This past weekend marked the first ever games in the Canadian Premier League and was certainly one many Canadian soccer fans will never forget.
The weekend kicked off with both of the League’s Ontario teams battling it out at Tim Hortons Field, with an impressive 17,611 in attendance to watch Forge FC and York9 FC battle to an eventual 1-1 draw.
Vancouver Island’s Pacific FC then welcomed HFX Wanderers FC, who travelled well over 4,000 kilometres on Sunday to meet their opposition, a trip that will be a league high this season. It was for naught as the Lake Side Buoys got to celebrate a 1-0 triumph.
With the inaugural weekend in the books, let’s dive in to some interesting statistical narratives that made this historical weekend so captivating.
High Press vs Playing Out The Back
One of the intriguing things that was obvious in the inaugural match between Forge and York9 was the stubbornness of the home side to play out from the back. Paired with York9’s high press this made for somewhat of a ‘battle of the systems’.
The first picture shows the successful pass map of Forge FC’s four defenders who got the most playing time and the second picture does the same for York9’s three centre backs.
Clearly Forge went out with a plan to build from the back and despite the high wind speeds at kick off, were determined to stick to their game plan even although York9 offer one of the highest pressing attacks in the league. It is glaringly obvious looking at the two pass maps of the different approaches taken by the home and away side.
The central midfield battle of the generations
Of all the starters the youngest player and the oldest (outfield) player were both to be found in Sunday’s clash, as central midfielders Noah Verhoeven, 19, and Elton John, 32, matched up against one another for Pacific and Halifax, respectively.
Despite the vast age difference, both players were found playing a very similar role for their teams. Verhoeven ended the match with 81 touches, opposed to John’s 78, both second on their team. Both players finished in the top two amongst their teams in passes and the couple of maestros finished with above 81% passing accuracy. Verhoeven was rewarded for his passing with the set piece assist on Hendrik Starostzik’s game winning goal in the 23rd minute.
What gave Verhoeven the edge in this matchup would be his ability to transition from defending to attacking so successfully. He won all three of the tackles he contested and won 7 out of 10 duels challenged. It was a successful outing for the young Canadian. A performance he will be hoping to build on and replicate.
Two Words: Young and Canadian
To take the Verhoeven hype train one station further this week, major praises have to be given to Michael Silberbauer, who trotted out a centre midfield three of Verhoeven (aged 19), Matthew Baldisimo (21), and Terran Campbell (20). It was a lot of faith to put in this trio of young Canadians and the occasion could easily have gotten to them, but for the majority of the game they looked very much at home.
Young Canadians were and should be the theme of the CPL moving forward. The average age of each starting XI and Canadian contingency is shown in the chart below.
To put just how young this league is going to be into perspective, the youngest average starting 11 (as per TransferMarkt) across the top four leagues are as follows:
• English Premier League: Southampton: 25.3
• Spanish La Liga: Real Sociedad: 25.0
• Italian Serie A: Fiorentina: 23.9
• German Bundesliga: RB Leipzig: 24
If you are looking for a league to watch young domestic talent, the Canadian Premier League is going to be what you are looking to subscribe to.
Starostzik: A Jack of all trades?
Player spotlight of the week must belong to Pacific FC’s towering German centre-back Hendrik Starostzik. The 6’2 defender took home quite a few ‘firsts’ for the CPL history books. Including first headed goal, first goal off a corner, and first goal by a foreigner. He also became the first player to score a goal for Pacific FC and the first player to net a game winning goal. Quite the haul for one single goal!
Not only did Starostzik score the lone goal in a 1-0 Pacific win, but his presence was felt all over the field, and the stats don’t lie. He led the team in passes with 77. He won 2/2 tackles he contested. He also led his team in clearances (9) and interceptions (3). Lets not forget one of those clearances was from his own goal line.
Starostzik is definitely someone for the Pacific FC fans to get excited about and have someone to trust to marshal their back line.
Next up for the CPL is a match up between 1-0-0 Pacific FC and Winnipeg’s Valour FC, who are set to travel to Vancouver Island for their inaugural CPL match. Wednesday’s match will kick off at Westhills Stadium at 8:00pm PT and can be found on onesoccer.ca.