Cavalry FC hosts resurgent York9 FC in a Canadian Premier League (CPL) match at Spruce Meadows Sunday afternoon. Here are four talking points ahead of this weekend’s game:
1. York9 FC on the rise
York9 FC’s stock is rising of late. Jim Brennan’s side, who finished second from bottom in the CPL’s spring season, has stepped up to be one the early challengers for the second 2019 CPL Championship berth that goes to the fall season winners. The first berth was been claimed by spring season winners Cavalry FC at the end of June.
Forge FC is still the bookmakers’ favourite to join the Cavs in the CPL’s climax at the end of October, but York9 FC is making case for itself with an excellent run of form.
York9 FC has won four of its last five CPL matches and has only lost once in all competitions since mid-June. The Ontario club also earned a commendable 2-2 draw against Major League Soccer’s Montreal Impact in the Canadian Championship last week – a game York9 FC could have, and maybe should have, won.
The York Region club is coming off a mid-week victory over Pacific FC which featured Manny Aparicio’s goal-of-the-season contender.
Cavalry FC and York9 FC have faced each other twice already this season, with the Calgary club winning both times. But Brennan’s squad will be arriving at Spruce Meadows with confidence to spare.
2. Cavalry FC may have one eye on Whitecaps second leg
Cavalry FC could be forgiven if its attention isn’t 100 per cent honed-in on Sunday’s league tilt against York9 FC.
Yes, the club’s players and coaching staff will be trying to keep focused on Sunday’s match and will say all the right things in the build up to it.
But Wheeldon Jr. will feel, quite correctly, his squad has a genuine opportunity to advance to the Canadian Championship semifinals. And there might be a temptation, however slim, to adjust Sunday’s squad and tactics with an eye on Wednesday’s third round second leg in Vancouver.
A first leg 0-0 home draw against Major League Soccer’s Whitecaps means Cavalry FC will advance to the Canadian Championship semifinals with a second leg win or scored draw next week. That’s a terrific scenario for a start-up club like Cavalry FC.
As a result, we may see the likes of Oliver Minatel and Carlos Patino starting Sunday. Take nothing away from these players. They’ve already performed well filling in for perceived regular starters, while earning similar results – Minatel scored the winner against HFX Wanderers last weekend.
It’s also possible we’ll see one or two of the club’s young Canadians – Victor Loturi, Malyk Hamilton and Gabriel Bitar – make an appearance. Not only would this keep others fresh for next week, but it would help Cavalry FC move towards fulfilling the playing time each team is required to provide their Canadian U23 players – a rule mandated by the CPL.
That said, Cavalry FC is playing at home Sunday and Wheeldon Jr. will want to maintain Spruce Meadows’ fortress status. A home win will always be important to the Cavs coach.
3. Cavalry FC’s defence has regrouped
Cavalry FC’s defence seems to have recovered from a recent porous patch. The Calgary club hasn’t conceded a goal in its last two matches, after uncharacteristically conceding five times in the two previous outings. Prior to that short defensive hiccup the Calgary club conceded only six goals from 13 matches.
Marco Carducci has done well to earn the most clean sheets (6) in the CPL so far this season. But the hometown keeper will know much of the credit lies with the defensive core that plays in front of him.
Central defenders Jay Wheeldon, Dominick Zator, Mason Trafford and Joel Waterman have been strong and excellent for Cavalry FC this season.
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It’s now very apparent manager Tommy Wheeldon Jr. has built a squad that can be rotated without losing too much of its strength. This is no where more obvious than in his backline. Wheeldon Jr. feels comfortable starting any one of his four centre-backs whether as part of a back three or in the centre of a back four.
Not every CPL manager has this luxury.
4. Sunday’s crowd attendance won’t reach Whitecaps numbers
While the supporters section fans and those sitting in the grandstand end sections will do their brilliant best to provide the atmosphere Sunday, we shouldn’t expect the full stadium that watched Whitecaps last week, Cavalry FC’s last home match.
The Canadian Championship clash against the Whitecaps was a marquee match. The knockout tournament’s semifinal first leg was an easy sell.
But it looks like Cavalry FC may find it trickier convincing fans to pay its top prices – $89-$100 for midfield grandstand tickets – for run-of-the-mill mid-season league matches. At the time of publishing this story (Thursday), roughly half the grandstand’s 4,000 seats for Sunday’s match against York9FC remain available for purchase on Ticketmaster.
Cavalry FC’s higher-than-league-average ticket prices have been a point of discussion since they were announced last year. The higher end midfield grandstand seats cost twice as much as many of the other CPL clubs’ higher end tickets.
Yes, there are cheaper seats, but they’re often gathered up quickly, proving the demand and willingness to purchase is there, but for the right price. And the club does occasionally release limited tickets for special rates.
But if Cavalry FC eventually deems it necessary to reduce prices en masse, perhaps in an effort further build its fan base, we’ll likely have to wait until next season before we see any major changes. The club won’t want to alienate those who bought full prices early.