CPL5x5: Cavalry FC 2023 year in review

Welcome to CPL5x5. As we say farewell to 2023, we’ll be looking back one more time at the Canadian Premier League’s milestone fifth season, and how each of the eight clubs fared this year.

In this series, we’ll break down the full story of each team’s year within five sections: Five stats, five key players, five big moments, five quotes, and five questions for 2024.

Today, we finish with the regular season champions from 2023: Cavalry FC.

To read the 5×5 year in review for every other CPL club, click here.

2023 was a incredibly successful year for Cavalry FC, as one of the league’s marquee clubs reached even greater heights.

They came into the year with high expectations as always, desperate to win their first piece of silverware after coming so close over the previous four seasons but repeatedly falling at the very end of the season. This year they needed to clear the final hurdle and that’s exactly what they did, winning the CPL Shield as the league’s regular season champions, and coming within moments of completing the double in a dramatic CPL Final.

While losing the last game of the year will sting, Cavalry’s objective of winning that first trophy and qualifying for the 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup was completed in dominant fashion, and they will look back on 2023 very fondly.


2023 CPL regular season record (W-D-L): 16-7-5
Finish: 1st, CPL Shield champions
Playoffs: Lost to Forge FC in CPL Final
Goals scored: 46
Goals against: 27
Goal difference: +19
Top scorer: Myer Bevan (11 in league, one in Canadian Championship)
Canadian Championship: Lost to Pacific FC on penalties in preliminary round


13 points clear at the top of the table

Cavalry won the brand new CPL Shield in convincing fashion this season, bouncing back from a slow start to the year to eventually win the regular season title by an impressive 13 points. Their 16 wins is five more than any other club had in 2023, playing to a 16-7-5 record overall, better than the matching 11-9-8 records that Forge FC and the Halifax Wanderers had in second and third place, respectively.

It is the largest margin atop the table in CPL history, more than doubling their own record of six from the 2019 season if the 2019 spring and fall season tables are combined into one full table.

2,820 minutes played by Marco Carducci and Daan Klomp

Only three players played every single minute of the 2023 CPL regular season – Halifax Wanderers goalkeeper Yann Fillion, Cavalry FC goalkeeper Marco Carducci, and Cavs defender Daan Klomp. An impressive feat in its own right, Carducci and Klomp took it one step further by also playing the full 90 minutes in each of Cavalry FC’s three playoff matches, as well as the entire 30 minutes of extra time in the CPL Final – reaching a grand total of 2,820 CPL minutes played in 2023.

46 goals for, 27 goals against

In addition to their large margin of victory on points in the regular season standings, Cavalry also led the way in both goals scored and goals conceded. Their 46 goals beat Pacific FC’s 42 in that category, while their 27 goals conceded was five fewer than Forge FC and the Halifax Wanderers, who each conceded 32.

Their +19 goal difference was 12 better than the +7 of Forge FC, Pacific FC, and Halifax Wanderers, and a whopping 41 better than Vancouver FC’s -19 goal difference.

1 regular season loss at home

No team has had more success at home over the first five years of the CPL than Cavalry FC, and that remained true in 2023 – playing to a 10-3-1 record at ATCO Field. Their lone defeat at home was a 2-0 loss to Atlético Ottawa on July 12, which included a goal from their former player (on loan from CF Montreal) Jean-Aniel Assi.

For comparison, York United lost eight times at home this season, whereas Cavalry FC have lost just seven regular season matches at ATCO Field in five seasons combined.

5 of 7 individual awards

Recognized for what was a truly magnificent season, members of Cavalry FC won five of the seven available trophies at the 2023 CPL Awards in October. Daan Klomp won both the Player of the Year and Defender of the Year awards, Ali Musse took home the Players’ Player of the Year, Tommy Wheeldon Jr won Coach of the Year, and Myer Bevan shared the Golden Boot with Ollie Bassett of Atlético Ottawa.

Daan Klomp of Cavalry FC and Massimo Ferrin of Halifax Wanderers (CFC Media/Tony Lewis)


Myer Bevan

Myer Bevan signed a new contract with Cavalry ahead of the 2023 season, and rewarded them for their faith in him after an injury-plagued 2022 season. Bevan scored eleven times in league action in 2023, including once on the final day of the regular season to tie Ollie Bassett and share the Golden Boot.

The New Zealand international was the first player to score at least ten goals for the Cavs in a single season since Dominique Malonga scored 11 in the inaugural 2019 regular season.

Marco Carducci

In his fifth year as the starting goalkeeper, and first as club captain, for his hometown club, Marco Carducci had another great year in 2023. Playing every minute of every game for the Cavs, Carducci made 63 saves and kept eight clean sheets as his side conceded the fewest goals of any team in the league.

