October 2nd Edition

CanWNT qualify for the Olympics as the Gold Medal defence begins

CanWNT qualify for Paris Olympics as the Gold Medal defence begins

Start planning for a summer in Paris now, because the Canadian women’s national team has officially booked their tickets to the 2024 Summer Olympics.

Yes, the defence of the Gold is officially on and with it comes a lot of good vibes for a program that could use just that.

That headlines a week that saw some spicy moments in the CPL’s penultimate week of the regular season, some more young Canadians earning European interest and plenty more ahead in The Northern Pitch.

Ararsa Kitaba / DARBY Magazine

After what has basically been a year of letdowns and underwhelming performances both on, and perhaps even more often off the pitch in Canadian footy, this past week felt like a significant step in the right direction.

The Canadian women’s national team are headed back to the Olympics, and booked their ticket playing a cohesive and exciting brand of attacking footy that has been missing from this group for most of 2023 with a 4-1 win on aggregate over Jamaica.

They wrapped that up in dramatic fashion in front of an outstanding sold-out crowd at BMO Field. Things got a little spicy when Drew Spence scored an absolute screamer to open the scoring for Jamaica from a free kick.

But in some ways that goal against actually might have been just what this group needed, a bit of adversity under pressure to test their resolve. Having crumbled in Australia, they rose to the occasion in Toronto, as Cloe Lacasse, and then Jordyn Huitema, scored to hand Canada a 2-1 win.

Sydney Collins, by the way, looks to be a real game changer for the national team as a quality option on the left of defence which can allow Ashley Lawrence to play the right back position where she is legitimately world-class.

After the match, the legend herself Christine Sinclair could be seen embracing teammates while in tears, calling into question whether this is the last time we might see the goat play on home soil. Having made just the one substitute appearance across the two matches as well, there are legitimate questions as to whether she will even make the trip to Paris.

With the Olympics featuring relatively small squads, between 18 and 20 players, Bev Priestman and Sinclair will have a tough decision to make about what is best for both her future and the team.

Regardless, the next big goal for the team will be to rebuild from this some of the momentum that was lost at the World Cup. It sounds like CanWNT have some exciting plans for international friendlies coming over the next few months, which could potentially include a home send-off match both for the team and for Sinclair.

Trevor MacMillan/ Halifax Wanderers

Other news this week

👀 European clubs are scouting Nathan Saliba. The 19-year-old CF Montreal youth academy product has played a pivotal role this season with 16 starts and 24 appearances in MLS. Saliba has been consistently reliable and plays with a level of maturity often found among senior MLS players. As a result, he has been monitored by clubs in Scotland and Belgium. Biello is also monitoring him as a potential inclusion into the CanMNT. Montreal is starting to emerge as a serious producer of football talent.

🇨🇦 Canada’s U-17 side played a series of friendlies against defending World champs Brazil in São Paulo during key preparations for November’s U-17 World Cup over the past week. They managed to keep the first match close, losing 3-1 on a goal by Toronto FC academy attacker Lucas Ozimec, before falling 5-0 in the second match. Both will be quite good preparations for the World Cup in Indonesia, however, where Canada will be looking for their first-ever win at the tournament.

🇮🇹 AC Milan reportedly all-in for Jonathan David in the winter transfer window. AC Milan is a club on the move, with a new 70,000-seater stadium and a long list of transfers this summer, including Christian Pulisic and Ruben Loftus-Cheek. The legendary Italian club is looking for a new fullback to replace the departed Theo Hernandez and a new striker. Their main target is Jonathan David. After failing to secure a loan for the Canadian striker, Milan is looking to acquire the young striker permanently. A move to AC Milan will be a move in the right direction, or should he wait for a Premier League club? If JD bangs in the same amount of goals in Italy, a Premier League club will come knocking. Serie A will be a real proving ground.

😡 Bobby Smyrniotis and Kyle Bekker hit out at the officiating. Forge FC manager hit out at the refs after their 2-1 loss to Halifax. Smyrniotis argues that the league's quality has significantly improved, but the officiating has yet to keep up. The league's quality needs also to be reflected on the pitch through the officiating. There were moments in the game that looked “iffy” at best: the Loughrey offside call, questionable penalty, and inconsistent officiating from both referee and linesmen. The players looked frustrated. Forge Captain Kyle Bekker expresses that the officiating has worsened over the last five years. Bekker argues that the refs ruin the game by taking the spotlight and focusing the attention on them as opposed to the players. Whatever it may be, it is clear that the officiating needs to be improved.

⚓️ Halifax Wanderers have qualified for the 2023 CPL playoffs. After defeating Forge FC at home, the Wanderers have booked their place in the playoffs. Besides playing good football, one of the most influential factors for Halifax’s season is the Wanderers Ground and the home fans. Wanderer’s Ground has become a fortress for any visiting team.

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 A big week for CanWNT players in England as the league season kicked off with a bunch of debuts. Adriana Leon had an assist in her debut for Aston Villa, which unfortunately ended in a 2-1 loss against her former side, Manchester United. Ashley Lawrence, meanwhile, made her Chelsea debut as they beat Tottenham 2-1. Finally, Deanne Rose made her Leicester debut in a 4-2 win over Bristol City, picking up an assist off the bench.

🚨 Samuel Piette calls the overlooking of Mathieu Choinière by the CanMNT a crime. MLS all-star Mathieu Choinière has yet to feature for the senior team. But with former Montreal legend Mauro Biello as interim coach, the likelihood of a Choinière call-up feels plausible. CF Montreal Captain Samuel Piette expressed that the best available players must be selected for the national team. Piette feels that Choinière is among them, calling it a “crime” if Choinière doesn't travel to Japan this coming October. The relationship between MTL and the national team has been mixed in the last few years. MTL was overly represented at the World Cup with six players and only Zachary Brault-Guillard on the Canada team in the recent Gold Cup campaign. The exclusion of Joel Waterman, Jonathan Sirois and Mathieu Choinière was a head-scratcher, as many agreed that two of those three should have been called up. With Biello in charge, maybe things will change. However, playing favourites with Montreal players may not work in his favour for his aim to become a full-time coach. Undeniable performance will influence decisions.

