅ Who to follow

@dfutureart on Instagram, an amazing Artiste the world needs to see.