‘Adjustments, not excuses:’ Cavalry, Edmonton gear up for Al Classico

CALGARY – FC Edmonton meets Cavalry FC Friday in what is not just another instalment of Al Classico; it’s also a top-of-the-table clash, too.

Both teams are tied atop the Fall season standings, the Cavs have a game in hand,

For the Cavs, they’re coming off just two days rest after Wednesday’s Canadian Championship semifinal loss to the Montreal Impact.

For FC Edmonton, it’s game two of a huge three-game run that can define the club’s season. The team is in the midst of a run of three games in nine days, which started with Saturday’s 3-1 win over Pacific FC. It wraps up Monday, when the Eddies travel to Winnipeg to face Valour FC.

“Absolutely, this is important,” said FCE coach Jeff Paulus. “And it’s tough because we’ll go play in Calgary on the Friday night, race home that night, try to get a day of recovery in, then fly out Sunday to Winnipeg. It’s not a long flight, so I’m not going to worry about distances or time-zone changes. It’s not a bother.”

Midfielder Son Yongchan is still out, but the remainder team is still pretty much healthy. Soria missed the win over Pacific with an ankle issue, but it was precautionary and Jeff said if this was a critical late-season game or a championship, Soria would have played.

“You start looking at our squad, you look at the options we have coming off the bench,” said Paulus. “You see the type of quality we had to come into a game and you add the ones that didn’t get in, plus you add Ramon Soria to that. Son is probably only a week away from full training. This is a squad that can handle playing games over multiple nights.”

Meanwhile, Cavalry coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. admitted that he’s not going to be putting out an “A” choice squad. Forward Jordan Brown is in a walking cast. Defender Joel Waterman is week to week. Forward Sergio Camargo wasn’t healthy enough to play Wednesday. Plus, Dean Northover joined Chris Serban on the out-for-the-season list. On top of that, he needs to rest players who featured on Wednesday.

“We will be rotating,” Wheeldon confirmed. “For the health and safety of the players, 48 hours is not ideal. It’s the perfect time for Edmonton to be playing. It seems that we’re playing everyone who has a week to prepare to play against us … It’s not healthy, it’s not ideal, but we won’t make excuses. We’ll make adjustments. We’ll rotate the squad, because I’m not putting a bunch of these players back out on the pitch with only one day to recover.”

Wheeldon said that, with the Canadian Championship games, and no real breaks in the CPL schedule, that his team has played more than any other team in the league since the Fall season began.

So, Paulus is feeling good about his squad, plus he has new signing Tony Tchani available to bolster his ranks even more. Cavalry is a team that has to conjure up a lineup for Friday. If there ever was a chance for a road team to steal points out of the fortress that is Spruce Meadows, Edmonton’s got it.

But we don’t play football matches on paper.

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