The Canadian Premier League’s inaugural 2019 campaign kicks off on Saturday afternoon with York 9 FC facing Forge FC in the first matchup. HFX Wanderers and Pacific FC will close out the opening weekend on Sunday evening.
There promises to be plenty of anticipation ahead of the first round of games, even if only four clubs are in action. Many teams made some astute and exciting signings, which could lay the foundation for several seasons to come.
Here’s a look at the players to watch ahead of the CPL’s inaugural season.
Luca Gasparotto (York 9 FC)
He’s only 24, but Gasparotto is one of York 9’s more seasoned players. He earned more than 100 appearances in Scotland, including a stint with Rangers, and has previously represented Canada’s youth national teams. Surely he’ll be a key cog for York’s defence.
David Choiniere (Forge FC)
Choiniere should be vital to Forge FC’s attack. Choiniere was lauded while playing for the Montreal Impact’s academy as a teenager due to his technique and vision. However, a lack of regular minutes stunted his development earlier in his career. But he’s still only 22, so a couple of solid seasons in Hamilton might help him realize that potential.
Noah Verhoeven (Pacific FC)
One of the few standouts from Canada’s ultimately unsuccessful Concacaf U-20 Championship this past November, Verhoeven is one of several ex-Vancouver Whitecaps Residency graduates on Pacific FC. Like many other young Canadians on CPL rosters, Verhoeven wasn’t playing enough to help him grow as a player. But with his combination of dribbling, close control, vision and pace, the 19-year-old might be one of the top playmakers in the league this season.
Juan Diego Gutierrez (HFX Wanderers FC)
The only non-Canadian on this list, Juan Diego Gutierrez joins HFX Wanderers with an accomplished resume. He represented Universitario de Deportes in Peru – the country’s most successful club based on league titles won – and plied his trade in Europe as well. Gutierrez is a typical South American playmaker. He loves to dribble through the opposition and send killer through balls into the penalty area. The 26-year-old is the only primary No. 10 on Halifax’s roster, but he’s probably one of the best in his position in the CPL.
Marco Carducci (Cavalry FC)
The Canadian goalkeeper made waves as a teenager when he started for the Vancouver Whitecaps in the 2014 Canadian Championship against Toronto FC. But he spent most of his time with Whitecaps FC 2 in the USL and never really earned a sniff of the first team after the tournament. Carducci is still just 22 years old and is tipped to be Cavalry FC’s No. 1 this season.
Randy Edwini-Bonsu (FC Edmonton)
The Canadian international should slot in nicely on Edmonton’s left flank and provide an offensive boost that few CPL clubs can match. Edwini-Bonsu spent seven years in German soccer at various levels, so he’ll bring some clout to FC Edmonton’s roster.
Michael Petrasso (Valour FC)
Returning to Canada with the Montreal Impact was supposed to be a turning point for Michael Petrasso. Instead, he lost his starting spot and seldom cracked the first team under Remi Garde last season. Now Petrasso will be hoping to reignite his career with Valour FC in his primary role as a right winger. The 23-year-old has played several games as a full-back, but there’s no doubting that he’s best suited in a more advanced role. If Valour coach Rob Gale does this, then the former Queens Park Rangers man should be a key contributor for the Winnipeg club.