‘We’re kind of spinning our wheels’: Cavalry draw – yes, again – against table toppers Atlético

‘We’re kind of spinning our wheels’: Cavalry draw – yes, again – against table toppers Atlético

Cavalry FC and Atlético Ottawa split the spoils on Friday night with a 1-1 draw at Spruce Meadows.

While the hosts got off to a flying start, with Tobias Warschewski knocking in his sixth goal of the season off a second-minute corner kick, the visitors were able to draw level before the end of the first half thanks to a well taken header from captain Alberto Zapater.

Despite both teams boasting their fair number of chances in the second half, neither side was able to find the net a second time, meaning Cavalry and Ottawa produced a 1-1 draw for the second time this season.

“It was a bit of a roller coaster,” said Ottawa’s goalkeeper Nathan Ingham after the match. “We’re super disappointed with how early we conceded. Any time you concede in the second minute, and then you keep it zero for the rest of the game, you’re hitting yourself because (you nearly) did the job to get a clean sheet.”

Cavalry’s goal came so early into the proceedings (108 seconds) that many fans had likely not even taken their seat at ATCO Field before Warscheski got on the end of a ricocheted corner kick at the back post. Despite the tight angle, the German number 9 was able to side-foot the ball into Ingham’s net at the back post.

Nathan Ingham looks back as Tobias Warschewski’s back-post shot rises over his shoulder into Ottawa’s goal. Scott Strasser

“It was a lapse in judgment on a set piece, which was silly,” Ingham said. “We talked about it before the match because we knew set pieces would be something they try to get something off of.

“Transitions and set pieces were what we focused on shutting down and we failed, obviously.”

The early goal gave Cavalry momentum and they played with confidence for the next 15 minutes, keeping the ball mostly in Ottawa’s half. Diego Gutierrez and Shamit Shome were continually winning balls in the midfield against Manny Aparicio and Oliver Bassett, while Cavalry wingers Lleyton Brooks and Warschewski showed plenty of eagerness to chase passes down the flanks.

But Atlético showed why they’ve spent most of the season at the top of the Canadian Premier League table when they drew level in the 39th minute, after winning the ball back deep in Cavalry’s territory.

Left unmarked in the box, Zapater rose high to get his head on a perfectly placed cross from the left from Ruben Del Campo, and his header was aimed perfectly inside of Marco Carducci’s bottom-left corner for the former Zaragoza player’s third goal of the season.

Alberto Zapater celebrates his goal against Cavalry on June 21. Scott Strasser

The second half was a back-and-forth affair, with both teams looking capable of grabbing a winner. Ottawa’s best chance came from Del Campo in the 75th minute, but his shot was blocked by Fraser Aird.

Warschewski could have scored his second of the night, but his 50th-minute shot was parried by Ingham.

“I think (Cavalry) will feel like there were moments they could have won the game, and we feel the same way,” Ingham said. “You could say the same thing about when we met them in Ottawa for the second game of the season.

“I expect more of the same the next time we see them – it’s going to be a battle and it could go either way.”

‘We’re running out of breathing room’

The result keeps Atlético atop the CPL table with a 6-1-4 record and a five-point lead over York United.

But while they’ve still got some breathing room at the top of the standings, Ingham pointed out the team’s recent blip in form, with just five points from their last four matches.

Friday’s result was also a second game in a row without a win for Ottawa, after dropping three points to York the game before.

“We’re running out of breathing room,” he said. “Our form in the last four games hasn’t been very good – two draws, a loss and a win.”

The Ottawa ‘keeper pointed out that, despite their impressive results thus far, Ottawa is still very much in a rebuilding phase as the new-look squad – with 15 new signings this season – continues to gel.

“I feel strongly you haven’t seen our best football, which is no surprise,” he said.

“Fifteen new faces this year, and we’re only 11 games into the season. I’m happy with where we’re at. If you told me at the beginning of the season where we’d be at (right now), I’d be very happy. But that said, if you told me before the last four games how many points we’d get out of it, I’d be very disappointed.”

‘We’re trying to get through a sticky patch’

Cavalry’s representatives in the press conference, meanwhile, appeared less than thrilled with the result.

