Maybe he’s just new on the job, but a conversation with Canadian Premier League commissioner David Clanachan is like an imperial stout from one of Ontario’s many breweries: It gets you buzzing really quickly.
Sure, the man who knows how to politick, crediting NBC and EA Sports for the uptick in soccer popularity in North America, but it’s more than salesmanship for the former Tim Horton’s chief operating officer (Tim’s is an inescapable Canadian coffee chain).
But in discussing the construction of Canada’s new league, there’s an unavoidable energy that tracks from the ground up (and there’s little doubt their publicity and communications crew has won its mission). From the league’s very open trials in seven cities — announcing cut lists after Day One of each — to several other notable announcements, there’s an optimism in a new North American soccer league that hasn’t been felt in some time.
“You’d think in sports mad North American it should be easy to do, and many have tried but it hasn’t worked in Canada,” Clanachan says of trying to build a new league. “The bottom line is we took a very different approach. We’re building from the community level in everything we’ve done. You surround yourself with a group of storytellers who really know the game and how it shows that great passion. That’s driven by the movement and passion of the spectators. Soccer supporters are there whether their team is in third-last or first. They are all in.”
And so when the CPL started with teams in Calgary, Edmonton, Hamilton, Halifax, Langford, Winnipeg, and York, it made sure those fan bases got a different taste of pro sports.
Transparency is a big claim, but one the CPL has so far embraced in a big way.
“I talk about that incessantly with our people,” Clanachan said. “From everything when we announced the league and the league identity, people were blown away with us being very transparent. We believe that to really build it is to take people with you on the journey. It helps people understand who we are and what we want to do. Then it just became about continuing the momentum.”
Clanachan has said he dreams of a 2-3 division league with promotion and relegation one day, but is focused very much on keeping his seven teams strong at the start.
He credits club owners’ ownership of the league with helping idea sharing, saying the NBA is a good model for intra-league support.
And he thinks the relative lack of jobs for Canadians, especially in MLS, is only going to help his league start stronger.
“When you look at the entire MLS, there are only four Canadians that are playing meaningful minutes and only 28 total, and that’s the largest pro league close to this country,” Clanachan said.
“That’s what our guys are telling me.”
I expected him to be wrong, but there are only four Canadians in the Top 200 for minutes in MLS despite three teams playing North of the U.S. border. The number expands to eight over 300, but point well-taken.
And the open trials reflect that. NCAA college stars, MLS draft picks, and players from smaller European clubs dot the open tryout list, and these are just the names hungry to get on the radar of coaches who clearly have their own lists of players.
“Players from Singapore, Japan, South Korea are all getting attention, and they’ve paid their own way,” Clanachan raves. “Two nights ago Canada played Dominica. Our whole staff went. One of the starting forwards for Dominica was at our York trials last week. Dominica’s a very small country, let’s be honest, but a lot of people want to live in these countries, Canada and the U.S.”
And so, it follows that Canada is going to have fan enthusiasm and a decent level when it begins its way into the North American soccer landscape.
“What I took from Tim Horton’s is we built it community by community,” he said. “When you do it that way, you make a lot of deposits, and they’re with you when the withdrawal comes when you want support. And they are there in spades. Because they see you with them every day.
“When these owners came looking for me, I heard two words ‘legacy’ and ‘Canadians.’ And that to me was not the typical, ‘Well we gotta make money at this.’ Because people who go into sport to make money are going into it for the wrong reasons. They’ve gotta be into it for development of the sport. It rang a true bell. You look at why we’re having success: We’ve haven’t kicked a ball yet and people are over the moon. We’ve sold thousands of season tickets without announcing a roster. And it’s all calculated.”
The league kicks off in April. The league web site is canpl.ca.
Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Jurgen Klopp loves tepid friendlies.
Of course, we’re kidding, but the Liverpool manager is not happy with the new UEFA Nations League, which has amped up matches during international breaks previously reserved for experimental XIs and low-key affairs.
“They say ‘now we have proper games, real opponents and it’s better than having friendlies’, stuff like that. … Maybe people want to see (boxer Anthony) Joshua fighting every second night but it’s not possible. Nobody asks for it in other sports.
“Do we really want opera every night or every two months? That’s the question. We have to be careful. That’s all I said. I like competition of course but at one point someone has to step back and say ‘wait, they are players, I want to watch it, but if they don’t perform then I am angry’. How can we make sure they perform? That’s all I wanted to say.”
Now I’m all for more personalities like Klopp in sports, but I have to say this is about as poor a take as it gets. Do I want any event I watch, let alone pay to see, to be less intense? Nope. Not at all.
Do I like preseason matches, or dead rubber games late in the season? Only in-as-much as they are examples of sports I like. Sorry that your guys are hurt, Jurgen, but no one short of Liverpool fans and other club managers are giving thumbs up to your talk.
I mean, seriously, have you ever watched a game and thought, “I’m glad these guys or girls aren’t trying as hard as they can!” Doesn’t being less tuned into a game provide more chances for someone to get hurt.
I don’t buy it one bit. Anyone in Jurgen’s camp? I’m happy to argue in the comments section.
Reports say that Argentine winger Gonzalo “Pity” Martinez will indeed be the star Atlanta signs to offset to presumed sale of Miguel Almiron, who may be moving to Arsenal amongst several rumored European clubs.
Multiple reports say the Five Stripes’ pursuit of Martinez has paid off, with the River Plate man ready to bring his flashy game to Georgia.
Major League Soccer’s playoff races still carry intrigue heading into the final two weekends of the season, but the midweek matches which threatened to either amp up the excitement or take it down a few notches fell decidedly in the latter category.
DC, Seattle, and Real Salt Lake all won their matches, as only eliminated New England and Real have played more than 32 matches.
Here’s what still at play at the bottom of the East and West playoff pictures, with the latter going first:
Real Salt Lake puts its on Rio Tinto, then has to wait
Mike Petke’s men play their final match of the regular season on Sunday, nursing a four-point lead over the LA Galaxy. RSL’s opponents are equally desperate Portland, which has fallen behind Seattle in the race for one of two first round home matches.
Should Real win, it can not be caught by the Galaxy regardless of what Zlatan Ibrahimovic might have up his sleeve. It would put Portland in danger of missing the playoffs by losing out and seeing the Galaxy win both of their matches, as the second tiebreaker would decide it and LA would make amends on its current three goal disadvantage in differential on the virtue of simple math.
Oh, and Vancouver! The ‘Caps need to win out, have the Galaxy gain no more than two points, and have Real lose in Portland on Sunday.
LA Galaxy at Minnesota United
Real Salt Lake at Portland Timbers
Vancouver Whitecaps at LAFC
Houston Dynamo at LA Galaxy
Portland Timbers at Vancouver Whitecaps
Let’s be honest: For seventh place Montreal to make the playoffs, the Impact need either DC United or Columbus to get a really bad team-wide flu.
The Impact are four points back of DC and five behind Columbus with two matches to go.
Columbus plays at Orlando City and home to Minnesota United. Orlando has a single win since May 16, while Minnesota has a win and two draws in 16 away matches this year.
DC is home to New York City and away to Chicago, so this is clearly the club Montreal will be seeing as its target. For as bad as the Fire have been, they’ve beat some decent teams at home (This is MLS, after all, where home teams run free).
So the Impact will want to win out, but at least get four points and hope DC loses out. The Impact is home to struggling Toronto in a derby match and away to New England. It’s not improbable it gets the points it needs, but will it get help.