The Canadian Premier League of soccer heads into the final week of its inaugural regular season with some hard-earned credibility.
Defender Amer Didic won’t be in the FC Edmonton lineup tonight at Clarke Stadium when Island-based Pacific FC visits in its last road game of the year. But the absence is being celebrated. That’s because Didic was called up to the Canadian roster for Tuesday’s CONCACAF Nations League game against the United States at BMO Field in Toronto to become the second CPL player for Canada following Cavalry FC goalkeeper Marco Carducci’s call-up in September.
It is with such milestones — the biggest being Cavalry FC’s upset of the Major League Soccer’s Vancouver Whitecaps in the Canadian Championship tournament — that the CPL is building its reputation in its first year.
“The CPL provides an excellent opportunity for young Canadian players to develop and move on to bigger pro leagues,” PFC defender Marcel de Jong said. “It has the potential to one day move up to the level of the MLS.”
De Jong, who recently returned from what was thought to be a season-ending ruptured Achilles, isn’t just pontificating. This is a player who was capped 56 times for Canada and played six seasons in Germany for FC Augsburg of the Bundesliga, four seasons for Roda JC in the top-level Dutch Eredivisie and three seasons in MLS for the Whitecaps.
“The potential for bigger and better is there,” de Jong said. “Canada was the lone developed nation without a domestic pro soccer league, so this is huge for the sport in our country.”
PFC completes the away portion of the first-year journey, capital city to capital city, tonight in Edmonton. PFC is reporting that about 4,800 tickets have been sold, and fewer than 1,200 remain, for its inaugural season curtain-dropper Saturday at Westhills Stadium against Valour FC of Winnipeg.
It’s been a long kick since April and the PFC players are looking forward to going out with a bang in the final two games.
“We’ve been playing well again the last couple [of] games (1-1 coast-to-coast draws at Westhills and in Halifax against HFX Wanderers), and now we’re looking to turn those performances into wins,” PFC midfielder Ben Fisk said.
“Edmonton will be a tough battle, but we like our chances and are looking forward to ending the season on a high.”
PFC is 4-7-5 in the fall season and still has a chance to finish third. FC Edmonton, nicknamed the Eddies, hasn’t won in 10 games, and is 3-7-6.
The two-game, total-goal CPL final — between the top two teams over the spring and fall seasons Cavalry FC and Forge FC — will go Oct. 26 at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton and Nov. 2 at Spruce Meadows in Calgary.
PFC is out of the running for the initial league crown, but one of its players is in contention for the inaugural CPL Golden Boot. Tristan Borges of Forge FC leads with 12 goals on the season, with Terran Campbell of PFC and Dominique Malonga of Cavalry FC tied for second place with 11 goals each.