Individually, Carducci was nominated for the Goalkeeper of the Year award for the fourth time, but it’s a piece of team silverware he will remember — becoming the first player in league history to lift the CPL Shield.

Jesse Daley

One of the best signings of the 2023 season across the Canadian Premier League, Australian midfielder Jesse Daley came to Cavalry FC from his hometown Brisbane Roar and was a crucial part of Cavalry’s success. He led the Cavs with 43 tackles won in the regular season, tied for fourth in the entire league in that category, also leading the team in interceptions (28) as an important part of their midfield.

Daan Klomp

Daan Klomp had one of the best individual seasons in league history in 2023, winning the Player of the Year and Defender of the Year in his third campaign with Cavalry. The Dutch centre-back seamlessly transitioned into a preferred role that saw him step into midfield at times in order to get onto the ball more often in attack, while also being a huge piece of the league’s best defensive unit.

Ali Musse

Right winger Ali Musse took another step forward in 2023, firmly planting himself among the very best players in Canada. With five goals and six assists in 25 regular season games, Musse was one of the most well-rounded attackers in the CPL, and is capable of a moment of magic at any time. He added two goals and two assists across Cavalry’s three playoff matches, including the opening goal of the CPL Final at Tim Hortons Field.

Musse was voted the Players’ Player of the Year by his colleagues around the CPL, and was one of five finalists for the league’s Player of the Year award.

Cavalry FC’s winners at the 2023 CPL Awards, Daan Klomp, Myer Bevan, Tommy Wheeldon Jr, and Ali Musse, from left to right.


First win of the season after a slow start — May 21

The Cavs didn’t get off to a great start to the 2023 regular season, drawing each of their first five matches. While not an awful start either, a win looked like it was coming for a while, and on May 21 it finally all clicked at ATCO Field, with Sergio Camargo and Daan Klomp finding the back of the net in a 2-0 win over Atlético Ottawa.

3-0 win over rivals Forge FC — August 4

The rivalry between Cavalry FC and Forge FC has been built up over five seasons, and it seems like every year it gets more intense. On August 4 at Calgary’s ATCO Field, however, it was as one-sided a game as these sides have ever had, with the hosts coming away with a 3-0 win.

After a scoreless first half, Eryk Kobza and William Akio got Cavalry up by two early in the second half, before Fraser Aird tripled the lead from the penalty spot in the 82nd minute. It was the first, and thus far only, time one of these sides has scored three goals against each other, and therefore the largest margin of victory in this rivalry as well — proof that the Cavs were the real deal en route to the CPL Shield.

Dramatic late winner in Ottawa — September 2

After losing twice to Atlético Ottawa in July, Cavalry wanted to make a statement at TD Place in their final meeting of the regular season on September 2, and through 87 minutes it looked like they were going to leave the nation’s capital with the full three points after Sergio Camargo’s goal at the end of the first half.

Luke Singh’s goal of the year candidate, a flying volley from a corner kick in the 88th minute, looked to rescue a point for the hosts, but Cavalry came marching back and won the game on a 97th-minute goal from William Akio — the third game in what would become a nine-game unbeaten streak.

Clinching the CPL Shield on the plane back to Calgary — September 23

After beating York United on September 23, Cavalry had all but officially clinched the 2023 CPL Shield for their first piece of silverware in club history. As the team was flying back to Calgary, Forge FC was taking on Pacific FC at Tim Hortons Field, and after the Hammers beat the Tridents 3-1 Cavalry had officially clinched the regular season title.

What followed was celebratory scenes on the flight as players and coaches watched live on OneSoccer from the air, before landing to meet their loved ones for the first time as regular season champions.

Coming close to completing the double in a thrilling CPL Final — October 28

Forge. Cavalry. A great game in the Canadian Premier League playoffs. It just feels inevitable at this point, and the meetings are always must-watch.

After squaring off two weeks earlier in the 1 vs 2 semifinal, a match won by Forge FC to ensure that the Hammers would host the CPL Final once again, Cavalry were keen on revenge, and a chance to be the first CPL team to complete the CPL Shield and North Star Cup double. Cavalry beat Pacific FC at ATCO Field a week later to book their ticket to Hamilton, and were confident in the buildup to the match that they could defeat the reigning playoff champions on their home turf.

After an intense but scoreless 90 minutes, Ali Musse fired the ball in from the edge of the box in the 101st minute, and Cavalry had one hand on the Cup. Forge replied moments later on a perfect, long-distance strike from Béni Badibanga that found the top corner of Marco Carducci’s net, before — in the second half of extra time — Tristan Borges curled a corner kick into the back of the net for a championship-winning Olimpico that will forever go down as one of the most incredible moments in CPL history.

