Cavalry FC continue the Canadian Premier League Island Games against Al Classico rivals FC Edmonton Thursday. Cavalry FC drew Forge FC 2-2 and beat Valour FC 2-0 in the its first two matches, while FC Edmonton lost 2-0 in its opening match against Forge FC.
Here are four talking points ahead of Cavalry FC’s match against FC Edmonton
1. Cavalry FC wing-backs Mavila and Farsi excelling
There were some doubts to how Cavalry FC would cope at the Island Games without left winger Jose Escalante, who was unable to join the squad due to COVD-19 protocols. But it looks like Cavs coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. has found the solution, for the time being at least.
Nathan Mavila and Mohamed Farsi have both been used as wing-backs and pushed forward on the left during the first two matches, respectively. And both have found success.
Mavila faced Forge FC in the opener and enjoyed the freedom to get forward thanks to the three central defenders deployed on the Cavs back-line. He even had enough confidence to convert the late equalizing penalty that earned the club a point.
Mohamed Farsi replaced the Englishman three days later and put in a man-of-the-match performance against Valour FC. Again, Farsi benefited from the three defenders at the back.
He supplied an accurate cross for Marcus Haber’s opening goal after some excellent work on the left. And he was involved in Cavalry FC’s second, skillfully gaining the ground down the wing that eventually led to the awarding of the penalty Sergio Camargo scored.
“He’s comfortable in possession,” said Wheeldon Jr., of 20-year-old Farsi. “He’s comfortable defending a on v one. He wants to bring the ball out. And the way we’re playing in this tournament, we’ve altered slightly, to get him in higher areas.”
Wheeldon Jr. will be looking forward to these two continuing to run opposing right-sided midfielders and defenders ragged.
2. Marcus Haber opens his Cavalry FC account
In a tournament like Island Games a club’s success is often determined by how quickly its strikers can get to grips with the competition and start producing. And Cavs fans will have been pleased to see 31-year-old forward Marcus Haber tally his first goal of the competition against Valour FC Sunday.
Haber, who signed from Pacific FC in the off-season, has a history of running hot and cold – some might say it’s more like warm and frozen. But snatching his first goal in his first start at the Island games will have done his confidence the world of good.
“We saw that he couldn’t catch a rhythm at Pacific, and I think he had a niggling back injury,” Wheeldon Jr. said of Haber Sunday. “I think he’s hungry. It wasn’t the first season he would’ve liked.”
And that his first goal was a trade-marked header will probably make it taste even sweeter. The tall strong Canadian international was brought in for just such moments. And he’ll have been pleased to show his in-the-box qualities so early.
“We brought him in, we know exactly what he could bring and he’s delivered upon that,” said Wheeldon Jr.
3. Cavalry FC will be looking for a string of clean sheets
Cavalry FC match against Valour FC was the club’s, and the league’s, first clean sheet of the Island Games – Forge FC recorded their first a few hours later.
While there’s no shame conceding twice to 2019 CPL champions Forge FC in the first match, Cavalry FC goalkeeper Marco Carducci and his defense will be targeting a few more clean sheets before the seven-game Island Games first round is done.
While much was made of their offensive capabilities last season, much of Cavalry FC’s success stemmed from a defensive core boasting some of the best defenders in the league. The likes of Mason Trafford, Jay Wheeldon, Dominic Zator and Joel Waterman, who departed for Montreal Impact in the off-season, earned 12 clean sheets in 28 regular season CPL matches last year, conceding only 19 goals in 28 regular season matches – a league best.
The clean sheet against Valour FC was the first of the 2020. But Wheeldon Jr. will demand it’s not the last.
4. FC Edmonton look good despite opening game loss
FC Edmonton lost their opening game to Forge FC 2-0 Sunday. But the result was somewhat harsh on the team that already looks improved from last season. Cavalry FC should be wary of their neighbours to the north.
“It was just an unlucky break for us,” said Paulus after Sunday’s match. “Looking back, it was a wonder-goal and a bit of fortune to beat us there today. We can live with it.”
For long stretches against Hamilton’s club Sunday, the Eddies looked the better team and could have found themselves ahead had luck been on their side – they hit the woodwork twice against Forge.
Paulus and Co. will be planning for similar opportunities against their provincial rivals Thursday and will expect better results.
Cavalry FC vs FC Edmonton can be seen on OneSoccer.ca Thursday at 6 p.m. MT.