Cavalry FC and Montreal Impact face each other in the second-leg of their two-game Canadian Championship semifinal series at Spruce Meadows Wednesday. The Impact, of Major League Soccer, won the first-leg 2-1 in Montreal last week. The winner of the series is determined by aggregate score over the two matches.
Cavalry FC will advance to the final if it wins Wednesday night’s match 1-0 or by two goals. A 2-1 Cavalry FC victory (3-3 on aggregate) will send the match to penalty kicks. Any other result will send the Impact through to the final to face either Toronto FC or Ottawa Fury.
Here are four talking points ahead of Cavalry FC’s Canadian Championship match against Montreal Impact:
1. Injuries somewhat forcing Cavalry FC’s formation
Some fans and pundits questioned Wheeldon Jr.’s decision to deploy a 3-4-3 formation in last week’s 2-1 loss to the Impact – suggesting he should have been more cautious by using something closer to a 4-4-2 or 4-5-1.
However, it may have been more a matter of calculated risk influenced by necessity rather than outright error in judgement that determined Wheeldon Jr.’s tactics last Wednesday.
Cavalry FC currently has an issue at right-back. As in, they don’t have any fit natural right-backs.
23-year-old Chris Serban went down in April with a season-ending knee injury. And in July, 27-year-old Dean Northover was ruled out for the rest of the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
So, it turns out that 3-4-3 is one of the few formations left for Wheeldon Jr. that enables him to use all his players in natural positions. His formation selection was perhaps an attempt to keep his players in familiar territory. To be fair, it’s worked for him in the past and will again.
But it will be interesting to see if he sticks with this deployment, hoping his boys perform better than a week ago. He does need to score, and may need multiple goals depending on how the evening plays out. And 3-4-3 is attack-minded.
Or will Wheeldon Jr. try to jam a roundish peg into a square hole?
Central defender Dominick Zator could move to the far right side of defence if needed. Right-wingers Nico Pasquotti and teenager Malyk Hamilton could also be asked to perform unorthodox right wing-back duties.
2. Impact and Piatti best opposition Cavalry FC has faced yet
There’s no doubt the Impact is the best club Cavalry FC has faced in its young life.
There were times in the first-leg when the Cavs looked genuinely overwhelmed by the MLS club. The Impact pressed their visitors everywhere at every opportunity – using Cavalry FC’s own tactics against them.
Montreal eventually ran out deserved winners on the night, which shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise given the club can boast having a few millionaires in its ranks, including Saphir Taïder, Maximiliano Urruti and double-goalscorer Ignacio Piatti.
Argentine striker Piatti took advantage of Cavalry FC’s nervousness twice last week and could have, and maybe should have, claimed a third goal. He’s a classy finisher and the Cavs defence will need to be at their best Wednesday to deny him any further tallies should he be selected again.
(Note: Since this story was published Montreal Impact have announced Piatti will not be available for Wednesday’s match due to a recent injury.)
3. Malonga likely to play up front for Cavalry FC
Dominque Malonga will be hoping to feature heavily in Wednesday’s second-leg, especially as it looked as though fellow forward Jordan Brown may have picked up a knock against HFX Wanderers in Canadian Premier League action Saturday.
French-born Congolese striker Malonga came on as a substitute in Montreal last week and had an immediate effect. It was his movement and fine cross to Sergio Camargo that led to Cavalry FC’s away goal, which may yet prove crucial.
30-year-old Malonga, who has 6 goals in all competitions this season, is a forward in the mould of French former striker Thierry Henry. He likes to score his goals with touch of flair. His efforts don’t always pay off, but he’s full of self-belief and is confident in his skills. He also has a vast wealth of experience having played in numerous leagues across Europe, including Italy’s Serie A.
It’s for matches like this that Wheeldon Jr. signed the Frenchman. The Cavs manager will be hoping Malonga’s experience and guile can help tip the result in his club’s favour.
4. ATCO Field unlike any venue visited by Montreal Impact this season
ATCO Field is quickly gaining a reputation as a difficult venue to visit. Cavalry FC has only lost once in nine competitive matches at its home so far this season.
The venue at Spruce Meadows is smaller than the stadiums the Impact regularly visits. Its capacity is somewhere close to 6,000 while most MLS stadiums are around 20,000. But what ATCO Field loses in size it makes up for in atmosphere and intimacy – especially for marquee matches such as a semifinal in the Canadian Championship.
While the south end supporters group section, which includes the Foot Soldier Supporter Group, will take on the majority of the responsibility of driving the atmosphere, the fans in the 4,000-seat grandstand will be quick to join in, as they did when the Whitecaps visited in the Voyageurs Cup quarter finals.
And the players will love it.
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“It’s massive,” said Cavalry FC defender Mason Trafford of the in-stadium support following the club’s draw with Vancouver Whitecaps in July. “It just gives you such a lift and it’s such a point of pride for us as players to see how it’s grown in such a short period of time.”
Yes, some visiting teams and their staff have suggested the playing surface at Spruce Meadows isn’t quite up to professional standard yet.
But allowances can probably be made in the club’s inaugural season. And there’s no question the pitch contributes to making Cavalry FC’s home a difficult venue to visit.
And it sounds as though it may be the first-ever sellout for Cavalry FC.