Saturday, December 9, 2023

CPL Headlines: Off-season roster moves underway as big players depart Halifax, Vancouver

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Welcome to CPL Headlines; each Monday during the off-season, will round up the league’s biggest stories from the past week to keep fans up to date on all the news they may have missed during the league’s busy transfer period. 

Just a few weeks removed from the 2023 CPL Final, the league’s eight clubs are already preparing for the 2024 campaign as the first few off-season roster moves were announced this past week.

After the most competitive season in league history, clubs will be working incredibly hard to secure players who will help them get to the next level in 2024.

Meanwhile, with the international break in full swing, a number of players who played in the league this past season were in action for their respective national teams.

Here are the top stories in the Canadian Premier League from this past week:

Halifax Wanderers give roster update

After a fantastic 2023 campaign out east, the Halifax Wanderers confirmed they will be bringing back a strong contingent of their key players from this past season. Options were automatically triggered on Daniel Nimick, Lorenzo Callegari, Tomas Giraldo and Callum Watson — who will all be back in Halifax for 2024.

The Wanderers also have club options on ten players, including defenders Cristian Campagna, Riley Ferrazzo, Doneil Henry, Ryan James, Cale Loughrey and Jake Ruby – midfielders Aidan Daniels and Armaan Wilson, as well as forwards Théo Collomb and Fumpa Mwandwe. Mwandwe recently posted on Twitter saying ‘Halifax, it has been a pleasure‘, suggesting he will not be back for 2024.

Midfielder Mo Omar, meanwhile, who wore the captain’s armband in the club’s first-ever home playoff match this past year, is set to have his contract expire at the end of the year. He posted on Twitter this week, thanking Halifax and saying that he is looking forward to the next chapter of my career’ as it appears he will not be back for 2024.

Attacker João Morelli recently announced his retirement from football following the 2023 campaign.

Vancouver FC release four players, in talks with eight others

This past week, Vancouver FC announced that a storied member of their club will not be returning for the 2024 season. Forward Shaan Hundal, who scored the club’s first-ever goal, as well as their first goal at the Langley Events Centre, had his club option declined. Hundal finished tied for the team lead in goals this past season with six. Nathaniel St. Louis, Nicky Gyimah and goalkeeper Jeremy Zielinski also won’t be returning.

Vancouver FC also announced they have entered into talks with eight players, including key attacker Mikaël Cantave, Ameer Kinani, Renan Garcia, Ivan Mejia, Nima Moazeni Zadeh, Min-jae Kwak and Lennon Thompson. The club also revealed they are looking to bring back midfielder Vasco Fry, who was a solid addition to the middle of the park after being brought in on loan from Vancouver Whitecaps II.

Kevaughn Tavernier (left) and TJ Tahid (right) with the Canadian U-17 side (Photo: Canada Soccer)

Vancouver FC’s TJ Tahid, Forge’s Kevaughn Tavernier represent Canada at U17 World Cup

The 2023 U-17 World Cup didn’t exactly go to plan for Canada, who finished bottom of their group after three consecutive losses to Spain (2-0), Uzbekistan (3-0) and Mali (5-1). But the competition did provide great experience for two of the Canadian Premier League’s brightest young talents, Vancouver FC attacker TJ Tahid, and Forge’s Kevaughn Tavernier.

Both Tavernier and Tahid appeared in all three matches for Canada and proved to be some of the side’s most dynamic attacking players. Tavernier, in particular, created several solid opportunities in Canada’s group stage finale against Mali. While he didn’t find the back of the net at the tournament proper, Tahid did score against Argentina in a pre-tournament friendly.

Osaze De Rosario called up by Guyana

There may well be another De Rosario making a name for himself in Concacaf soon. York United forward Osaze De Rosario was called up by Guyana this past week for their crucial final group stage matches in Concacaf Nations League B. The 22-year-old was also eligible for the United States, as well as Canada, with whom his father Dwayne De Rosario made 81 appearances, scoring 22 times.

De Rosario will have to wait to make his debut for the Golden Jaguars, however. Their match against the Bahamas, which was originally scheduled to be played on Friday, was postponed due to weather, with a makeup date yet to be confirmed. Guyana are still scheduled to host Antigua and Barbuda on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT). The Golden Jaguars need just a single point to finish top of Group D and secure a spot in Concacaf Nations League A. De Rosario’s 2023 York United teammate, Jonathan Grant, was also called up by Guyana for this window.

Round-up of other CPLers in international action

There were plenty of other players who appeared for CPL clubs this past season in action for their respective national teams. Atlético Ottawa’s Malcolm Shaw and Halifax Wanderers’ Andre Rampersad both starting for Trinidad & Tobago against the United States on Thursday night.

Unfortunately, the 10-man Soca Warriors were unable to hold on, allowing three goals after the 82nd minute to lose 3-0. Rampersad and Shaw both started and played 66 minutes. The two sides are back in action on Monday night for the second leg of their Concacaf Nations League quarter-final at Hasely Crawford Stadium in Trinidad and Tobago.

Brem Soumaoro and Liberia, meanwhile, suffered a 1-0 loss to Malawi in their CAF World Cup qualifying opener. The York United midfielder started, but was removed after just 28 minutes. William Akio and South Sudan suffered a similar fate as they lost 4-0 to Senegal, courtesy of a Sadio Mané double. Akio did not appear for the Bright Stars.

Finally, there were mixed results for Pacifique Niyongabire and Burundi. They opened qualifiers with a solid 3-2 win over the Gambia, before losing 2-1 to Gabon at home, with the winning goal scored by the MLS Golden Boot winner, LAFC forward Denis Bouanga. Niyongabire was an unused substitute in both matches.

Looking back: just how competitive the 2023 CPL season was

A fun bit of visualization from this past week from the CPL content team, a look at just how competitive this season was on a weekly basis as teams jockeyed for positioning until the final day of the campaign.

Some more numbers to back this up: 59 leads were relinquished in 112 regular season matches, 52 goals were scored after the 80th minute in matches and an incredible 71 per cent of regular season matches were decided by a goal or less.

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