Hopefully, no fans left early.
Following last weekend’s chippy 1-1 draw with York9 FC, Cavalry FC got back to winning ways Oct. 2 with a 4-1 victory over Valour FC, on a brisk night at Spruce Meadows.
It was a game that saw all five goals potted in the second half, including four scored in a frantic final 15 minutes. Dominique Malonga grabbed his eighth and ninth tallies of the season, while Oliver Minatel and Julian Büscher contributed to the home team’s haul with late goals.
Cavalry head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. attributed the late attacking surge to his players’ resilience – something he said the CPL spring season champions have shown in spades all season.
“We talk about it all the time, and it only shows when you have times of challenge,” he said. “We have an ethos at our place of ‘adapt and overcome.’ We talked about it as one of our game keys today.”
The first half was virtually devoid of action, with just a handful of shots from each team.
As inactive as the first 45 minutes were, it didn’t take long for the hosts to find a spark in the second half.
In the 53rd minute, Dominick Zator – lining up once again at right back – deftly played a through ball into the 18-yard box that Malonga blasted past Tyson Farago in Valour’s goal. The near-post strike marked the 31-year-old striker’s eighth goal of the CPL season.
Marco Bustos found a leveller for Valour in the 77th minute, side-footing a shot past Marco Carducci that clipped into Cavalry’s net off the right-hand post, following a layoff from Michael Petrasso. It was Valour’s first – and ultimately only – shot on target of the evening.
With a dozen minutes left to play, the teams were once again level.
“Based on our performance against Valour last time, [an 8-0 victory] we knew they’d throw something different at us,” Wheeldon Jr. said. “In fairness, they did. They were as tough as they have been, and pegged us back. The boys stepped it up a gear.”
Minatel, who has shown a penchant for getting on the score sheet throughout the fall season, grabbed the game’s winner with a headed goal in the 85th minute. The Brazilian attacking midfielder ghosted into the six-yard box and Valour’s defenders made no move to stop him from knocking in a well-placed free kick from Julian Büscher.
“Büsch played a great ball in,” said Minatel, of his sixth goal of the CPL season. “We know he plays those balls that drop quickly, so it was just about getting into a position to attack the ball.”
Wheeldon Jr. touted the impressive showing from Minatel, who has enjoyed a resurgence in recent months after not playing much in the spring campaign, due to injury and the strong performances of Sergio Camargo in the attacking midfield position.
“[Minatel] has been exceptional,” Wheeldon Jr. said. “We felt for him, because he got an innocuous injury in preseason and when you miss preseason, you’re behind the eight ball. Then, he scored a great header against Pacific in the Canadian Championship, before getting another knock, on his calf. It put him out of the team.
“He was an exceptional pro, kept training hard, and when his time came, [he was ready]. We saw him score the winning goal against Halifax, and that was the start of good things to come.”
Cavalry knocked in a third just two minutes later, as Valour bungled another cross from Cavalry into their six-yard box. The ball bounced off a few players, including Minatel, but it was Malonga’s knee that it hit last before trickling over the line.
With a 3-1 lead after 90 minutes, the three points were all but secured for Cavalry, but there was still one more goal left in the game. Perhaps not content with just an assist, Büscher grabbed Cavalry’s fourth of the night with a low volley into the bottom left corner, following a short clearance from Valour’s center backs after yet another Cavalry cross into their box.
Cavalry’s win keeps the Calgary-based team in second place in the CPL’s fall season standings, two points behind Forge FC, who beat FC Edmonton 1-0 on the same day.
Cavalry will be back at Spruce Meadows Saturday afternoon to take on HFX Wanderers.
Forge vs. Cavalry
There are still four games left for Cavalry to play in the regular season, but we already know which team they will be up against in the inaugural CPL championship final.
Forge FC, who have been Cavalry’s main rival throughout the CPL’s inaugural season, secured their spot in the two-legged final with a 3-0 home win over Pacific FC on Sept. 28. That result, coupled with Cavalry’s 1-1 draw with York, ensured the Hamiltonians will finish the season with the second-highest cumulative points total.
(They still have a solid chance of winning the fall season, as well, which would book them a berth in the final, regardless).
Wheeldon Jr. said Cavalry’s remaining fixtures will be about finding the right formula as the team prepares for the final. While the next few games are virtually meaningless in terms of their implications in the standings, he said Cavalry will have to stay sharp, regardless.
“It’s like going into a big title fight,” he said. “If you go into a big fight with terrible sparring, you’re not going to win that battle. We need to go in there and be the best version of ourselves every time we turn up.”
The final will be contested Oct. 26 and Nov. 2, with the first leg being held in Hamilton and the second leg at Spruce Meadows.