The Canadian Premier League announced on Monday, October 16 the nominees for the Coach of the Year award, honouring best coach in the league during the 2023 regular season.
Halifax Wanderers FC’s Patrice Gheisar, Forge FC’s Bobby Smyrniotis and Cavalry FC’s Tommy Wheeldon Jr. make up the three-man ballot. The winner will be decided through voting by CPL club technical leadership and selected media members representing local and national outlets who consistently covered the 2023 CPL regular season. The winner will be revealed at an in-person ceremony in Hamilton, Ont. on Thursday, Oct. 26 as part of the festivities surrounding CPL Final weekend.
Gheisar, 48, guided the Halifax Wanderers to several franchise records in his first season in charge of the club, including setting new marks for wins, points, goals scored, goal differential, goals conceded and total passes. The second head coach in club history, who joined the Wanderers following a storied career in League1 Ontario with Vaughan Azzurri, Gheisar led Halifax to unprecedented success after totally rebuilding the squad by bringing in 17 new players ahead of the 2023 season. Halifax’s third place finish in the regular season standings, which was decided by a fourth tiebreaker after the Wanderers finished level with Forge, earned the club its first home playoff game. Gheisar was named CPL Manager of the Month once in 2023, honoured for his work in the month of June.
Smyrniotis, 44, earns his fifth Coach of the Year nomination in as many seasons after leading three-time CPL champions Forge to its second consecutive second-place finish in the regular season, having never finished lower than this in all CPL regular seasons. Forge got off to its best start of any season in club history when the side went undefeated in its first seven games, which earned Smyrniotis CPL Manager of the Month honours for April. It was one of two seven-game unbeaten runs Forge put together over the 2023 season, the other coming between Aug. 12 and Sept. 23. The club was particularly successful on the road this season, leading the league for most away wins with seven, tied with York United, and conceding the fewest away goals of any club at just 14.
Wheeldon Jr., 44, steered Cavalry to one of the most dominant seasons in CPL history. The regular season winners finished the campaign with 55 points, the most points accumulated by any team over a 28-game season and 13 points more than any other team in 2023. Cavalry’s 16 wins ties Forge’s 2021 team for the most by any club during a 28-game season, and the team’s five losses tied Atlético Ottawa’s 2022 side for the fewest defeats by any club over a 28-game season. Cavalry led the league with 46 goals and conceded a league-low 27 goals. Cavalry went undefeated from Aug. 20 through the last nine games of the season, earning Wheeldon back-to-back CPL Manager of the Month honours in August and September.
Voting for all the CPL’s annual awards will this year be based on performances during the regular season, not including Canadian Championship, Concacaf or CPL Finals playoff action.
The winner of the Coach of the Year award will receive a unique piece of Inuit soapstone art, conceptualized by artist Palaya Qiatsuq. The Owl statue symbolizes wisdom, guidance and knowledge, while its heightened vision gives it the ability to see what others cannot. The Coach of the Year requires similar attributes to earn the honour.
The 2023 CPL Awards ceremony will be broadcast live on dedicated soccer channel OneSoccer, available as a linear channel on Optik TV (Ch. 980), the pay-TV service operated by Telus, one of Canada’s “big three” telecoms companies, as well as on streaming service fuboTV Canada. OneSoccer is also offered as an affordable streaming service through the OneSoccer.ca website, via Roku, Chromecast and Apple TV devices and with the OneSoccer app for iOS and Android devices.