Another closely-fought win from Cavalry FC ensured the Calgary club will move on to the second round of the 2019 Canadian Championship, after dispatching Pacific FC 2-1 (4-1 on aggregate) on May 22 at Spruce Meadows.
With it being Cavalry’s sixth game in 19 days, it was another heavily rotated lineup for the second leg fixture against Pacific. But just like the first leg at Westhills Stadium seven days before, what some people may call Cavalry’s “B lineup” didn’t look out of place at all, as the squad showed plenty of composure and skill against the visitors from Victoria.
Some fans had probably not even taken to their seats when Cavalry broke the deadlock in the second minute, and once again, it was from a set-piece. With the first free kick of the game, attacking midfielder Julian Buescher fired in a ball from the left that Pacific striker Marcus Haber somehow knocked into his own net with a miscued clearance.
As has become a bit of a pattern at Spruce Meadows this season, Cavalry came out of the gate on the front foot, establishing most of the early possession and looking dangerous up front. Wingers Nico Pasquotti and Gabriel Bitar, getting his first professional start, looked eager to attack the West Coasters down the flanks.
Pacific’s response to Cavalry’s continuous stream of attacks was to make their first substitution after just 30 minutes, bringing on Zachary Verhoven for midfielder Noah Verhoeven. The change did help some, as Pacific started to look more threatening in the final 10 minutes of the half, eventually testing Cavalry keeper Niko Giantsopoulos with an effort from outside the box after 40 minutes.
Cavalry FC put the icing on their cake in the 67th minute, when Buescher – an easy pick for man of the match for the way he bossed the midfield – knocked in a lay-off from Malyk Hamilton. Nineteen-year-old Hamilton had done well to get to the byeline after collecting a forward pass from Bitar down the right side, and his feed inside was easily side-footed by Buescher past Mark Village in Pacific FC’s goal.
Pacific earned a consolation goal less than 10 minutes later, when Haber headed home his second tally of the season off a pinpoint cross from Terran Campbell, after Cavalry coughed up possession in their own half. It was one of the few times this season Cavalry’s back line has been caught flat-footed, but the six-foot-four, 30-year-old striker did well to get around Cavalry’s Joel Waterman at the back post and get his head on the end of it.
Haber’s goal proved little more than a souvenir of the Victorians’ trip to Alberta, as Cavalry’s defenders shut the gate for the remainder.
Pacific let their frustrations be known in the final moments of the match, as four yellow cards were dished out in the 88th, 89th and 91st minutes. Haber, Verhoven, and Matthew Baldisimo picked up bookings for Pacific, while Dean Northover made it into the ref’s book for Cavalry.
Knocking out Pacific ensures Cavalry remains the only CPL team not to lose or tie this season. The Calgary club boasts an impressive 6-0-0 record, including four wins in the CPL and the two victories over Pacific in the first round of the Canadian Championship.
Tommy Wheeldon Jr.’s troops will look to make it seven wins in a row this Saturday, when they take on HFX Wanderers at Spruce Meadows.
Cavalry’s second round opponent in the cup will be Forge FC, with the two games set for June 4 and 11. It should be a tasty match-up between the two leading teams in the CPL, with the prize on the end being a mouth-watering opportunity to face Vancouver Whitecaps in the third round.
FINAL SCORE: Cavalry FC 2 – 1 Pacific FC
CAVALRY FC: Niko Giantsopoulos, Dominick Zator, Joel Waterman, Malyk Hamilton, Carlos Patino, Gabriel Bitar, Mauro Eustaquio (Victor Loturi 71), Nico Pasquotti (Nathan Mavila 62), Dean Northover, Julian Buescher, Jordan Brown (Sergio Camargo 65) [Subs Not Used: Marco Carducci, Jay Wheeldon, Elijah Adekugbe, Dominique Malonga]
PACIFIC FC: Mark Village, Emile Legault, Ryan McCurdy, Blake Smith, Lukas MacNaughton, Alessandro Hoiabrpour (Matthew Baldisimo 73), Noah Verhoeven (Zach Verhoven 31), Ben Fisk (Terran Campbell 46), Issey Nakajima-Farran, Marcus Haber, Alexander Gonzalez [Subs Not used: Nolan Wirth, Kadin Chung]
TOMMY WHEELDON JR.
On Cavalry’s performance:
“It was another good one. We tried not to use the lead we had as a buffer zone. We saw it as another chance for a game we could go on and win. Again, it was an opportunity to shuffle our deck and give some meaningful minutes to good players. I thought it was a good game and 2-1 was probably a fair result.”
“What I did love, there were moments – especially in the second half – we scored a cracking goal, with great build-up. That shows a part of the game that we’re starting to implement. We have another side to us, and it’s just starting to come out, which pleases me as a coach because we’re winning in different ways.”
On the effect of scoring the first goal so early:
“We talked about how the first goal of this game could change the outcome. As soon as we scored it, we had a sigh of relief. As you know, we have a very high-energy pressing system, and we didn’t need to do it as much with a three-goal cushion. We conserved energy and knew we’d go again in the second half.”
On the strength of Cavalry’s rotated lineup.
“We’ve got a good DNA – it’s very clearly defined, and everyone else is still trying to work out their systems. We know what we want to do when we have the ball – we want to build. When we don’t have it, we want to suffocate the opposition. We’re clear on that, and we’re very dangerous from set-plays and now we’re showing from open play too.
“I’m delighted today to get players in like Mauro Eustaquio, who has been out for a year. I thought he was one of the best players on the park. Young Malyk Hamilton, 19 years of age, I thought he had a great game and a great assist. Victor Loturi, he’s only just turned 18. He came in for 20 minutes and he actually calmed down the game for us. That shows maturity beyond his years.”
On Julian Buescher’s performance:
“This guy impresses me, and I’m probably his toughest critic, as he’ll probably tell you. I think he has so much special ability, as you’ve seen with his delivery on the set-play goal that deflected off Haber, and the goal that he scored just after I gave him a rollocking for [a missed] pass. I think he’s a terrific addition to our side and the fans are starting to see that.”
On Cavalry’s early success this season:
“Everyone keeps everyone to a very high standard on this team, and that’s what has made us successful, and hopefully it keeps us going. Just seeing what we can do better, instead of being happy with where we’re at right now. There are things we can still improve on. We’re critical of ourselves because we want to be successful.
“It’s a very special group. We have 23 guys who are very close together. It’s not always the case where you find a group where everyone gets along with everyone. That makes it special, because when I lose the ball, someone else is helping me out.”
On Pacific’s performance:
“We went in hoping to [come back] but after two minutes it was 1-0. It was difficult to get the guys going. We made a few changes, I felt we tried to get back in the game, but we weren’t able to get it to work. Cavalry did well.”
On Pacific’s packed fixture schedule thus far:
“It’s been tough, but that’s the way it was from the beginning. It’s no excuse. It’s just an understanding of why the players play not how they should, at times. Now we get a bit of a break and hopefully they’ll come back stronger.”
On Cavalry’s level of play this season:
“They’re far ahead. They have 23 players who are on the same page, who fit together. They don’t need many chances to convert goals. Even with a few injuries and changing it up a bit, they always put a good team out there. It’s deserved, where they are.”