Final Score: Valour FC 1-1 Cavalry FC
Goalscorers: Aleman (72′); Ledgerwood (54′)
Game of the 2021 season: 72
CPL match: 207
MATCH COVERAGE: HIGHLIGHTS: Valour FC, Cavalry FC split points in blistering 1-1 draw || Sights & Sounds: Valour FC 1-1 Cavalry FC
Match in a minute or less
Cavalry FC and Valour FC never let off the gas Saturday in a thrilling 1-1 draw at IG Field in Winnipeg – a cagey affair in which both teams’ mentality and intensity in the press were tested. Cavalry got the breakthrough with Nik Ledgerwood lacing a staggering free kick from just outside of the 18-yard box into the right of the goal after 53 minutes. Keven Aleman found the equalizer in the 72nd minute after a deflected shot found the net. What followed was an entertaining final 20 minutes with both teams striking close but neither finding the net, leaving points split from an exhilarating match.
Valour don’t back down from physical, energetic Cavs contest
Valour came out of the blocks with intent against their Western Canadian rivals – a much different start to their tame Forge FC CanChamp tilt on Wednesday. While the tactics were sound in what coach Rob Gale described as a “chess match” with the Cavs, the mentality of the team made the difference as Valour repeatedly showed their teeth against a hard-to-play Cavalry side. A promising sight, really, for a team on a four-match losing skid and as they sit on an extensive list of absences including Austin Ricci, their star striker who left the Forge match injured.
“The spirit in this group has shown again,” Gale said. “There’s no quit in our team… It’s a point, it’s important not to lose because everyone would jump on the bandwagon.”
Gale mentioned his team seems to always grow into matches recently, performing much better second halves than firsts just like Saturday’s late-blooming afternoon: “I might need to give halftime talks before the game because the second half we’re fantastic and we really get about it.”
Both sides ‘show spirit’ in tireless affair
Saturday’s tilt was high octane, to say the least, as both clubs looked to grab a result following disappointing results – an aggressive affair that awaited to see which team could sharpen their attacking spear first. That ended up being Cavalry, though Valour found the equalizer in good time.
Cavalry was always going to benefit from that high tempo style as they brought on Anthony Novak and Ahinga Selemani at the hour mark – Ben Fisk and Elliot Simmons followed. Their energy and depth seemed much likely to be too much for Valour, who held their own against a team and coach that, at one time, called their pressing tactics “90 minutes from hell.”
To the above point, Gale said his team was missing several pieces of his spine to help see out the match: “Maybe we’re missing Andrew and Rocco and Ricci and others – earlier on in the season we managed games better than we do now.”
Wheeldon Jr., on the other hand, loved the drive his team showed, adding: “If teams want to play physical we can play that way. All in all, I loved the spirit.”
Cavs fail to convert chances
Does Cavalry have a problem scoring goals?
Saturday’s lone marker off a, to be fair, brilliant free-kick was all the Cavs managed to score on 15 shots – only three of which found the target. There were chances, sure, but none so much as a short angle glance at goal or a David Norman Jr. long-range effort.
Since they’ve departed the bubble, Tommy Wheeldon Jr.’s group has scored multiple goals in three-of-nine matches – all of which ended as wins. The Cavs have found the net exactly once per match in each of the last five, leaving a big task on the backline to ensure a clean sheet and, by extension, the three points.
But for a team with so much attacking firepower – Joe Mason, Anthony Novak, Sergio Camargo, Mo Farsi – should they be expected to contribute as much as, say, fellow top-of-the-table contenders Pacific FC’s group do (they’ve scored 31 goals in league play to Cavalry’s 21)? That’s a question for Wheeldon Jr. and his cohort to answer.
CanPL.ca Player of the Match
Nik Ledgerwood, Cavalry FC
In an energetic in-your-face match, who’s better than 36-year-old Nik Ledgerwood, who looked 15 years his junior in a swashbuckling performance in the middle of the park. Snatching at attackers and leading his core against Valour’s waves, the Cavs captain was stellar.
Oh, yeah, and how about that free-kick?
Next up for Cavalry is the 2021 Canadian Championship and a quarterfinal date with Pacific FC Wednesday night (10:00pm ET/8:00pm MT). Valour, meanwhile, has the midweek cup window off as they are next set to depart to the Greater Toronto Area for their final match of the regular season against York United on Saturday (2:00pm ET/1:00pm CT). Watch all matches live on OneSoccer.