Chances go begging as Cavalry falls to Orlando City in home leg of Concacaf Champions Cup debut

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The debut didn’t go as planned.

Cavalry FC couldn’t find its game in its kickoff to the 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup.

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Despite coming out strong early and showing potential in the second half, it was dangerous Orlando City SC giving Calgary’s Canadian Premier League club all it could handle game-long in the opening leg of first-round action late Wednesday in Langford, B.C.

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It ended 3-0 for Major League Soccer’s side from Florida.

“We had chances — we couldn’t finish on them,” Cavalry midfielder Shamit Shome told Concacaf post-game. “They had chances — they capitalized.

“And that was the difference.”

American attacker Duncan McGuire scored first and Uruguayan midfielder Facundo Torres then tallied twice, while goalkeeper Pedro Gallese put up a clean sheet for Orlando City in the take-down of host Cavalry at Starlight Stadium on Vancouver Island.

“I don’t think it was a 3-nil game,” said Cavalry GM/head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. “I think between both (goal) boxes, we matched up with them very very well. I think they probably defended better in theirs, and they finished better in ours.”

Did they ever.

In the 21st minute, McGuire deftly redirected a perfect pass into the box off a rush that beat Cavalry goalkeeper Marco Carducci cleanly.

In the 38th minute, Facundo got his first of two, taking advantage of flat-footed defence by Cavalry and charging into the box before striking a ball to the short side past Carducci.

Even though it was a goal the goalie would like to have back, the conversion proved why Facundo struck a team-high 14 goals for Orlando City in 2023.

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And then in the 75th minute, Facundo used his head to score in tight to cap off another beautiful charge upfield by the visitors.

Concacaf Champions Cup
Orlando City’s Ivan Angulo, back right, passes the ball while Cavalry FC’s Charlie Trafford, back left, and Shamit Shome defend during their Concacaf Champions Cup match at Starlight Stadium in Langford, B.C., on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024. Photo by DARRYL DYCK /THE CANADIAN PRESS

“When you’ve got players like Facundo Torres and McGuire, it makes it a lot different,” Wheeldon said. “I think they earn a vast amount more (in salary) than our whole salary cap put together. But that’s football.”

Columbian midfielder Iván Angulo was a beast down the left side for Orlando City.

“Angulo’s a terrific player and very pacey — he causes trouble,” Wheeldon said. “For the most part, I thought we weathered their storm quite well. It’s just when they had their chance, they took it.

“And that’s the difference in our qualities.”

A goal early might have spelled a different story.

In particular, Ali Musse worked his way into the area and could have went down on an aggressive attempt to stop him with the ball to earn a penalty kick, but he didn’t.

In the second half, Eryk Kobza had a golden opportunity to knock home a header on a sweet ball in from Fraser Aird, but the sophomore defender directed the chance over the Orlando net.

“At halftime, I asked the boys what they were waiting for,” Wheeldon said. “I said, ‘This is it — it’s right in front of you.’ 

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“I just wanted to see that (front-foot) identity that we’re known for. And I thought in the second half, we did. I mean … they caught us in transition (for their goal) and hit the bar on another chance. But aside from that, we had the better moments.”

Just not the goals they needed, putting them in a very deep hole for the second leg of this series.

Concacaf Champions Cup
Cavalry FC’s Eryk Kobza, left, and Orlando City’s Ivan Angulo vie for the ball during their Concacaf Champions Cup match at Starlight Stadium in Langford, B.C., on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024. Photo by DARRYL DYCK /THE CANADIAN PRESS

To move on to the second round of the 27-team continental competition, the Cavs need to win by a whopping four goals next week in Florida in the rematch.

“I think we’ve just got to keep playing our game,” Shome told Concacaf post-game. “So we come out on the front foot next game and try to get a couple of goals and see what happens. But there’s space to play for us, there’s chances for us to score … we’ve just got to execute.”

Game 2 of this series goes Tuesday at Orlando’s Inter&Co Stadium (4 p.m. MT, OneSoccer,

“We haven’t had nearly enough games to prepare for this, but I was excited with what I saw,” added Wheeldon. “But no excuses. We’re here to get experience in the Concacaf Champions Cup. We’ve waited five years to get into this competition.”

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Shome thanked fans who made the trek from Calgary to Vancouver Island post-game. “It means a lot. It’s not easy to come all the way to Victoria to watch us play, but it felt like home for us. So thanks to the fans for coming out. Credit to them for coming out.” … Cavalry’s Starting XI was: goalie Carducci; defenders Kobza, Daan Klomp and Callum Montgomery; midfielders Shome, Charlie Trafford, Jesse Daley and Sergio Camargo; and forwards Willy Akio, Ali Musse and Tobias Warschewski … The club’s subs were: goalie Jack Barrett; defenders Bradley Kamdem Fewo, Tom Field and Michael Harms; midfielders Mael Henry, Fraser Aird, Lucas Dias and Diego Gutiérrez; and forwards Myer Bevan, and Lleyton Brooks.

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