Four games into the inaugural Canadian Premier League season, Cavalry FC have cemented themselves as the team to beat, with four wins and a record of proving they can win closely-fought matches.
The latest win came on May 18, via a 1-0 triumph over FC Edmonton at Spruce Meadows. The first competitive edition of the “Al Classico” derby marked Cavalry’s third clean sheet this season and their fourth time winning by just a single goal.
With steady rain throughout the day, by kickoff, the pitch had been reduced to a soppy surface that was always going to make possession-based football difficult. The wet conditions made for a battle of attrition throughout the first half, with neither team looking to string more than a few passes together before playing long balls into the channels.
The physical nature of the match was established early, with FC Edmonton’s Ramon Soria picking up the first yellow card nine minutes in with a crunching tackle on Cavalry captain Nik Ledgerwood – a former Eddies player. The foul resulted in a midfield skirmish of pushing and shoving that brought cheers and jeers from fans of both teams, who were eager to see a proper Battle of Alberta.
The only goal of the match came on the stroke of halftime, when striker Jordan Brown broke the deadlock with his second tally of the season. After a layoff from Ledgerwood, Elijah Adekugbe one-timed a low shot from 25 yards out that Brown managed to redirect with the side of his foot. Edmonton’s goalkeeper, Connor James, was left wrong-footed as the ball rolled over his goal-line.
The goal gave Cavalry a boost as the teams came out for the second half, as evidenced by a flurry of attacking chances. Dominique Malonga came close to doubling Cavalry’s lead at the hour mark, off a cross from Brown, after the English striker made a mazy run down the right-hand side. Unfortunately, the cross was just behind the Congolese international, who got his head to it but was unable to direct the ball towards goal.
FC Edmonton enjoyed their best spell in the final 20 minutes, with sustained pressure in Cavalry’s half. The home team’s ability to hold on to their one-goal lead during this period should largely be attributed to goalkeeper Marco Carducci, who kept his side in front with a pair of important saves in the 69th and 73rd minutes.
On both cases, the 22-year-old ‘keeper had to dive low – first to his right, then to his left – to deny the Eddies’ 17-year-old substitute Marcus Velado-Tsegaye from bringing the visitors level.
As in their previous four fixtures, Cavalry managed to hold on as the clock winded down to secure the three points.
For the Eddies, the loss marked their first defeat of the CPL season, following a 2-1 win over Valour FC and a scoreless draw with Pacific FC.
Next up for Cavalry will be the second leg of the Voyageurs Cup tie with Pacific FC. That match goes Wednesday evening at Spruce Meadows, with a kick-off time of 7:30 p.m.
Following that, Tommy Wheeldon Jr.’s troops will have to recover quickly before they play the sole CPL team they haven’t yet faced – HFX Wanderers – on May 25. It will mark Cavalry’s seventh match since the season kicked off on May 4.
FINAL SCORE: Cavalry FC 1 – 0 FC Edmonton
CAVALRY FC: Marco Carducci; Nathan Mavila, Dominick Zator, Jonathan Wheeldon, Joel Waterman, Nik Ledgerwood (Mauro Eustaquio 90+2), Elijah Adekugbe, Sergio Camargo (Julian Buscher 72), Nico Pasquotti, Jordan Brown, Dominique Malonga (Dean Northover 78) [Subs Not Used: Nikolas Giantsopoulos, Carlos Patino, Malyk Hamilton, Gabriel Bitar]
FC EDMONTON: Conner James; Jeannot Esua, Mele Temguia, Ramon Soria, Kareem Moses, Bruno Zebie, Yong-Chan Son, James Marcelin, Ajay Khabra (Marcus Velado-Tsegaye 68), Tomi Ameobi (David Doe 90+2), Ajeej Sarkaria [Subs Not Used: Dylan Powley, Prince Amanda, Oumar Diouck]
TOMMY WHEELDON JR.
On Cavalry’s unbeaten record:
“Like all teams, we’re coming together. The difference with us is that we have a character in us that knows how to win close games. We’ve won four close games and had three shutouts in five games. We find different ways to win football matches.
“It’s a 10-game sprint season, so it does give us a good chance to get points on the board. When you play the likes of FC Edmonton, they have a great history as a professional club. We knew as soon as it was a one-goal game, that they were going to come back into it. They played direct and made it hard for us. When [we] go through stuff like that, these lads grow another inch.”
On the rivalry with FC Edmonton:
“It’s called the Battle of Alberta for a reason, because it’s an absolute battle… For 60 or 70 minutes, I thought we controlled the momentum, but as soon as it was a one-goal game, I have to give credit to Jeff [Paulus] and Sean [Fleming], because they’ve got a good group of lads there. Some of them are like mountains. When you put ball after ball in, from long-throws and direct free kicks, it was like we had to weather the storm, so it was like a proper war. Fortunately, we’re the Cavalry and we know how to handle that.”
On improvements Cavalry FC could make:
“It always makes you breathe a little easier and I would like another insurance goal. But let’s put it into perspective – these guys have played five games in two weeks. We’ve just gotten back from a six-day road-trip and we’ve come here, rotated the line-up and came up with another winning performance. I’d love to play champagne football all the time, but I’ll settle for a couple of beers, after that game, and three points.”
On Marco Carducci’s performance:
“I think he’s one of the best keepers in Canada. He’s exceptional in terms of his presence. You know he’s a good keeper when he can be that quiet for that long, and then come to life and make a couple of key saves. It just gives us a calmness. You see the way he took it down in the 87th, 88th minute.”
On keeping his composure:
“That’s obviously part of being a goalkeeper. There are times in a game where your team doesn’t need you, but at the end of the day, when you need to make saves, it’s about being there and making the saves for the team. I was happy to do that today. From my standpoint, it was just about staying in the game [and] staying focused.”
On his goal:
“I just reacted. Like my first one in the first game, I just reacted. I was ready for it. You’ve got to be always ready for any situation.”