Patient Cavalry not concerned after another draw in CPL play

Calgary’s pro footie club can’t find momentum from game to game, tying Sunday with visiting — and lightweight — Valour FC

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Momentum was supposed to kick in by now.

Sure … early patience turned out to be a virtue in winning the Canadian Premier League regular-season crown last year.

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But that’s a thin line to stride — again — for Cavalry FC seven games into the 2024 CPL campaign, which has just one victory to show in what’s been another trying start for Calgary’s professional footie club …

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At least in the standings.

“I believe the tide will turn,” said ever-optimistic gaffer Tommy Wheeldon Jr. after Sunday’s frustrating 1-1 draw with visiting Valour FC at ATCO Field. “But the other thing I have with comfort is we’ve been here before. I’m not frustrated by the performance — moreso the outcomes. And I think the outcomes will start coming our way.”

They’d better, because a repeat of last year is a tough ask, even after Wheeldon’s charges showed dominance in shrugging off what was a five-draw opening to 2023 to — eventually — celebrate the title.

Not even Tuesday’s topple of Major League Soccer’s Vancouver Whitecaps FC in Canadian Championship play booted the Cavs into winning form come Sunday’s return to league action.

That should’ve given them a lift, even though the 1-0 result eliminated them — because of a 2-1 aggregate loss — from the domestic cup tournament.

But they were sloppy from the opening whistle in their league return and had to rally back to get the tie against one of the league’s lesser lights.

It didn’t look good on Cavalry or its record, which is now a rough 1W-5D-1L a quarter of the way through what has no doubt been a busy start to the campaign.

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“If we’d have started the game the way we played the second half, it’s a different result,” Wheeldon said. “I think we were still hung over from the Whitecaps win.”

“I think it’s always difficult playing three games in seven days,” agreed Fraser Aird, Cavalry’s goal-scorer Sunday. “But no excuses. We had a good result on Tuesday away at the Whitecaps. We showed the potential that we do have in this squad to go there and get a result.

“I thought we were a little bit flat at times (Sunday), but I still think us being in second or third gear, we created enough chances to go and win that game.”

But they didn’t.

Indeed, Valour enjoyed early pressure, jumping on the listless Cavs.

And eventually that led a long-range goal — another worldie, really — from Juan Pablo Sánchez, as he took advantage of a soft spot just inside Cavalry’s half by driving upfield and pasting a ball from 25 yards out to the far-side top corner beyond Cavs goaltender Marco Carducci.

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A banger, for sure.

“It took a hell of an effort to beat Marco, and I feel like that’s the way our season’s been going,” Aird said. “We either give up a goal on a mistake or someone comes along and scores on a banger.”

“The goals that are going in against us we’re seeing on the highlight reels all the time,” agreed Wheeldon. “And I’m tired of seeing that for the boys, because we are a believer in data performance.

“The (expected goals metric) on those goals are just ridiculous.”

On the positive side, Sanchez’s terrific shot for his first pro goal in the 31st minute did seem to jump-start sleepy Cavalry, as the home side turned it on for the remainder of the first half and answered back on Aird’s blast that glanced off defender Charalampos Chanzopoulos and out of the reach of Valour goalie Jonathan Viscosi.

The marker came off a long Bradley Kamdem Fewo throw-in that created havoc and a loose ball that dropped for Malcolm Shaw to place into space for the hard-charging Aird to strike just inside the box and find its way into the net in the 39th minute.

But from there, it was all about missed opportunities and tough luck for the home side.

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Plenty of it.

“We can look at the data, which we do, but goals win games,” Wheeldon said. “It’s not that we’re not creating the chances. If we weren’t creating the chances, I’d be a lot more frustrated. We are, so now the accountability has to be on the players to (score on) them.

“Credit the lads for getting back into game,” continued Wheeldon. “But we had enough chances to win three football matches, in reality. We’ve got to start putting the ball into the back of the net.

“The luck will change. We’re hitting the inside of the post — Daan Klomp hit the post last Saturday at 2-2 (with visiting York United FC), and we’ve hit the inside of the post (Sunday) again. We’ve had a header just go over the crossbar multiple times.”

Those many misses are only frustrating the fanbase, which let the Cavs hear about it at game’s end with boos and untoward remarks Sunday at ATCO.

“They have a right to do so — they pay to watch a performance,” Wheeldon said. “They’ve been spoiled over the years with a lot of victories on these grounds.

“But one thing I will tell them is we’ve been here before, and we’ve won the league by 13 points with the same point difference (as today).

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“We’ll be OK.”

For Valour, the tie is OK — essentially a victory — as one of the league’s annual losers raises its 2024 profile to just 1-1-5.

“The standards that we’ve set here with this football club, we should be winning games at home,” added Aird. “We’re just as frustrated as the fans. We’re all frustrated. But at the end of the day, we’ve got to stick together.

“It’s good that we’re still undefeated after our first-game loss to Forge — and obviously, we’re undefeated at home. But I feel that with the character we have in our change room, we still have another gear to show. And it’s coming … and the goals will come.”

Next up for Cavalry is a trip to Vancouver Island to face Pacific FC on Saturday in Langford, B.C. (5 p.m., OneSoccer, OneSoccer.ca).

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Cavalry signed ’keeper Joseph Holliday to a short-term replacement contract. The inking comes with goalie Jack Barrett sidelined by a minor injury. Holliday currently plays for Cavalry FC’s U21 side in League1 Alberta and was signed to the club in 2023 on a development contract … The Cavalry’s Starting XI for Sunday’s game was: goalie Carducci; defenders Aird, Klomp, Kamdem Fewo and Callum Montgomery; midfielders Jesse Daley, Charlie Trafford and Sergio Camargo; and forwards Shaw, Lleyton Brooks and Toby Warschewski … The club’s subs were: goalie Holliday; defenders Tom Field and Eryk Kobza; and midfielders Shamit Shome, Lucas Dias, Diego Gutiérrez and Niko Myroniuk … The Cavs scratches were: goalie Barrett (groin) and Mitchell Barrett (thumb); defenders Michael Harms and Caden Rogozinski; midfielders Maël Henry (hamstring) and Max Piepgrass; and forwards Ali Musse (ankle) and Willy Akio (hamstring).

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