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3 talking points ahead of Cavalry FC’s Al Classico match against FC Edmonton

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Cavalry FC earned its fourth straight victory of the season with a 2-0 away win over Pacific FC in the first leg of their Canadian Championship first round tie Wednesday night.

The Calgary club will have quickly refocused its sights on the Canadian Premier League for this Saturday’s match against provincial rivals FC Edmonton at Spruce Meadows in the first competitive Al Classico.

Here are three talking points going into Saturday’s match:

1. Tommy Wheeldon Jr. currently has the golden touch

After the final whistle of Wednesday’s win over Pacific FC, Onesoccer’s broadcast cameras eventually found Cavalry FC’s triumphant head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. walking across the rain-soaked turf at Westhills stadium congratulating his players on the evening’s success, shaking hands and patting backs.

Wheeldon Jr. had the glide and posture of a man who’s seen every decision he’s made work out as planned. He’s the man with the Midas touch at the moment. And who’d begrudge him the confidence that accompanies such success?

These first four matches have gone as well as he could have hoped. Wheeldon Jr. couldn’t have asked for a better start to this season.

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A home-opener victory against York9 FC – perfect. A second victory over Valour FC – great. An away win over Forge FC after some in-game tactical tinkering – that works. And Wednesday’s two-goal away victory over Pacific FC with a squad some initially considered, perhaps incorrectly, a B-team – thank you very much.

The season is still young. And bad results will happen – FC Edmonton will hope sooner rather than later. There’s too much parity in the Canadian Premier League for there not to be hiccups along the way. It’s easy to imagine any CPL club going through a rough patch. Cavalry FC won’t be immune.

And yes, this Canadian Championship tie against Pacific FC isn’t over yet. Two-legged affairs are never settled in the first leg – look to both this season’s UEFA Champions League semifinals for proof.

But, Cavalry FC and its manager have made all the right moves so far.

2. Cavalry FC’s roster full of potential starters

Cavalry FC rotated some of its key players against Pacific FC Wednesday night. Regular starters such as Nik Ledgerwood, Elijah Adekugbe, Jay Wheeldon and Marco Carducci were given a rest. But calling the line-up that beat Pacific FC Wednesday second-string or a B-team would be failing to recognize the quality head coach Wheeldon Jr. has gathered for the inaugural CPL season.

Wheeldon Jr. sees his squad as the whole and not divided into a first and second team – most managers at this level would hope for such luxury.

Cavalry FC, Canadian Premier League, York9 FC

Cavalry FC’s Joel Waterman celebrates against York9 FC at ATCO Field May 4. Photo: ©Stuart Gradon/Total Soccer Project

Jordan Brown, Nathan Mavila, Julian Büscher, Joel Waterman, and goal-scorer Dominick Zator started Wednesday night, and have all started for Cavalry FC previously.

And Oliver Minatel, Nico Pasquotti, Carlos Patino, Niko Giantsoplous and Mauro Eustáquio are all capable of stepping in and starting as they did Wednesday night. Cavalry FC’s two-goal away victory is testament to that. The only player from Wednesday’s starting line-up who might be called second-level is Malyk Hamilton, but that’s due to the 19-year-old’s age and relative lack of experience. And it must be said, he fit in rather well.

Right winger Nico Pasquotti is a tormentor of left backs. He attacks. And attacks. And then attacks some more. He scored the PDL championship winning goal for Wheeldon Jr. at Foothills FC last season. His late winner against Forge FC last weekend was as composed a finish as has been seen anywhere else in the young CPL season. Much has been made about his throw-ins. Sure, they’re eye-catching and easy fodder to discuss. But the Lethbridge winger is so much more than his this. And he’s finally getting noticed beyond Alberta’s borders. It’s good to see.

What Pasquotti does on the right wing, Carlos Patino does on the left. Speedy and skilled. And he’s just as capable of providing excellent service into the box for his fellow forwards to attack.

Oliver Minatel, unfortunately for Cavalry FC, went off early with an injury. However, the experienced attacking Brazilian will make plenty of starts this season if, and when, fit again. His diving headed goal against Pacific FC was an example of what the 26-year-old is capable of.

The likes of Ledgerwood, Adekugbe, Wheeldon and Carducci are likely to return against FC Edmonton Saturday. But Wednesday night proved Cavalry FC has a very deep bench to call on – one to envy.

3. FC Edmonton will be looking to play spoilers

This Saturday’s match between Cavalry FC and FC Edmonton marks the first competitive Al Classico. Some regard it as the CPL’s first true rivalry – not superficially manufactured but born of the two cities’ existing relationship.

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There have been footy meetings between these clubs in the past – friendlies and preseason matches. But Saturday’s match will be the first competitive meeting between the Alberta rivals. (For those not familiar with Al Classico or who turn their noses up at the term itself, here’s some suggested reading – The story of Al Classico: The Canadian Premier League’s original rivalry created by fans)

FC Edmonton’s affable manager Jeff Paulus would love to be the first to inflict injury on Wheeldon Jr. and Co. when he and his side visit Spruce Meadows, with its freshly roofed grandstand, this weekend. And how pleased would the traveling Edmonton fans who make their way down the QE2 be if the Eddies were the first to hobble the Cavs.

Cavalry FC, FC Edmonton, Calgary, Canadian Premier LEague

Cavalry FC (red) and FC Edmonton (white) play a pre-season match in Calgary March 30. Photo: ©Stuart Gradon/Total Soccer Project

FC Edmonton started the season well, with a 2-1 victory over Forge FC May 4. The Eddies were forced to be happy with a point against Pacific FC in their next match, after playing over an hour with only ten men following an early red card for Philippe Lincourt-Joseph.

But FC Edmonton will be looking for more on Saturday, hoping to rein in league leaders Cavalry FC. The rest of the league might look favourably on an FC Edmonton win also.


About Author

Photographer and Writer | Stuart Gradon is soccer journalist and web communications professional. He covers Cavalry FC of the Canadian Premier League and Canada's national teams. He has also worked on assignment at FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015 and FIFA World Cup South Africa 2010.

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