TORONTO, ON – Despite taking lots of public attention as an entity of Canadian Soccer Business in the offseason, matchplay finally returned to the Canadian Premier League for the first time in 2023 on Saturday.
Without FC Edmonton and the debut of Vancouver FC, the CPL returns for its fifth season as a more mature league than ever. Only two sides came away with three points through the first round of games, while several performances stood out among the rest.
Throughout the season, The Third Sub will pick out four players who stood out from the match week, leading up to the CPL Final on the weekend of October 28.
Week 1 results
Atletico Ottawa 1-1 HFX Wanderers
Forge FC 2-2 Cavalry FC
Pacific FC 1-0 Vancouver FC
York United 0-2 Valour FC
Aidan Daniels – HFX Wanderers, Midfielder
Since impressing at the youth levels for Canada, Aiden Daniels has settled into the pro game with HFX Wanderers FC and impressed in the first match of the 2023 season. Tasked as one of the more experienced professionals, Daniels had the top performance of any Halifax player in the 1-1 draw with Atletico Ottawa, leading a team of many first-year pros and League1 Ontario standouts.
Daniels drew into a more attacking role alongside HFX captain Andre Rampersad and, although lined up in a flat four-man midfield, slid into attacking midfield to supply passes to Kosi Nwafornso and Tiago Coimbra.
HERE WE GO, HALIFAX 😎
— OneSoccer (@onesoccer) April 15, 2023
On the first goal of the season, he put himself in position as an outlet pass for when HFX regained possession before making an impressive run nearly halfway down the pitch, getting past three defenders to set up Zach Fernandez on a first-touch finish.
Through 68 minutes, the 24-year-old didn’t make a bad pass, connecting on 37/37 while completing a cross and two key passes in addition to his assist. It wasn’t a full 90 nor an HFX win, but Daniels stood out as one of the league’s best on day one.
Manny Aparicio – Pacific FC, Midfielder
Manny Apricio’s impact on the CPL from year one with York United has been undeniably among the biggest. Yet, his step up with Pacific FC since joining them in 2020 has lofted him into the league’s elite.
This season, he’s tasked with leading Pacific’s midfield, slotting into the role held that Marco Bustos had for three seasons. On Saturday, he delivered while also stoking the fire that is a burgeoning rivalry between Pacific and newcomers Vancouver FC.
In a match that saw chances but few goals, Aparicio finished a volley in the 81st minute to secure the victory, scoring a goal from a half-chance and one that eluded Vancouver goalkeeper Callum Irving.
Manny Aparicio with the lone goal in @CPLsoccer’s brand new BC Derby
— Canadian Soccer Daily (@CANSoccerDaily) April 16, 2023
“There were opportunities to get in behind,” Pacific’s head coach, James Merriman, said post-match, with Aparicio creating many of those opportunities that didn’t quite connect with new Pacific striker Easton Ongaro.
Aparicio finished the afternoon with 61 touches and three successful dribbles while also connecting on 31 passes to complement his match-winning goal. Additionally, his celebration in front of the Vancouver FC fans no doubt stoked the rivalry between the two sides.
“I looked up and saw their section was right there and knew I had to do something,” Aparicio said. “The stands were packed, and it was a great feeling all around. It was a sweet moment, and to get the goal on my good friend Callum Irving made it even sweeter.”
Sean Young – Pacific FC, Midfielder
Sean Young’s growth in the CPL has been a direct lineup, and in the first game of his fourth season, he showed that he could be at a level where a move out of the league is possible. While he didn’t steal headlines like Aparicio, he held strong in a midfield pivot alongside Cedric Toussaint and had a chance go off the crossbar.
The 21-year-old completed 79 percent of his passes, had a key pass and won five of his eight duels. At the same time, he completed two long balls in an effort to break open the game after a scoreless first half.
Strong games from defensive midfielders don’t often attract much attention, but with his 22nd birthday just weeks away, Young could play his way off Vancouver Island, possibly to MLS Next Pro or abroad if he keeps up his form shown in the opener.
Rayane Yesli – Valour FC, Goalkeeper
After three seasons of CF Montreal loan goalkeepers (Jonathan Sirois, James Panetemis), Winnipeg’s Valour FC are in seemingly unknown territory with a goalkeeper of their own. Yet, former U SPORTS Draft Pick Yuba-Rayane Yesli stood strong between the sticks in his first start as the club’s number one option.
“Rayane has the tools to be a great goalkeeper, and to do that, he needed games,” said Valour head coach Phil Dos Santos. “He needed the trust and the confidence of the coaching staff to tell him, ‘buddy, this is you right now; we’re not looking for anyone else. It’s going to be your spot until you give us reasons to think differently.”
Calm and organized through the opening minutes, Yesli settled into the match and held strong at the end of the game as York threw all attackers forward in hopes of chipping away at the 2-0 deficit. While the woodwork helped him out twice, the six-foot-seven keeper finished the afternoon with a clean sheet and made three saves while claiming two crosses.
“He has a contagious personality and is a fighter and is someone that nothing was given anything and has had to go and get everything he’s gotten. You’ll see good things. I’ve no doubt that Ryan is he’s gonna have a good season this year.”
Players of the Week mentions:
Aidan Daniels: 1
Manny Aparicio: 1
Sean Young: 1
Yuba-Rayane Yesli: 1
(Image Credit: Beau Chevalier (Vancouver FC), Valour FC)