Cavalry FC kicks off its Canadian Premier League Island Games second round against Pacific FC Wednesday, before matches against HFX Wanderers and Forge FC over the following week.
And Cavs head coach and general manager Tommy Wheeldon Jr. has been sizing up the competition and believes all are worthy of their second round spots.
“I think they’re all very well coached,” said Wheeldon Jr. from his hotel room in P.E.I. via FaceTime Monday. “I always say it. The league table never lies. That’s why they’re here.”
While Wheeldon Jr. feels his club matches up well against the three other second round clubs, he recognizes the quality he’ll be facing over the next week.
“Generally, they all play in a four-three-three system,” said Wheeldon Jr. “They’ve all got wingers that can hurt you. Both Halifax and Pacific often play with inverted wingers. And so do Forge, because they have Nanco cutting in from the left.
“They’ve all got good footballing midfields. And they’ve all got players that can hurt you if you give them errors or give them space, as we found out against Pacific. They’ve got some good weapons.”
Cavalry FC facing quality managers
Cavalry first face Pacific FC Wednesday evening. The Vancouver Island club beat the Cavs 2-1 in the first round and Wheeldon Jr. had praise for Pacific FC coach Pa-Modou Kah.
“Pa-Modou Kah has been a breath of fresh air for Pacific and has added an intensity that maybe they didn’t quite have (last season).”
Wheeldon Jr’s squad next face HFX Wanderers Saturday, who they beat 2-1 in first round. But he believes Wanderers head coach Stephen Hart’s specific experience make the Halifax club particularly tricky in this compact and isolated tournament.
“This is where Harty lives because he’s the dangerous one here,” he said. “He’s a national team coach by trade. Now he’s in a national camp setting where it’s about being in a camp format.”
Finally, Cavalry FC face Forge FC in its final second round match game Tuesday, Sept. 15. Forge beat Cavalry FC over the two-legged 2019 CPL Finals to claim the inaugural championship last season. And the two clubs drew 2-2 in the Island Games opener Aug. 13.
There shouldn’t be too many surprises when the two face each other again.
“Bobby (Smyrniotis) is a very good coach with what he’s done with Forge and his record shows it,” said Wheeldon Jr. “You always know Forge is going to be strong because they have group of winners.”
Cavalry FC still the team to beat
While Cavalry FC and Forge FC were both expected to qualify for the second round, HFX and Pacific have grabbed many of the headlines with their success, which surprised some pundits and fans.
But Cavalry’s coach feels the narrative presented by some media might be deceptive, given Cavalry FC topped the first round table.
“I’ve enjoyed watching some of the Halifax team and some of Pacific,” said Wheeldon Jr. “But everyone seems to have short term memories. Because Halifax and Pacific have a couple of good games, they’re the ones everyone wants to talk about. But we won the most games. And we’re finding different ways to do it.”
The top two clubs from the second round will contest the single-game final Saturday, Sept. 19.
Cavalry FC begins the Island Games second round against Pacific FC Wednesday, Sept. 9. The match will be broadcast at onesoccer.ca.