Hanin Mazri/ DARBY Magazine

🔴 Toronto FC hosted the 2023 Supporters’ Shield winners FC Cincinnati at BMO Field. It’s been a long and disappointing season for Toronto. So much so that Torontonians have been desensitized to the losses. However, the loss to Cincinnati 3-2 at home must’ve felt particularly painful. TFC went down two within the first 35 minutes and then responded with two goals from hometown hero (and DARBY Issue 3 cover star) Jonathan Osorio. Alas, the comeback was not meant to be. Aaron Boupendza sealed the game with a winning goal in the 72nd minute. Football is both beautiful and cruel. On the bright side, Herdman is coming and will shepherd the club to greener pastures. Hopefully.

🔵 CF Montréal were on the road as they faced Orlando City in Florida. As we’ve seen all season, MTL is not good on the road. They have been difficult to watch away from Stade Saputo, and this game demonstrated that. They looked uninspired and lacked creativity when moving forward. Romell Quioto started for the first since May. Joel Waterman was out due to a red card, while Fernando Alvarez gained his first start for MTL. It was a challenging game as Orlando took the initiative and defeated CFM 3-0. With three games left, Montreal must maximize points to guarantee a playoff spot.

🌊 Vancouver had two games this week as they travelled to Colorado on Wednesday and hosted DC United at BC Place. The Whitecaps visited Colorado and walked away with a draw after a 3-3 result. After several away games, Vancouver finally returned home to play DC United. Wayne Rooney’s team is vying for a playoff spot as they are tied on points with MTL but are right outside the playoff position. Unfortunately for MTL, the Vancouver Whitecaps tied DC United 2-2 at BC Place. One thing this game demonstrated—as has been the case all season—is that Brian White and Ryan Gauld are pivotal to the ‘Caps attacking ability. Their counter-attacking ability and a keen eye for finishing make TFC and MTL jealous. The Whitecaps are the best team in Canada by a country mile.

🐎 In the CPL, the regular season league winners hosted already eliminated Valour FC at ATCO Field. Cavalry FC continued demonstrating their attacking prowess after their 2-1 win over Valour. Despite the away team opening the match, Cavalry responded with goals from Sergio Camargo and Gareth Smith-Doyle.

⚓️ Halifax welcomed Forge FC into the Nova Scotian fortress of Wanderer’s Ground. Halifax has quickly become our favourite venue this season, and the Wanderer’s 2-1 win over Forge solidified our sentiments. The crowds almost seem to carry the players into a footballing trance. With the announcement of a new permanent stadium, Halifax will be a major footballing city in the future.

🦅 It’s another darby match in the CPL as Vancouver FC visited Starlight Stadium to play Pacific FC. Vancouver FC has done a surprising thing: they defeated Pacific FC 2-1. Vancouver struck first with a goal by Gabriel Bitar in the 28th minute and another goal in seven minutes by Vasco Fry. Easton Ongaro scored Pacific’s only goal from a set piece. If Vancouver can carry this performance into the new season, they could be the team to watch.

😮 The CPL weekend ended with a HUGE result in an Ontario darby between York United and Atlético Ottawa. For a stunning fifth time in the past six matches, Atlético Ottawa lost the match on a late goal, as York’s Kévin Santos pulled off a nasty nutmeg before poking home the winner for York Lions Stadium. York are now a point ahead of Atléti for the final playoff spot. What a turn of fortunes for the 2022 regular season champs who now might finish sixth in 2023.

Northern Picks

Gems from at home and across the pond.
This week’s picks come from Danny Miller (@notdannymiller)

Danny Miller is a Manager, Digital and Creative at For Soccer, a premier footy marketing, media and experiences compnay. He is also a co-founder of Forever Foreign, a footy freestyle and apparel brand. 

📚 What to read

Really been enjoying a book called Range by David Epstein. It’s a good read for anyone that considers themselves a creative or is ambitiously pursuing something. Essentially his book explains that people who are highly specialized or successful at something are often good at that thing because they have a wide range (haha) of experience in similar, or even dissimilar fields. That, and if you haven’t read Among the Thugs and you’re a footy fan, you should change that yesterday.

📺 What to watch

Just finished HBO’s Winning Time about the Lakers dynasty in the 80’s. I’m not a huge basketball fan but the series is amazing, and it’s wild seeing John C. Reilly crush a part that’s not a comedy.

🎧 What to listen to

My music taste is all over the place so I’ll just rapid fire some artists I’ve been into lately: Knucks, Bawo, Little Simz, Asake, Fred Again… CZARFACE, Burna Boy, Loyal Carner, and Freddy Konfeddy. The photographer Johannes Hohn (Pangea) has an incredible playlist on Spotify called “Sipping Oat Milk Flat Whites by @pangea” that you should definitely add to the rotation as well.

✅ Who to follow

An underrated account right now is Free Game Compendium. Making some really cool footy edits, definitely check them out. Also check out the homie Zach Moore with his project Participation Trophy Studio making some sick custom cut & sew pieces. Also shoutout the homies at 5 aside pod and Josh at Wavy Footy, those guys are all killing it’s been awesome seeing them grow. Finally, check out me and my cofounder, Fahed Al Breiki’s project Foreign. A Freestyle Football event and clothing label. Our goal is to continue to grow the Freestyle community and culture, and ultimately create cool events, products, and content all inspired by Freestyle Football.