Head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. said it was frustrating to experience yet another draw – remarkably, Cavalry’s eighth of 2024. The defending regular-season champs have a 2-1-8 record and currently sit sixth in the standings.

Wheeldon Jr. cited challenges brought on by the hosts’ injury-ravaged roster, with the likes of Ali Musse, Sergio Camargo, Willy Akio, Bradley Kamdem-Fewo, and Mael Henry unavailable for selection on Friday.

“The reality is we’re kind of spinning our wheels,” he said. “We’re hurting right now in terms of fitness and I think with (Diego Gutierrez and Fraser Aird) coming off, it doesn’t look good.”

While Cavalry is on a 10-match unbeaten run in league play, eight of those games have produced ties – a slate of winless outings that Wheeldon Jr. acknowledged is producing an air of frustration among the Calgary camp.

“We’re trying to get through a sticky patch,” he said. “When you’re playing OK – which is what I think we did – and not losing, it’s a positive. But to be honest, I think we could do better. That for me was not a great performance. It was an OK performance, and that (lies) at my feet as the coach and the coaching staff. Players now have to start chipping in and scoring that second goal.”

‘Let’s lean into them,’ Wheeldon says of youngsters

One consequence of Cavalry’s battered and bruised attacking corps. was an opportunity to give some youngsters playing time on Friday.

In the last 15 minutes, Wheeldon Jr. subbed in 18-year-old Niko Myroniuk and 17-year-old debutant Chanan Chanda, who had just that day been announced as Cavalry’s first “exceptional young talent” signing.

Both youngsters are key members of Cavalry’s U21 team this summer; Chanda currently leads the League 1 Alberta scoring charts, with seven goals to his name.

Chanan Chanda made his CPL debut for Cavalry

And both players demonstrated their hunger throughout their cameos, with Myroniuk in particular drawing some appreciation from the ATCO Field ultras thanks to a couple of deft flicks and passes on the right flank.

Wheeldon Jr. said the eagerness shown by the two teens to impact the match was one of the few positives from a Cavalry perspective.

“These young players play without fear,” he said.

“Young players come in enthusiastic and they lifted the team. Niko added that and I think it was great to see Chanan Chanda. He’s the leading scorer in League 1 Alberta. Let’s lean into them. If you’re going to find out what they’ve got as character, put them in a tight game. They came through with flying colours, so that was a positive.”

Powley remembered

The pre-game festivities included a somber mood on Friday night, with a moment of silence to honour former CPL goalkeeper Dylon Powley. The 27-year-old tragically died in a motorcycle collision on Thursday night in Edmonton.

Powley was a goalkeeper for FC Edmonton and Atlético Ottawa in the early seasons of the CPL, playing 35 games for the two clubs between 2019 and 2021.

He also had ties to Calgary before that, as he was a walk-on member of Wheeldon Jr.’s western conference-winning Foothills FC PDL team in 2016. He also suited up between the sticks for Foothills in 2017.

Dylon Powley in action for Calgary Foothills against TSS Rovers in May 2017

Wheeldon Jr. and Ingham each took a moment during the post-game press conference to reflect on Powley’s impact on the Canadian soccer community.

“I’m devastated for Angela and Craig Powley,” Wheeldon Jr. said.

“Dylon was a wonderful human being. I had the pleasure of watching him play and competing against him and he’s always kept in touch with a lot of our players. I know both sides were heartbroken by the news today and life is precious, so I’d like to send our love and condolences to the Powley family.”

Ingham echoed those sentiments, calling Friday an “emotional day” for both teams.

“Obviously, Dylon spent time here at Foothills and spent time with us in Ottawa as well,” he said. “Anyone who was close to him, I want you to know, there are a lot of people in my life who knew Dylon extremely well and he’s remembered really well.

“If you were friends with him or a family member, you should be really proud of how many people he touched and how many important people in this world, this soccer world, speak highly of him. He’s a big loss, and a lot of people were thinking of him today.”

Dylon Powley in action for Calgary Foothills against TSS Rovers in May 2017

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