CALGARY – Tyson Farago had an arsenal of excuses from which to choose.
The pitch on his end of the natural-grass Spruce Meadows pitch was bumpy and unpredictable. Late in the second half, as it closed in on 9 p.m. local time, dark clouds rolled over a stadium that has no lights — and visibility wasn’t optimal.
But, he wouldn’t use the pitch or the light conditions as excuses for allowing Jose Escalante’s 86th minute free-kick get past him, giving Cavalry FC a 1-0 win over Valour FC on Wednesday.
“It skipped up off a bit of a mound there,” Farago said of the free kick that bounded off the grass and went over his sprawling attempt to stop the ball. “It caught me by surprise with a bunch of people running across the ball. But I should have done better. I always take blame for mistakes.”
Escalante said, through a translator, that he decided to go low rather than knock a ball over the wall to catch the opposition by surprise. His goal ended up being a late turning point to what was a rugged, give-no-quarter match between the two teams, featuring six yellow cards and numerous stoppages so players could get treatment.
In the 86th minute, it was Escalante’s left footed, low bending free kick that took a high bounce off the grass and sailed over a diving Farago into the Valour goal. Dark clouds were overhead. With no lights at the Cavalry pitch, the game was being played in twilight conditions.
Even before the goal was scored, Farago and his Valour defensive line looked to be having trouble dealing with a ball that was bobbling on a grass pitch that hasn’t had time to fill in.
“It was very difficult to get a hold of the ball, so we decided to play safe and we didn’t really want to test it,” Farago said.
Wheeldon hailed Escalante’s moment of brilliance.
“If it’s a chess match like it was today, with everyone cancelling each other out, you’ve got to have a moment of brilliance, and Jose fortunately has that.”
Wheeldon conceded that, for a large portion of the game, attempts to play the ball through the middle of the park or down the wings were being repelled by Valour’s defenders. So, he decided, in a rough-and-tumble game, to bring in Nico Pasquotti, who has the ability to absolutely launch throw-ins.
The foul on Elijah Adekugbe that led to the Escalante free kick came after a Pasquotti throw caused problems in the Valour half.
Meanwhile, Cavalry ‘keeper Marco Carducci was able to keep Ali Musse, his former Foothills FC teammate, off the scoresheet. His toughest save came in the first half, as he cut off the shooting angle after Musse had split a pair of defenders.
“I played with Ali last year and I know the quality he has,” Carducci said. “I don’t want to get scored on by anybody, but if it’s an old teammate, for sure not.”