Cavs’ Wheeldon Jr. teases young upgrades, new international attackers in 2021

Cavalry FC coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. has broken down his off-season philosophy when it comes to building for the 2021 CPL campaign: Retention, release and recruit.

“We have the three Rs: retention, who are we prepared to release, and who were looking to recruit,” Wheeldon Jr. told

Two of Wheeldon Jr.’s three “Rs” are in full swing. A core group that includes Marco Carducci, Mason Trafford, Elijah Adekugbe and Sergio Camargo has been retained, while another other players were released last week (more on that later).

What’s next for Cavalry is the continuation of the “retention” phase of his off-season plan. Wheeldon Jr. revealed that a group of young Cavs players from 2020 will be confirmed for 2021 sometime soon, as will another group of veterans.

“These are our (youngsters), what we call our upgrades,” Wheeldon Jr. said of the next batch of retained players. “So the next slate of retained core will be a solid group – there are some good names on there, so the ones that are not named after that, we’re just finding the right deal between both parties.”

This comes after the club mutually agreed to part ways with five members of the squad this week: Nathan Mavila, Jordan Brown, Niko Giantsopoulos, Jair Cordova, and Marcus Haber. Wheeldon Jr. said they were people-first decisions, with the players departing for various reasons.

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“It’s more than just a game to people, it’s their livelihood. I’m the big believer in when you recruit players you recruit people,” Wheeldon Jr. said.

“Should we play a regular-season that starts next year, that’s another 215 days. Add in the break before The Island Games and that’s 500 days and only 10 games of football. Marcus Haber came in late and was a terrific impact player for us, but he’s at the back end of his career so he needs to stay match fit and a couple of overseas opportunities came, which I can’t name.”

Giantsopoulos has already landed with York9 FC, destined to be a No. 1 goalkeeper for his hometown club. No hard feelings from Wheeldon, who pitched his second-string netminder to other CPL teams.

“When clubs were looking for a (starting goalkeeper), I was the one who put his name forward to say ‘let’s have a look at him’ because he’s a great lad. He should be No. 1,” Wheeldon Jr. “He’s been away from home for so long and this opportunity to play in front of the family may never come again.”

Brown has joined a German fourth-tier side, while Mavila departs Calgary after tragically losing a family member to COVID-19 this year.

“That weighs on people. So when you really put it together and you say, ‘look, go home, be with your family, play where it makes you happy.’ And that was it with him and. And I think that was the best thing we could have done for him,” Wheeldon Jr. said.

Wheeldon also thanked Mavila for his advocacy work, specifically being a voice for Black Lives Matter not just in the Cavalry locker room but across the league: “He taught me a lot the Black Lives Matter movement – he was very vocal and educational on it and I thank him for that.”

Wheeldon Jr. confirmed that negotiations are ongoing in the Cavalry camp with a few key player pieces from the 2020 season.

After that, the Cavs will look at the final R: Recruit. Attacking players are top of the list for Wheeldon Jr., who has already lost three strikers, while Oliver Minatel works to return from injury before the 2021 season.

International attackers, to be specific, are on the radar, with Cavalry’s coaching staff pouring over “tons” of video from players in Europe and South America.

“We’ve got some irons in the fires with some really exciting players that we think will make us better especially in the opponent’s half,” Wheeldon Jr. said.

“If you look around Canada, we have players that have played 10 games in 500 days, so we need to have players that have played. That’s our thinking with Jose Escalante, who’s been out on loan. They’re going to come in a little bit sharper than those who have just been training.”

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