(Photo Credit: CFC Media/Mike Sturk)
There’s no place like home.
Cavalry FC proved the old adage right in their first home match of the 2022 season, shutting out visitors Pacific FC 2-0 at Spruce Meadows on May 1 to earn their first Canadian Premier League (CPL) win of the year.
Goalkeeper Marco Carducci kept a clean sheet in his first game back for Cavalry after missing the opening three matches following a testicular cancer diagnosis and ensuing surgery in February. The 25-year-old ‘keeper made a couple of important saves in his return, to help keep the CPL table-toppers Pacific from improving upon their 3-0-1 record.
Following the match, Carducci said it was a “special feeling” to return to his spot between the sticks after revealing his cancer diagnosis in a public letter to fans back in February.
“As the game went on, it was about just doing what I know how to do,” he said during the post-game press conference. “To be honest, at the end of the game with a couple minutes left, I started to feel a little more emotional than I thought. It was incredible just to have the guys around me fighting just to hold on and not only win the game but come away with a clean sheet.”
While Cavalry came into the Week 4 match languishing in the basement of the CPL with a 0-2-1 record, the Calgarians looked more like their old selves on Sunday, with an assured performance against the defending CPL champs.
With four points from four matches, the victory also means Cavalry leap-frog FC Edmonton for the seventh spot in the CPL table.
Despite the loss, Pacific remains in first place with 10 points, and the Langford-based team will be taking on second-place Atlético Ottawa on May 7 in a top-of-the-table clash.
In the pre-game press availability on Friday, head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. and captain Mason Trafford both spoke about the benefit of finally having home-field advantage in the May 1 match. Cavalry had struggled on the road in the three weekends prior: in three consecutive trips to Ontario to take on Atlético Ottawa, Forge FC, and York United, the Calgary squad managed just one point, scored twice, and conceded five goals.
Many fans likely had not even taken their seats on Sunday before Cavalry FC got the ball rolling, with Ali Musse scoring for the hosts less than two minutes into the match. Winger José Escalante slid to keep the ball from rolling out for a goal kick along, and after the ball landed back at the Honduran’s feet a few seconds later, he laid it off for Musse, who placed his shot into the bottom-right corner.
Cavalry doubled their lead in the 37th minute thanks to a well-taken strike from Mason. Pacific left-back Nathan Mavila tried to dribble out of the visitors’ end, and Jean-Aniel Assi nicked the ball away from the former Cavalry defender. The ball fell to Mason, who was able to touch it forward before picking the top-left corner with a shot from just outside the 18-yard box.
Carducci had to stop a few efforts from Pacific winger Marco Bustos and midfielder Manny Aparicio to keep the visitors from clawing their way back into the match. His biggest moment came in the 61st minute, when he blocked a close-range effort from Bustos.
“I have to give credit to the guys in front of me who put in an absolute shift – we stuck to the plan, we scored goals, and we didn’t concede,” Carducci said.
“There was a moment there on a friend of mine Marco Bustos where I came up big, but at the end of the day, it’s about everyone pulling their weight and for me being there was an opportunity to keep us up two goals.”
“It was a great win for Marco and everyone for what he’s been through,” Wheeldon Jr. added in the post-game press conference.
“The lads fought for him and his big save at the end to keep the shutout. That’s all I wanted – a shutout for him, because he’s an impressive human being.”
Cavalry’s next outing will be on May 6, when the team will travel north up the Queen Elizabeth II Highway for the first Al Classico of the season to face FC Edmonton, who are currently the only CPL team still chasing their first win of 2022.
The two Alberta teams will then resume the rivalry on May 10 at Spruce Meadows in the first round of the 2022 Canadian Championship.