Cavalry FC kicks off the Canadian Premier League (CPL) fall season away to Vancouver Island club Pacific FC Saturday. The Calgary club already has a confirmed berth in the CPL Championship, to be played late October/early November, thanks to winning the CPL spring season.
The Cavs find themselves in a strange situation – qualified for the championship series with nearly two-thirds of the full 2019 season left to play.
So, what does Cavalry FC have to play for in the Canadian Premier League fall season?
Answer: not much.
Thanks to the lopsided format of this inaugural CPL season, Cavalry FC have little tangible to fight for in the 18-match fall season that runs from July to October.
Sure, the winner of the CPL’s fall season gets to pick the order of the CPL Championship’s two legs. And Cavalry FC’s head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. has said he would prefer to play the second leg at home. Wheeldon Jr., who’s big on club culture, will also want his squad to maintain the spring season’s positive mojo that saw the club win eight out of 10 matches.
But is all this enough motivation for the four-month long fall season?
Publicly Wheeldon Jr. will say it is and that his club will play every game to win. And the professionals under his command will say the same. Goal scorers will want to keep scoring, defenders and goalkeepers will want to keep clean sheets, and Wheeldon Jr. will want to nurture the culture of success.
Cavalry FC will need to find a balance
But if the ultimate aim is to be crowned CPL champions come November, there’ll be a point when Cavalry FC would be irresponsible competing at 100 per cent when it’s not required, risking injuries to important players and tiring others.
Yes, momentum is important. And Cavalry FC will want to have a full head of steam going into the CPL final at the end of October. But the priority could be keeping your squad at maximum strength before then. It’ll be interesting to see how Cavalry FC finds a balance.
The CPL’s 10-match spring season certainly made for some exciting games and intriguing storylines. That was, in part, the intent. The uneven split was initially implemented with the aim of determining the league’s Concacaf League representative before Canada Soccer decided only FC Edmonton, Forge FC and Valour FC would be eligible for the continental competition. But as a result, the spring season winner literally has less to play for in the longer fall season.
A Frankenstein’s monster of a season
This inaugural CPL season feels pieced together with parts that don’t quite seem to fit yet – think Frankenstein’s monster. Sure, it kind of walks and kind of talks, and many of us already have a soft spot for it in our hearts. But something just isn’t right.
The format, and other such issues, will likely be adjusted and improved for upcoming seasons. An evenly split season would go some ways to improving the format.
But in the meantime, Tommy Wheeldon Jr. and Cavalry FC may be required to put on brave faces and declare every point worth playing for, even in matches that seem only slightly more meaningful than warm-up friendlies.
That all said, this situation could free Wheeldon Jr. and Co. up to go all out in their upcoming Canadian Championship series against the Vancouver Whitecaps. Cavalry FC host the Major League Soccer side at Spruce Meadows July 10 in the first leg.
Cavalry FC face Pacific FC in the CPL Saturday, but we may get a window into Wheeldon Jr.’s line of thinking when the starting 11 is announced for the Canadian Championship bout Wednesday.