“We wanted to change the narrative” – Cavalry shuts out Ottawa for first win of 2023
After the smoke cleared, Cavalry finally emerged victorious.
In what was easily their best game yet of the season, Cavalry FC overcame Atlético Ottawa 2-0 on Sunday at Spruce Meadows, to claim their first win of the Canadian Premier League campaign after five consecutive draws.
Sergio Camargo and Daan Klomp scored for the Calgarians, (one in each half) while goalkeeper Marco Carducci registered his first clean sheet of 2023 to see out the win, only needing to parry one shot on target from the visitors.
“We wanted to change the narrative,” said Camargo during the post-game press conference. “These ties have been building up and there’s been a lot of discussion whether the Cavs are the same as we have been before.
“We knew in the locker room that we’re building towards something… and now, we don’t care what [the narrative] is out there. We know in the locker room what we’re striving for and working toward.”
Cavalry’s win over Atlético – a club the Calgarians have historically struggled against since 2020 – means they are one of just two CPL sides still unbeaten this year, alongside Forge FC.
The win also jumps Cavalry (1-0-5) three spots up the table to third place behind Forge (3-0-3) and Pacific FC (3-1-2).
Camargo said Saturday’s win over Ottawa, and a full 90-minute performance, has been what the squad has been working toward.
“We’ve had glimpses in the past games, we just haven’t been able to play a full 90 minutes together, whether it be a lack of concentration defensively or no killer instinct in the final third,” he said. “But we had a complete game today that we knew we were able to do, and it was so special to do it here in front of this crowd.”
After probing for the first 20 minutes, Cavalry broke the deadlock in the 22nd minute. A free kick cross from the left from Fraser Aird was cleared to the top of the box. Camargo struck the ball low as he was falling down, and it managed to find its way into Ottawa’s net through a forest of players.
“Ottawa is always very organized – we knew what we were up against,” Camargo said. “I think our dynamic movement in the midfield today – Musse, Fraser, Jose, Myer, everyone in the midfield – [helped us]. We knew we had to get moving and cause problems for them. We had to try to shift them as quickly as possible to create chances.”
Having recently come back from injury, Camargo said it felt good to score his first goal of 2023 – especially considering he’d skied another chance over the bar five minutes earlier, after he’d dribbled his way into Ottawa’s box.
“My teammates were great – I was the hardest on myself after that miss,” he said. “They were saying ‘Forget it and move on,’ but I needed to make it up and I was lucky to get another opportunity five minutes after.
Though giving up a lead has been an issue all season long thus far, this time, Cavalry’s 1-0 lead held until half-time.
Early into the second half, the hosts figured they’d doubled their lead when Jose Escalante fired home a volley in the 53rd minute. But the well-struck goal was called back because Myer Bevan, who was in an offside position, was considered to have impeded Ottawa’s goalkeeper Sean Melvin from making an attempted save.
Not letting the minor setback faze them, Cavalry earned their insurance goal in the 67th minute, and once again it started with a set piece from Aird. His free kick from the left was floated into the box and headed across goal by Musse. The ball fell perfectly for Klomp to knock in from close range.
Ottawa finally seemed to wake up toward the end of the match as they sought to score a goal that would get them back into the contest. While Atlético managed to keep more sustained pressure in Cavalry’s half in the final 20 minutes, they weren’t able to generate any serious chances on net, and Carducci was able to corral any cross or pass that came into his box.
When the dust settled and the final whistle sounded, the statistics showed Cavalry fully deserved the win. The hosts outshot Ottawa 9-7, generated 67 entries into Atlético’s defensive third, controlled 64 per cent of possession, out-crossed Ottawa 15-11, and generated an XG of 1.29 compared to Ottawa’s 0.41.
“I’m just proud of the players,” Cavalry’s head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. said in the post-game presser. “We kept talking over and over about the good things they’ve been doing. I think we’ve had some unlucky goals, bobbles, bounces, circumstances…
“I believe in this group. It’s a talented group. You’ve seen it today against a very tough Ottawa team there. They’ve come off the back of a 5-0 away defeat [last week in Vancouver], feeling confident.
“I felt that today, that was one of the best performances we’ve had at ATCO Field. So that’s the team we have. We still have players to come back in like Joe Mason, Shamit Shome, Callum Montgomery. We’re only going to get stronger. We said we want to start turning ties into wins.”
All in all, Camargo agreed the win was a monkey off Cavalry’s back, and a great way to end a lengthy run of consecutive draws.
“It’s that narrative that the Cavs can’t hold a lead,” he said. “We did, and we knew we could do it. It was just a matter of time before putting a full 90 together. Today is special for that reason.”