‘Big players played big’: Cavalry FC’s Wheeldon Jr., Musse react to semifinal win

Cavalry FC are headed for the CPL Final, thanks to their 2-1 win in the semifinal on Saturday over Pacific FC. Head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. and goalscorer Ali Musse both met with the media postgame to share their thoughts on the win.

Here’s some of what they had to say.

RELATED: HIGHLIGHTS: Cavalry FC 2-1 Pacific FC || MATCH ANALYSIS: Cavalry FC book ticket to 2023 CPL Final after set-piece masterclass against Pacific

Tommy Wheeldon Jr.

On a wild final few minutes:

“I don’t know, it was one of them. I thought we should’ve been ahead of the game, and we were; we’d worked on up a goal, down a goal through the week because that’s playoff football, so I was a lot calmer than I thought until that last Marco Carducci save and then I’m like, ‘Oh, goodness,’ but when he made that save I thought, that’s it, football gods are on our side this time.”

On success via set-pieces:

“I’m fortunate, I’ve got really good coaching staff around me. The attacking set plays, Leon Hapgood and Daniel Hutchins take care of, and Musse’s delivery has been brilliant this year. The guys know their roles; Daan Klomp’s a threat, Kobza, Charlie [Trafford], [Callum] Montgomery coming in, and it was a well-worked one. We knew if we kept putting them in there and we had a high volume, something was going to click.

“The second one, that’s why we went with Fraser Aird. That was the tactical difference that ends up winning the game. Credit to our staff and credit to our players for doing those reps.”

On standout players performing in big games:

“It was a team effort. Aside from the big names that have been nominated for Player of the Year, Goalkeeper of the Year, I thought Charlie Trafford was outstanding today. He was the anchor pin for our defence and our attack. Last week we didn’t have enough step up in the key moments, we dominated the start of the game then they scored, and they scored again and then we threw everything at them.

“Today, big players played big and that’s what you ask of them, that’s what you expect of them. If you’re going to be nominated for MVP you’ve got to put yourself out there and they did today.”

On starting the game strong:

“Absolutely, pepper them. This is a Pacific team that kept a clean sheet away at Halifax, a clean sheet at home to York after coming away from here. They’re a good side. Gazdov, you guys gave him a lot of love through the week and he is a good young goalie, so we thought, he can’t do it three games in a row so let’s pepper them. We created it in different ways, and the only disappointment our lads had was we kept it too close near the end, but that’s playoff football.”

On playing Forge in the final:

“[Forge] are a terrific side. We keep writing new history, and that’s what we’ve done tonight. We’ve buried a ghost of the past. It’s around Halloween time, so there’s another ghost to be buried, and what better way to do it than go to Tim Hortons Field? They’ve won three out of four playoff trophies, why not go win it in their house? And we believe we can.”

RELATED: ‘Too little, too late’: Pacific FC’s Merriman, Meilleur-Giguère react to semifinal loss

Ali Musse

On scoring via set-pieces:

“For the set-pieces, I have to give a shoutout to Leon [Hapgood]. Our coaching staff has been adamant on it and we’ve just been doing a lot of video, a lot of work behind the scenes, practices and training. The first one, I knew they had a lot of big guys at the back post and I saw Daan [Klomp] making that first post run. We’ve connected many times already this year so I just found him making that run to the first post and thankfully he got a good head on it. He’s an amazing player as everybody knows in this league.”

On maintaining success over the course of the season:

“At the beginning of the season it wasn’t really going our way but we had to stay patient and we had to lean into what we were doing. We had many discussions throughout the year as a team and we said that we didn’t want to change what we’re doing, we wanted to completely double down on everything that we were doing. We just kept on going and being patient and believing and trusting the process and thankfully it’s worked out so far.”

On his defensive play against Pacific:

“This is a playoff match, if you lose you’re out. We know the type of players they have, they have quality especially on the wings. So I just had to help out and do double shifts on both sides of the ball, so I just wanted to do what I can for the team and today I offered both. I’m glad with the work I put in and I’m happy with this win.”