A late free kick from Jose Escalante rescued all three points for Cavalry FC in a physical and chippy game May 8 against visiting Valour FC, at ATCO Field.
As the clock ticked past the 80-minute mark, it looked as though the Canadian Premier League could possibly see its first 0-0 draw. But Escalante put any ideas of a stalemate to bed with a well-taken free kick in the 86th minute.
Roughly 19 yards out from goal, the international signing from Honduras curled a left-footed shot low around the wall and past Tyson Farago’s outstretched finger tips. The effort marked the CPL’s first-ever goal from a direct free kick.
🕺 JOSE SNEAKS IT IN OFF THE FREEKICK
🔴 CAV 1 – 0 VAL ⚫
🥅 86th minute slapper puts @CPLCavalryFC ahead at home!
— OneSoccer (@onesoccer) May 9, 2019
Physical play proved a common theme throughout the game, with both teams guilty of their fair share of late challenges.
Escalante, playing as the left attacking winger in a 3-4-3 formation, was Cavalry’s most dangerous player from the opening kickoff. The 23-year-old continuously looked to take on Valour’s defenders 1-vs-1 and he drew plenty of fouls.
The former Houston Dynamo loanee was combining well with international signing Nathan Mavila, who was making his CPL debut for Cavalry after not featuring in the opening match May 4 against York9.
Escalante earned the first chance of the game, forcing Valour keeper Tyson Farago to make a diving save in the eighth minute.
Valour responded with a chance of their own in the 17th minute through Ali Musse. The former Foothills FC star from last year collected a pass in Cavalry’s 18-yard-box and struck a low shot towards goal, but his effort was saved by his former teammate, Marco Carducci.
Cavalry captain Nik Ledgerwood also had a chance to take the lead for the home team following a corner kick just before the halftime break, but his chest-volley from just inside the box sailed over the bar.
Escalante continued to look dangerous on the left wing, hitting the side-netting after connecting with a low cross from Jordan Brown that flashed across goal early into the second half.
Cavalry head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. rolled the dice with substitutions that showed the home team’s desire to score – he brought on attacking midfielder Sergio Camargo, striker Dominique Malonga and winger Nico Pasquotti, as the team continued to press in search of the opening goal.
Pasquotti was the substitution that ultimately proved crucial. A minute or two after coming on, he sent in a long throw-in that landed near Valour’s 18-yard-box. Midfielder Elijah Adekugbe was fouled, and it was from the subsequent dead ball that Escalante snuck his goal.
Valour pressed immediately following the restart, and nearly came through with a late equalizer, but a clearance by Cavalry center back Jay Wheeldon kept the hosts in front after the final whistle.
The win against Valour ensures Cavalry FC remains top of the league as the sole CPL team to have won all of its two fixtures. With a 2-0-0 record, Cavalry will look to keep the winning streak going against Forge FC on May 12, in Hamilton.
FINAL SCORE: Cavalry FC 2 – 1 Valour FC
CAVALRY: Marco Carducci, Jay Wheeldon, Joel Waterman, Dominick Zator, Nik Ledgerwood, Julian Buescher (Sergio Camargo 63), Elijah Adekugbe, Dean Northover (Nico Pasquotti 85), Nathan Mavila (Dominique Malonga 70), Jordan Brown, Jose Escalante [Subs Not Used: Nikolas Giantsopoulos, Mauro Eustaquio, Carlos Patino, Oliver Minatel]
VALOUR: Tyson Farago, Martin Arguiñarena, Adam Mitter, Jordan Murrell, Skylar Thomas, Louis Beland-Goyette, Josip Golubar (Nicolas Galvis 75), Diego Gutierrez, Michael Petrasso (Dylan Sacramento 46), Ali Musse, Glenn Muenkat (Calum Ferguson 66) [Subs Not Used: Mathias Janssens, Dylan Carreiro]
TOMMY WHEELDON JR.
On his team’s performance after two games:
“It’s always good to start with two wins versus chasing it. We’re pleased. We knew it would be a tough game today. I have nothing but respect for [Valour FC head coach Rob Gale]. He’s built a good team and we saw that in their last game against Edmonton. They were unlucky to not get anymore than they did out of it.
“I can’t be more delighted for our guys. We’ve used the home field advantage. We have to use it as a springboard now as we go on the road.”
On Escalante’s performance:
“Isn’t he exciting? That’s why we brought him in. He’s an exciting player and he’s one the fans will pay their money to come watch. He had a good day out there, so [it’s good] that Valour didn’t stop him as often as they could. It came down to a set-play, and he’s got a wand of a left foot.”
On the play leading up to the goal:
“For me, we knew we had to be patient. We had to pick our moments. That’s why we threw Nico [Pasquotti] on in the end. We’d tried to play through them and tried to play around them but nothing was coming off. We put Nico Pasquotti in, and he had a missile of a throw-in. It caused enough chaos to get us a free kick around the area.”
On Cavalry scoring from yet another set-play:
“We rehearse a lot of set-plays, because it comes down to the fact that, if it’s a chess match like it was today, when you’re cancelling each other out, you need to have a bit of brilliance and something different. Fortunately, Jose has that.”
On his first clean sheet in the CPL:
“We want to make Spruce Meadows a fortress. Getting two wins from two is a good place to start for us. Defensively, we’ve been solid and it’s what we pride ourselves on. Getting our first clean sheet feels very good, but now it’s a matter of building off of this.”
On the game and his team’s performance:
“It was a close game. A set-piece decided it, an extra bit of quality. We should have equalized a minute later. I loved how we responded to the goal. It was probably one of the best chances of the game. Marco robbed his old teammate Ali [Musse] a couple of times today, with some good saves. That’s what is going to decide it. There’s going to be close parity across the league and you need that moment of magic – someone who can pick the lock or be clinical when they get those chances.”
On what Valour could have done to come away with a win:
“You win football matches in both boxes. Clear-cut chances, I don’t know what the statistics were. I thought they did well up the left, obviously. [Escalante] has good quality and is the kind of player who will keep getting at you and getting crosses in. We managed it quite well and blocked him getting too many times in behind. It was a good chess match, with both teams going… and leaving it all out there.”
“You can’t be disappointed in the performance and the effort – we’ve played three games in seven days, so we’ve had a very short turnaround. It’s not easy and I felt the boys battled well and dug in when they needed to. I liked the start of the second half. I thought we started to open it up and get at them a little bit, and the shape was fairly comfortable. It was a good response after the goal, but you have to be clinical in this game and put chances away.”