It’s one of soccer’s hard truths. A club can only have one starting goalkeeper. And Cavalry FC is currently in the process of determining who’ll be starting between the posts for the Calgary club when the Canadian Premier League season kicks off at the end of April..
But, Marco Carducci and Niko Giantsopoulos, the two net-minders competing for the club’s goalkeeper spot, and their goalkeeper coach, Jordan Santiago, say the primary focus at this point in pre-season is improving themselves and strengthening the bonds among the members of the small team within a team. The big decisions will come later.
“There’s one spot and everyone is totally aware of that,” admits Marco Carducci, Cavalry FC goalkeeper. “Between Niko and myself, we’ve found a good balance. You can see we’re good friends. At the end of the day, you’re going to spend an entire season working with the same small group of guys and that’s how it is in the (goalkeeper) union.”
Giantsopoulos agrees he and Carducci have quickly developed a positive understanding. And he says it’s been that way since last year when the two of them participated in the prospects matches for Cavalry FC against FC Edmonton in 2018.
“Even when I was here in the prospects camp in September and October we kind of clicked,” says Giantsopoulos. “And we pushed each other in training and I believe that’s the first step. When you come to pre-season you’re not worrying who’s going to play the first game. You want to push each other in the drills and the small-sided games.”
Camraderie among keepers
Cavalry FC goalkeeper coach Jordan Santiago, who’s been pleased to see the friendly competitiveness between his two keepers during pre-season, says the bond comes from the position’s shared experiences.
“There’s a camaraderie there,” says Santiago. “You know how hard it is when you’re playing and you know how hard it is when you’re number two.”
“Yeah, it’s tough, but you’re also very supportive of each other,” continues Santiago. “And the two guys here are super supportive. They work really well together. That’s why we wanted to bring the two of them in. Because we know how they work together and we know that off the field, they like each other. Which is massively important, when you’re spending 10 months every single day with somebody.”
Carducci returns home
Cavalry FC’s two prospective keepers arrived in Calgary having taken two very different career paths.
Calgary-native Marco Carducci left his hometown in 2011 to attend the Vancouver Whitecaps FC academy. He eventually signed a professional contract with the Whitecaps in 2014, spending some time with Whitecaps FC 2, the club’s reserves team.
In 2017 Carducci signed with Rio Grande Valley Toros, of the United Soccer League before returning home to Calgary Foothills FC, with the promise of a Calgary CPL club on the horizon.
The 22-year-old won the Premier Development League (now United Soccer League Two) in 2018 with Foothills FC – a squad coached by current Cavalry FC head coach and general manager Tommy Wheeldon Jr.
And Cavalry FC’s manager has always thought highly of Carducci, ever since he saw the keeper play for MacKenzie FC as a kid.
“(I’m a) big fan of Marco Carducci,” says Wheeldon. “He’s an up and coming Canadian star in the making. He just needs some good pro minutes behind him.”
Giantsopoulos returns from Down Under
Niko Giantsopoulos played NCAA at Calvin College before traveling to Australia to play for Devonport City Strikers of the Tasmanian Northern Premier League.
Motivated by the prospect of playing professional football in his homeland, the 24-year-old travelled back to Canada to take part in the Cavalry FC prospects camp and the Al Classico matches against FC Edmonton in autumn of 2018. Tommy Wheedlon Jr. and keeper coach Santiago were impressed by Giantsopoulos and a contract offer was eventually offered and accepted.
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“Niko Giantsopoulos, he has the coolest name to say in the league,” jokes Wheeldon. “He’s got these unbelievable reaction saves. He keeps producing them in practice. He’s up for the challenge to take the number one spot.”
“I relish that, because they’re both hardworking and Jordan (Santiago), our keeper coach, is putting them through the paces.”
There will be a first choice keeper
And come the start of the CPL season, one of the two will be a first choice, according to their goalkeeper coach.
“I think you want to have a first choice going into the first game, because you want your defense, your midfield, your attackers to be comfortable behind them,” says Santiago. “They both have different styles of play, they both have different voices, how they want defenses organized. If you’re switching that out every game the people in front of you are going to be confused and they are not going to be comfortable. Our plan is to have a number one by the start of the season.”
In the meantime, Carducci and Giantsopoulos will continue to develop the friendly competitiveness they hope will be of benefit to their club.
“He’s pushed me,” says Giantsopoulos. “I like to think I’ve been pushing him. It’s a friendly competition. And whoever gets the start, throughout the season, whether it’s one game or another, I’ll support Marco and I’m sure he’d support me.”
And Carducci agrees.
“We both know we are pushing for the same spot, but we’re working to get the most out of each other,” says Carducci. “There’s a mutual respect. Keeping that friendly competitiveness in balance, is going to get the most out of us.”
The Canadian Premier League is a new professional soccer league set to kick off in April 2019. Cavalry FC is Calgary’s club and will play its home games at Spruce Meadows. Season tickets are available for purchase. Single game and multi-game pack tickets are expected to be available soon.