2023 CPL Regular Season — Match #97
Cavalry FC vs. Vancouver FC
September 16, 2023 at 3 p.m. MT/5 p.m. ET
ATCO Field in Calgary, Alberta
Watch Live: OneSoccer.ca & TELUS Ch. 980 // Tickets available here
In addition to its website and app, OneSoccer is now available on TELUS channel 980 and on Fubo TV. Call your local cable provider to ask for OneSoccer today.
It is the top team in the Canadian Premier League versus the bottom club on Saturday afternoon in Calgary as Cavalry FC host Vancouver FC for the final time this season.
The Cavs became the first club in the league to clinch a playoff spot this season when they defeated Halifax Wanderers 2-1 on the road on Tuesday. They now have their sights squarely set on wrapping up the regular season title — which they now lead by six points with four matches remaining.
Despite a 23-point gap between the two sides heading into the match, however, Vancouver are proving capable of some big results in this final round of matches. Last time out they defeated Atlético Ottawa on a dramatic late goal from young fullback James Cameron, while a few weeks ago they put up three goals, and picked up three points, against rivals Pacific FC.
“We feel that we have improved a great deal over the season, and I believe that it will great performance from our players and we will make it difficult on Cavalry,” said Vancouver FC head coach Afshin Ghotbi. “Yes, they are top of the table, yes they are winning many matches and are almost unbeatable at home. We are looking forward to it.”
Making the task even more tricky is the fact that Ghotbi will not be on the touchline after picking up his third yellow card of the season resulting in a suspension. At the time of writing, the club had not yet announced who would be serving as head coach for Saturday’s match. Vancouver will also be without Gabriel Bitar, who has been their key attacking catalyst of late with three goals and an assist in the club’s past three matches, as he is also out through yellow card accumulation.
Adding to Vancouver’s motivation on Saturday is the fact that a loss would see them officially eliminated from playoff contention. A draw would also likely not be enough to see them live another week in the playoff battle, while even a victory at this stage in the season could mean elimination should results elsewhere go against them.
RELATED: Clinch/Elimination Scenarios: Cavalry punch playoff ticket, Pacific could follow suit in Week 23
Results between these two sides largely haven’t gone the way of Vancouver this season. After an impressive 1-1 draw, despite being down to ten men, in their first-ever home match against Cavalry FC back on May 7, Vancouver FC have since lost 3-1 in Calgary, before losing 5-1 in their most recent meeting on July 22 in Langley.
Both of those home matches saw Vancouver reduced to ten players, while Cavalry FC leading goalscorer Myer Bevan was sent off in their most recent meeting as well. Bevan, however, has been otherwise lethal against Cavalry this season scoring three times.
The hosts will still be without Australian midfielder Jesse Daley who is serving his final game of suspension. In his place against Halifax, however, 19-year-old Maël Henry put in an impressive shift. Given his recent performances, and Cavalry’s need for an additional 351 domestic U-21 minutes in order to be playoff-eligible, expect him to play a key role again on Saturday. Vancouver, meanwhile, leads the league in domestic U-21 minutes played with 4,393 — well over the required 2,000.
Cavalry have a few late fitness tests to keep an eye on ahead of this match, including Charlie Trafford who was substituted at halftime against Halifax midweek, as well as Ali Musse, Myer Bevan and William Akio per manager Tommy Wheeldon Jr.
All CPL matches are available to stream on OneSoccer, or on TELUS Optik TV Channel 980.
3 THINGS TO WATCH
- Short turnaround for Cavalry, but home cooking should soothe their jet lag: After spending the first half of September on the road, Cavalry FC are finally back at ATCO Field on Saturday. A trip to the East Coast saw them pick up big wins in Ottawa (for the first time in club history) and Halifax while earning a well-fought draw with Forge FC. Having played in Halifax on Tuesday, they will definitely be the more jet-lagged of the two sides on Saturday, but the good news is that they finally get to step back onto home soil. Cavalry have lost just one at ATCO Field this season. Further good news is that while they have one final trip to Ontario, Saturday, September 23 to face York United, three of their final four matches come at home. “That was part of the sugar lump for the boys was lets get what we can on the road, and get home to our friends, our family, our fans,” said Wheeldon Jr. “They are the triple threat that keeps us going at home. We know how good we are at ATCO Field, but every game is a cup final so we’ve got to be prepared for another one.”
- Vancouver FC hoping for more special moments down the stretch: For an expansion club who have struggled at times this year, there have certainly been some incredibly special moments over the course of their debut season. This past weekend saw one of the best, an incredible stoppage-time winner from 18-year-old fullback James Cameron to give the team a home victory over Atlético Ottawa that saw manager Afshin Ghotbi sprint the length of the pitch to celebrate with his team. It was a special moment, he said, in which he loved the boldness from Cameron to even be in that attacking position in the first place in such a crucial moment in the match. It also underlined the culture that the club is hoping to foster in the short and longterm. “This football club’s mission is basically identifying players like James Cameron that are local and identifying them and giving them a platform to reach their dreams and for him to do it in such a short time is remarkable,” said Ghotbi.
- Vancouver FC looking to replicate recent home form on the road: Besides the club’s first-ever goal and victory at York Lions Stadium back in April, few of those aforementioned big moments have come away from home. The club has actually been quite good at the Langley Events Centre of late, with just two losses in their last six matches at home, but they have now lost seven straight at home. With Valour beating York last weekend, they are now the only club in the league with just a single victory on the road this season. They have also scored a league-low six goals, and allowed 18, in 11 road matches. Finishing the season with a few strong road performances, especially one at ATCO Field, would go a long way toward “We have a great fan base at home, we have really strong fans, motivating fans,” said Cameron. “So it has been a lot easier to play at home this season, but when it comes to the road we are just going to have to put that extra five/ten percent effort in if we are going to get the same results that we have been getting at home.”
PROJECTED STARTING XIs
Cavalry FC (3-4-3): Carducci; Kobza, Klomp, Montgomery; Aird, Shome, Henry, Kamdem; Akio, Camargo, Smith-Doyle
Vancouver FC (4-3-3): Irving; Chung, Romeo, White, Cameron; Garcia, Fry, Simmons; Cantave, Hundal, Díaz
Cavalry FC wins: 2 || Vancouver FC wins: 0|| Draws: 1
July 22, 2023 — Vancouver FC 1-5 Cavalry FC
“They have every right to be confident. I thought they had a good game against Ottawa, they’ve also been at home and had a full week to prepare for us, whereas we recalibrated and we are spending less of the time. But I think in those moments you just get into a rhythm. That’s what I’m hoping for on the weekend, is if we play and put our best foot forward against their best foot that’s where the matter will take care of itself. But we certainly won’t be underestimating them, that’s for sure.” — Cavalry FC head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr.
“Obviously playoffs are important, but we are at such a historic and pivotal moment in the building of the football club. It is for us building that culture, building that mentality that when we play we play with everything we have, regardless of if the game is a championship game or one of the league matches. We want to bring a certain mentality to the game, similar to the last game against Ottawa.” — Vancouver FC head coach Afshin Ghotbi
“We have a whole new wave of confidence and belief in our team now and we are just looking to get as many points as we can the last five games of the season. Mathematically we are still in the playoff run so we are still looking to do as much as we can.” — Vancouver FC defender James Cameron