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Cavalry FC lose 3-0 to Orlando City in Concacaf Champions Cup first round first leg

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Cavalry FC lost the first leg of their 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup first round tie against Major League Soccer club Orlando City 3-0 on Vancouver Island Wednesday.

The result means Calgary’s club will find it very difficult to advance to the next round, needing to score at least three in the return leg next week in Florida.

But despite the loss, Cavs head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. saw positives in his club’s first sortie into continental competition.

“I don’t think it was a 3-0 game,” said Wheeldon Jr. after the game. “I think between both boxes we matched up with them very, very well. I think they probably defended better in theirs, and they finished better in ours, and that’s the difference.”

Orlando’s quality shines in first half

Cavalry FC began the match confidently, enjoying some possession in the early minutes. However, Orlando City, who finished second overall in the MLS standings in 2023 and went into Wednesday night as heavy favourites, began to show their quality, earning a few corners and half chances.

To their credit, the Cavs attempted to keep the Florida club honest, nearly carving out a couple half chances of their own on the break before the quarter hour mark.

But Orlando continued to control possession as the half progressed. The MLS side’s passing accuracy and ability to find space left the Cavs chasing shadows at times. And it was this crisp passing and positive movement that led to the game’s first goal in the 21st minute.

A delicious low cross from the left wing by Martín Ojeda was cleanly converted by Duncan McGuire as Cavs keeper Marco Carducci was left grasping at air.

Despite being somewhat out-matched, the Cavs continued playing a positive brand of football, with the pacey and clever Ali Musse again proving a familiar threat on the right wing.

But Orlando doubled their lead seven minutes before halftime when Facundo Torres broke in from the left wing and scored from just outside the box. Torres’ strike was decent, and there was a hint of a deflection off a Cavalry FC defender. But Cavs keeper Carducci will be disappointed in himself, having been beaten so easily at his near post. 

“We can’t make any new signings and bring in Usain Bolt to mark Angulo, but we can certainly work on ways in which to nullify the spaces he works in,” said Wheeldon Jr. “We’ve got to have the action before, and not the reaction to, because if we react to situations, they want that.”

Cavalry FC responds but Orlando too good

Cavalry FC developed a sense of urgency 15 minutes after the restart, producing a couple chances. Jesse Daley drew a comfortable save from Orlando keeper Pedro Gallese with a 62nd minute low drive after neatly worked throw in on the right. Two minutes later defender Eryk Kobz went close with Cavalry’s best chance of the night, just heading over the goal after meeting a well-delivered Fraser Aird free kick.

But Cavalry FC’s ascendency didn’t last long. Orlando came close in the 72nd minute, hitting Carducci’s cross, before Orlando’s Facundo Torres scored this second of the night three minutes later.

The Cavs tried to stay positive despite the three-goal deficit. Sergio Camargo worked some space, only to shoot directly at Gallese in the 78th minute. And Cavs winter signing Diego Gutiérrez saw a well-hit goal-bound volley ricochet off an Orlando defender’s head three minutes later.

“We are not here to make excuses, we are here to get in the experience of being in the Concacaf Champions Cup,” said Wheeldon Jr. “We have waited five years to get into this competition, and we are going to go and play in it. I wanted the players to be brave, and there are certainly things we can learn from it.”

“I don’t often say this after a loss, but I actually really enjoyed that.”

Cavalry FC’s home leg in name only

Wednesday’s match was played in a less than half-full Starlight Stadium in Victoria on Vancouver Island. It was moved from Cavalry FC’s home ground at ATCO Field in Calgary because it was decided that Alberta’s February climate would affect pitch conditions, making it unplayable.

But despite the inconvenience and costs, some passionate Cavalry FC fans made the out-of-province journey to watch their club’s first continental contest.

The second leg will be take place in Orlando Tuesday, Feb. 27.

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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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