Cavalry FC took another step toward clinching the Canadian Premier League’s (CPL) 2023 regular season title on Sept. 16, defeating Vancouver FC 2-1 at Spruce Meadows.
A penalty kick goal from Myer Bevan in the 36th minute and a ricocheted own goal from Anthony White after a whipped-in cross from Ben Fisk in the 70th minute was enough for first-place Cavalry to claim all three points against bottom-of-the-table Vancouver.
While Cavalry seemed set to finish the match with a clean sheet, an impressive long-range strike into the bottom corner from Vancouver FC’s Renan Garcia in the 92nd minute brought the score to 2-1, making for a nervy finish to the game for the hosts.
But as they’ve become accustomed to doing, particularly in recent weeks, the Calgarians were able to shore up the defence and seal the three points.
“I think we’re making our own luck,” said Bevan, whose penalty put him into double digits for CPL goals this season. “Today was a good, professional performance from everyone. Two goals, we were steady…they got one at the end and then we had to defend a bit at the end, but three points are all we wanted today, and we got it.”
The win continues what’s been a fine run of form for Cavalry in recent months. Calgary’s pro soccer club has won 11 of their last 15 CPL matches to build up a nine-point lead at the top of the table (albeit with a game in hand) over second-place Pacific FC.
Saturday’s win also came on the heels of an impressive three-game road swing, during which Cavalry claimed seven points of a possible nine in away matches against Atlético Ottawa, Forge FC, and HFX Wanderers.
With their substantial lead in the standings, Cavalry are just two wins away from securing the CPL’s regular season title for the first time since 2019.
Though it seems almost a certainty at this point that the side will do enough to finish first, Bevan stressed caution during Saturday’s post-game press conference.
“The job is not done yet,” the New Zealand striker said. “We still have three more games and they’re all important. Today was another step. It was ugly, it wasn’t pretty, but three points is all we wanted today, and we got it.
“We’re close right now, but our eyes are on the next game and we’ll go from there.”
Cavalry FC will travel to York next Saturday, before wrapping up the regular season with home games against Valour FC on Sept. 29 and Pacific on Oct. 6.
Vancouver FC have “shown strides,” says Village
Their loss to Cavalry on Saturday means that Vancouver FC were officially the first CPL club to be knocked out of playoff contention this year, with four games left in the regular season.
With 20 points from 24 games, the Langley-based club is mathematically only able to finish as high as sixth, even if they are to win all four of their remaining matches and the teams in front of them lose all of theirs.
Despite suffering yet another defeat, Mark Village – who was acting as Vancouver’s caretaker manager on Saturday, as Afshin Ghotbi was suspended due to yellow card accumulation – applauded his players’ tenacity. He said ultimately, an own goal was the only difference between the two sides.
“You know what? I’m an optimist – that’s just who I am – and I was really happy with the performance,” he said.
“You can’t fault the tenacity of the group, in this game or the four games we’ve played Cavalry. I think in our four games, we played over 140 minutes down a man, and that goes to show we don’t stop fighting until the end.”
While Vancouver was kept off the scoresheet until Garcia’s strike in stoppage time, Village argued the visitors produced other chances that could have altered the outcome had they gone in.
For instance, there was Mikaël Cantave’s header from a corner kick that flashed wide in the 17th minute, Wero Diaz’s long-range shot that produced a diving save from Marco Carducci in the 33rd minute, and Tyler Crawford’s 82nd-minute one-timer that forced yet another block from Carducci.
Overall, Vancouver outshot Cavalry 10-9.
“Maybe if we’d finished our chances earlier, we’d have gotten a second goal, maybe a third,” Village said. “We created a lot of chances and didn’t give so many chances away. They scored obviously on a PK. That was one moment that was our fault, and then the second – the own goal – maybe we could have done better, but I can’t fault the boys. They played really well and played as a team.”
It’s been a difficult inaugural season for the CPL’s newest club, but Village argued Vancouver FC have taken strides in their first year of operation.
Despite only boasting five wins this season, three of those have been against upper-half-of-the-table opposition, including their 3-2 win over Pacific, 2-1 win over Ottawa, and 2-0 win over Forge.
“It’s never easy being the expansion team, moving to a new stadium, adding new players from all over, new coaching staff who have never been together… people don’t realize all these little things add up,” he said. “I think we’ve found [our foundation], and the performances are showing. We’ve had much stronger performances in the second half of the season.
“I think it’ll continue to grow. We still have a long way to go but we’ve made big strides as well.”