Cavalry FC: Five years of matches and memories

Cavalry FC: Five years of matches and memories

It was five years ago on this date that Cavalry FC “weathered the storm” to beat then-named York9 FC 2-1 in the club’s inaugural Canadian Premier League match at Spruce Meadows.

It was the first of dozens of Cavalry matches that I have since photographed and recapped for AFTN in the last five years. To mark the occasion, I thought I’d take a trip down memory lane and present my top five favourite moments from covering Cavalry FC in the last five years:

5. Myer Bevan’s goal against the Whitecaps in the 2022 Canadian Championship

Considering his goal-scoring exploits in 2023, not everyone probably remembers that in his first season for Cavalry, New Zealand striker Myer Bevan did not play particularly well – something he admitted the following year, when he’d go on to lead the team in scoring.

But even though his 2022 campaign was only a shade above mediocre, a moment of magic from Bevan produced one of my favourite photos that I’ve captured for AFTN.

When Cavalry was hosting Vancouver Whitecaps in the Canadian Championship on May 26, he rocketed a second-half strike from 25 yards out that sailed into the top-right corner of Cody Cropper’s net. The stunning strike broke the deadlock and put Cavalry on course to upset the visitors from Vancouver, though the Whitecaps were able to level late through Eric Godoy, forcing extra time.

Ultimately, Cavalry fans’ hearts were broken after the Whitecaps prevailed in the ensuing penalty shootout. But I can still recall Bevan’s shot, which I had a perfect angle to capture with my camera from my vantage point to the left of the Whitecaps goal. And I can still remember the roar of the crowd after it hit the net.


4. Running rampant over Forge in 2023

Cavalry’s matches against Forge are almost always close encounters. Most games between the two seem to end 1-0, or 2-1, or 1-1 – you get the idea.

But one match between the two that wasn’t close at all was when Cavalry beat the Hamiltonians 3-0 at Spruce Meadows on Aug. 4 last year. It was a dominant display by Cavalry – probably the best I’ve ever seen them play – as they scored three unanswered goals in the second half, all while shutting out Forge to give the 4,000+ home fans plenty to cheer about.

Cavalry’s 3-0 victory, accomplished under the ATCO Field floodlights, was a statement win that showed the team was on course to finish the regular season in first place. In fact, thanks to the win, Cavalry leapfrogged over Forge into first place in the CPL table – a position they’d hold onto for pretty much the rest of the campaign.

Making matters even more impressive was that coming into the match, Forge had enjoyed an unbeaten streak lasting a month, including three wins and a draw. They’d allowed just one goal in those four matches while finding the net nine times. That positive momentum all came unravelling against a ruthless Cavalry under the Spruce Meadows floodlights.


3. Beating FC Edmonton 3-1 and lifting the Wildrose Cup in 2019

Coming into the inaugural season, Cavalry and Edmonton were expected to be bitter rivals. After all, the “Battle of Alberta” is already a famous rivalry in both the NHL and the CFL.

Of course, Cavalry’s true rivals turned out to be Forge, and the Calgarians’ showdowns against their provincial counterparts were pretty one-sided in 2019. While they had a few close encounters, Cavalry beat FC Edmonton in four of their five “Al Classico” meetings in 2019 and only conceded a single goal in those games.

In the final Al Classico of the season (which was also their last regular-season game of 2019) Cavalry ran rampant over FC Edmonton at Spruce Meadows, compiling a 3-1 victory thanks to second-half goals from Sergio Camargo, Jordan Brown and José Escalante. Easton Ongaro scored a consolation goal late to spoil the Cavs’ clean sheet.

Some fans may recall this was the match where Escalante famously celebrated his penalty goal by pulling the corner flag out and pretending to ride it along the touchline like a horse. It seemed the Honduran was really starting to embrace the Stampede spirit.

Shooting this game from the corner flag beneath Section 200, I had a great view of all three of Cavalry’s goals, as well as Escalante’s iconic celebration.

Capping off a fun afternoon was the lifting of the Wildrose Cup – the fan-created trophy that was to be gifted to the winner of the overall Al Classico series – after the match.

Speaking of trophies being lifted…


2. Lifting the CPL shield in 2023

It took five seasons, but Cavalry fans finally got to watch their team lift a trophy in 2023.

While the club had finished first in the CPL’s regular season title in 2019, they didn’t get a physical trophy to show for it. The wait to lift some silverware lasted four years until October 7, 2023.

After coasting to a 3-0 victory over visiting Pacific FC, captain Marco Carducci and his teammates lifted the newly christened CPL Shield at Spruce Meadows. The celebration took place on a makeshift stage hastily set up at the centre line of ATCO Field after the match. The Cavs players and staff celebrated raucously as confetti rained down and bottles were shaken and popped, spraying champagne across the stage.

I’d estimate the majority of the 4,000+ fans stayed at the stadium to applaud the players as they passed the shield among themselves, taking turns hoisting it overhead. There was even a mini pitch invasion, as dozens of kids ran onto the field to celebrate with the players.

It was a joyous ceremony, and the unbridled emotions of Cavalry’s players and coaching staff showed what it meant to finally lift a trophy.


1. Beating the Whitecaps in 2019

Coming into the inaugural season, there was a lot of speculation and debate surrounding the quality of the CPL, compared to other professional North American soccer leagues. Those questions were finally answered when the fledgling league’s teams took on MLS opposition in the 2019 Canadian Championship.

After overcoming Pacific and Forge in the first two rounds, Cavalry produced the tournament’s biggest David-versus-Goliath moment when they upset Vancouver Whitecaps in the quarterfinals. Dominick Zator’s winning header in the second leg at BC Place was more than a goal; it was a statement that silenced those who questioned the CPL’s quality.

Cavalry was far and away the CPL’s strongest team in 2019 (at least up until the championship final against Forge) and their inspiring cup run in the Canadian Championship proved they weren’t just strong in the league.

Their win over the Whitecaps was a landmark achievement that showed the CPL meant business. While I wasn’t at BC Place to witness it in person, it was still a pretty cool sight to behold.

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