Cavalry FC beat FC Edmonton 2-0 in a behind-closed-doors preseason version of the Al Classico Saturday afternoon, as the two clubs continue preparations for the inaugural season of the Canadian Premier League. The match was played in front of invited guests (including media and players’ friends and family) on the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology campus in Calgary.
Though only a preseason friendly, the match eventually developed a fierce edge and even saw FC Edmonton receive a red card in the second half.
But, both clubs’ managers walked away from Saturday’s contest happy with what they had seen.
Positives for both clubs
“(It was) a very good exercise, I think,” said Tommy Wheeldon Jr., Cavalry FC head coach and general manager. “Today it was a good derby. We knew it would be feisty but I think both sets of groups needed different things from the game. It’s always nice to win, but I think there’s things we can improve on. But when you sum it down, it’s another brick in the wall towards what we want to become.”
FC Edmonton head coach Jeff Paulus was equally pleased with Saturday’s game, despite the scoreline.
“For us it was great, honestly” said Paulus. “You know, we’re behind in training and we were able to get some key players 65 minutes today. So, on that aspect it was fantastic.”
Cavalry FC capitalizes on early pressure
Cavalry FC began the match strong, keeping FC Edmonton penned in their own half for most of the opening minutes. At around the seven-minute mark the pressure paid off when right-sided attacker Nico Pasquotti scored for the hosts after a series of quick-fire chances.
However, FC Edmonton quickly battled back into the contest, with the first half eventually settling into a bit of a midfield-focused fight.
The second half was fiercely fought and saw FC Edmonton midfielder Son Yongchan sent off for receiving a second yellow card four minutes after the restart. FC Edmonton were permitted to replace Son with another player as it was a preseason friendly.
It would remain heated and Cavalry FC were eventually awarded a penalty in the 84th minute. Recently signed French striker Dominique Malonga stepped up to side-foot home the spot kick.
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Cavalry FC midfielder Nik Ledgerwood, who began the match with the captain’s arm-band, was happy with his side’s efforts and wasn’t surprised to see the level of fight on display.
“It’s good to have a more competitive match during preseason,” said Lethbridge-born Ledgerwood. “I don’t think anybody’s going to read into it too much. You could tell guys were hungry to win. To get a clean sheet at the end of the day, I think, is big. It shows the work that we’ve been doing in the preseason.
“You can tell guys are getting tired after 50, 60 minutes. And that’s when late tackles come in, missed passes, people aren’t tracking their runners.”
Paulus proud of young talent
And while Paulus was disappointed with his club’s start to the match, he was delighted at his squad’s reaction to falling behind.
“I thought we were terrible to start off,” admitted Paulus. “You know, just panicking, our shape was not right. But, 15 minutes in, you saw that our defending started to pick up a little bit. We started to press higher. The press was very good.
And FC Edmonton’s coach was particularly pleased to bleed some young talent later in the game.
“15-year-olds, a couple 16-year-olds and a whack of 17-year-olds,” said Paulus. “To see the energy they brought. To see they’ve created a chance. So we’re happy with it. This league’s about giving young players a chance. So, to see our young academy kids give us a bit of a lift, I thought, was brilliant.”
Wheeldon has bragging rights, for now
But it’s Tommy Wheeldon Jr. who left the field with Alberta’s soccer bragging rights, such as they are at this point in the preseason.
And Cavalry FC’s manager shared the praise among his roster.
“I thought our centre backs were tight,” said Wheeldon. “I thought Dean Northover and Nico (Pasquotti,) on the right hand side were very good. Jordan Brown and Sergio (Camargo) showed flashes especially in the first half.
“And second half going in, it’s nice to see (Dominique) Malonga get some minutes. We were only going to give him half an hour, but he looked like he wanted more. It’s always nice to score some goals. Nice to get Julian Büscher on the team. They’ve all taken a step forward.”
Both clubs will now prepare to travel to Dominican Republic for warm weather training with the other Canadian Premier League teams. The Canadian Premier League kicks off April 27.
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. Tickets are available for purchase.