Cavalry FC will look to extend their three-game winning streak against Canadian Premier League expansion club Atlético Ottawa at the Island Games Thursday.
Here are four talking points ahead of the match:
1. Jordan Brown improving on last season
For all his good work last season, English striker Jordan Brown only scored four league goals in 23 league appearances. This season, he’s notched three goals in only four matches so far – two against FC Edmonton and one against HFX Wanderers Sunday.
When Dominique Malonga left the club for Bulgaria in the off-season, there were questions if the Cavs could replace the goals the Frenchman took with him.
Peruvian Jair Cardova was brought in as a likely replacement. However, the Peruvian has been on the sidelines at the Island Games with an injury and is yet to make an appearance.
Canadian veteran striker Marcus Haber was announced late-on to bulk up the Cavs attack. But the veteran Canadian striker will not have been expected to score many goals at the Island Games – he isn’t a prolific striker.
And 17-year-old Aribim Pepple is likely seen as one for the future.
In the end, much of the goalscoring load has been placed on Jordan Browns shoulders. And so far, he’s handling this expectation well. Like any young striker, Brown will be hoping to get more clinical with every new season.
And it looks like 2020 is going to be an improvement on 2019.
2. Rotating deep Cavalry FC squad great for a winning club culture
Tommy Wheeldon Jr. continued the policy of rotating his squad against HFX Wanderers Sunday. And it speaks well of his club’s depth that they again earned all three points.
Such depth is a luxury not many CPL clubs have – Cavalry FC’s squad is probably the deepest overall. But it’s a credit to Wheeldon Jr. and his staff for compiling the riches they have to play with.
And while squad rotation is key to keeping players fresh and healthy in a tournament like the Island Games, it doesn’t end there. Wheeldon Jr.’s use of rotation will also benefit the club culture he’s always so keen to build and maintain.
The Cavs have used the vast majority of their squad so far at the Island Games. And every player who has appeared for the Cavs has a hand in the three wins and a draw earned – each can feel they have contributed to the club’s likely advancement to the second round.
This includes back up goalkeeper Niko Giantsopolous who earned his first start against Wanderers Sunday. Wheeldon Jr. could have kept regular starter Marco Carducci between the posts, not wanting to disrupt any rhythm.
But Giantsopolous, who made some key saves Sunday, now has three points in his pocket. For a personality like Giantopolous, this will mean something. And the resulting positivity he’ll bring back to the hotel meals or team training will only bolster Wheeldon Jr.’s club culture.
3. Cavalry FC and Forge FC top again
Last season Cavalry FC and Forge FC were the two best teams in the CPL by quite a large margin. Such was their dominance, with more than a month remaining in the regular season there was little doubt the 2019 Canadian Premier League Final was going to be contested by the teams from Calgary and Hamilton.
In 2020, the two clubs again find themselves topping the Island Games first round table – Cavalry FC on 10 points and Forge FC on eight.
And while they both deserve their positions, appearances can be deceiving. The other CPL clubs have improved and have, at times, pushed each of last years finalists further and longer than last season.
There have been moments at this tournament when the Cavs and Forge have each found themselves late on in matches not quite certain how things would finish.
Cavalry FC and Forge FC are certainly still the cream of the CPL crop. But the other squads are rising.
4. Atlético Ottawa’s Francisco Acuña already delivering
Atlético Ottawa pinned many of their offensive hopes on Francisco Acuña when they signed him before 2020 season. The 32-year-old Mexican veteran who has spent many years in Mexico’s top division Liga MX was probably their biggest signing before their inaugural season. And he looks to be delivering already.
Acuńa put in a man-of-the-match performance on his debut against York9 FC. Not only did he provide an assist for a goal but he was a constant threat giving York’s defenders and midfielders a torrid time.
He showed even more of what he’s capable with two well taken goals against FC Edmonton Sunday.
Acuña is threatening to become one of the biggest stars of the Island Games. And he’ll be looking forward to testing himself against arguably the best defence in the league Thursday against the Cavs.