The 2021 CPL Awards – Analysis

Pacific FC's Pa-Modou Kah and Alessandro Hojabrpour with their CPL Awards in Toronto

ANALYSIS – The 2021 CPL Awards had some surprises as many players/coaches won the award for the first time. This might be highlighted by Pacific FC, which won two of the four awards given out on Tuesday. There was a fifth award called the Golden Boot, however, it was already determined before the awards ceremony took place.

The 2021 CPL Awards of the Year

Pa-Modou Kah – Coach of the Year

Pa-Modou Kah helped Pacific FC to new heights in 2021. After consecutive fourth-place finishes in 2019 and 2020, they broke through in 2021. For most of the season, Langford was first in the Canadian Premier League. They did dip to third by the end of the year, but it showed the quality they had.

Most remarkably, was their Canadian Championship and CPL playoffs run. This year, Pacific became just the second team to eliminate an MLS side from a major competition. This was against the Vancouver Whitecaps FC in a 4-3 win at Starlight Stadium. They also eliminated Cavalry FC twice in two competitions. In the Canadian Championship, they eliminated Calgary in the quarterfinals on the road. Langford would also eliminate Calgary on the road in the Canadian Premier League semi-finals.

Lastly, and most notably, Pacific lost 2-1 on the road against MLS-side Toronto FC in the Canadian Championship. This is what Kah said about the ceremony according to Marty Thompson, a digital content editor for the Canadian Premier League. Kah is a player’s coach that gets the best out of his players according to OneSoccer:

“I mean the biggest thing is for us to be a family club and to become a family club we have to understand the people because uh players are human beings and when you follow me it’s always been that if you understand the human being you’ll be able to get the best out of the player.”

Kah played in the Concacaf Champions League with the Vancouver Whitecaps FC as a player. His biggest achievement was making the semi-finals of the 2015 Concacaf Champions League. Pacific fans will hope that he takes that experience with Pacific as they play in the Concacaf League next year representing CPL.

Alessandro Hojabrpour – CPL Best Under 21 Canadian Player of the Year

Alessandro Hojabrpour won the Canadian Premier League Best Under 21 Canadian Player of the Year award in 2021. The defensive midfielder scored one goal and delivered two assists in the 2021 CPL season. He got a lot of playing time for Pacific. For example, he played 90 minutes in the Canadian Championship against TFC, Cavalry FC, and the famous win over the Vancouver Whitecaps FC. He also played the full 120 minutes against Cavalry in the Canadian Premier League playoffs according to transfermarkt.

However, what he is most known for was his game-winning goal in the CPL Final against Forge FC to win the North Star Shield. He timed his run and made a terrific header from a Gianni Dos Santos cross following a set piece. It was the goal that gave Greater Victoria their first championship trophy in 55 years. This is what Hojabrpour said about winning the award according to OneSoccer:

“Feels great, yeah with all the nominees there’s others. The other two guys are just as valuable and just as worthy of winning this award, so it’s an honour for me.”

Jonathan Sirois – Goalkeeper of the Year

Valour FC’s Jonathan Sirois won the goalkeeper of the year award this year. The CF Montréal goalkeeper was loaned to Valour FC this year played 22 games. A large part of that was starting the season with six clean sheets. According to Derek Gagnon of Waking the Red, those six-straight clean sheets set a CPL record.

He also made a key penalty save on October 30 against Cavalry FC. This allowed Valour to come back and score the goal. That might have been the save of the match as Winnipeg defeated Calgary 4-2. This is what Sirois said according to Marty Thompson, a Digital Content Editor for the CPL:

“I never really envisioned winning the award – it wasn’t my focus,” Sirois said after winning the award. I was literally coming into this league with the sole purpose of getting playing time.”

João Morelli – Player of the Year and the Golden Boot Winner

The Brazilian forward, João Morelli had a special season with the HFX Wanderers FC. He won the Golden Boot scoring 14 goals in 21 games. He also scored once in the Canadian Championship. Morelli also won the player of the year award. He played a big role in keeping Halifax in the playoff race until late in the 2021 CPL season.

For example, he had two goals against FC Edmonton on July 10, and two goals against Atlético Ottawa on September 11. As a result, Halifax won both of those games by one goal. This is what Morelli said about the game according to OneSoccer:

“Thank you very much again Christian, man, this is good. I’ve been waiting my whole life for this and in one year I managed to win these two awards and I’m really really happy and again, thanks to all my teammates, and club, and staff, and everyone, and the fans too.”

CPL Awards Recap and Analysis

There might be disagreements on who should have won or not won the award, which is fine. However, it is important to take a step back and congratulate these players and coaches. One never knows if they are going to win these awards again, and everyone should appreciate the achievements as much as these players and coaches do.

More importantly, one should celebrate the growth of the CPL and the standard of the playset internationally by Forge FC in the Concacaf League. This is what Morelli said about the level of CPL in Concacaf according to OneSoccer:

“The quality of the players is really really good, especially with the young players so my bet is that this league it’s gonna be known as definitely as at least at the level of MLS in a few years for sure.”

Picture credit to Carolina Rueda of the Canadian Premier League/Chant Photography on December 14, 2021.