It was a heartbreaking way for Cavalry’s season to end. They thought they had finally broken their playoff curse at the home of their biggest rivals, but it was not to be. They were so close but so far, in a match nobody will soon forget.

Would anyone bet against these teams meeting again in the 2024 CPL Final, or Cavalry winning their first playoff title? Probably not, and that will one of the biggest storylines heading into next season.

Cavalry huddle in the locker room on CPL Final day (Photo: John E. Sokolowski)


“It comes down to [chemistry]. If you look at our season we were so close to being there or thereabouts, we were two points off first place and a goal or a sending-off away from reaching another final. For us, it comes down to chemistry. … The way we want to play in terms of the way we attack and the way we defend, it relies upon a group dynamic.” – head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr during preseason on how his side could be better in 2023

“Playing in the CPL was really good for me. I think being a young player you need to play and show what you can do so it was perfect for me and playing at Cavalry, all those guys, all the coaching staff, the players all helped me on the way to really get where I am. Without the league, I don’t know.” – attacker Goteh Ntignee after securing a transfer to Ligue 2 club FC Annecy midseason

“It’s the things you don’t see. It’s the conversations that are being had every day in the locker room between coaching staff and players, and between players. There’s just constant dialogue this year that I don’t think has been there in years prior, and that has allowed us to build trust, to build togetherness, and just to build to one common goal which is a championship.” – midfielder Sergio Camargo on the team’s good chemistry

“Our goal at the start of the season was to take this club to where it hadn’t been and get to Concacaf. We achieved that, we got the regular season, like the rest of the world celebrates, that’s the one with a lot more weight on it. To win another trophy is a bonus because we’re already in Concacaf, we already have our first piece of silverware and a second piece would be a lovely bonus.” – head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr ahead of the CPL Final

“It stings for sure, there’s not many words right now, I think it’s still a bit shellshocked about it. We felt like our game plan worked perfectly, we went man for man in a lot of places, we fought, like I have to give so much credit like our brotherhood in there. It’s so fun to play with these guys. There’s so much love in that locker room it’s unbelievable. This one hurts for sure.” – midfielder Charlie Trafford after the CPL Final

Sergio Camargo celebrates a goal vs. Valour. (CFC Media Mike Sturk)


Can Cavalry run it back in pursuit of a second CPL Shield?

Winning their first piece of silverware is a moment that Cavalry and their fans will remember for a long time, but the sports world moves quickly. Not long after the 2023 season came to an end, preparation for next year began, and Tommy Wheeldon Jr’s side will be keen on chasing even greater success in 2024.

The Cavalry boss has been one of the biggest proponents of awarding a trophy to the best regular season side, so becoming the first manager to lift the new CPL Shield this year was perhaps fitting. Cavalry have always been a strong regular season team, and have been excellent at home throughout the first five seasons in CPL history — two trends they will be hoping continue into season six.

How will Cavalry do in first foray into continental football?

As a result of winning the 2023 CPL Shield, Cavalry FC will be playing in the Concacaf Champions Cup next season — their first time competing on the continental stage.

They’ve been drawn against Major League Soccer side Orlando City SC for the first round, with the first leg set to take place at Starlight Stadium in Langford, BC due to potential weather issues in Calgary, before the sides meet again six days later at Exploria Stadium in Orlando. It will be the first-ever meeting between a CPL club and an American MLS club, and a strong challenge for the Cavs.

The winner will move on to play either the Vancouver Whitecaps or Mexican side Tigres in the round of 16.

Is 2024 the year Cavalry breaks their playoff curse?

Considering how much regular season success Cavalry FC have had, it’s remarkable that they have not yet won a playoff title. They have come close, reaching the final in both 2019 and 2023, and eliminated from the playoffs by slim margins every other year, but the next step is clearing that final hurdle.

Thus far the playoffs have belonged to their biggest rivals Forge FC — who have won four CPL Finals, with Pacific FC winning the other in 2021. Is 2024 the year Cavalry takes the next step?

Who is the next young player to come through Calgary?

Cavalry have a proven ability to not only be competitive on the pitch, but to do so while developing and moving on young players.

Goteh Ntignee was the standout example in 2023, departing the club for France and Ligue 2 side FC Annecy in August, the latest in a long line of success stories. Victor Loturi, Aribim Pepple, Joel Waterman, Dominick Zator, and Mo Farsi have all come through Cavalry before eventually moving on to Europe or Major League Soccer, which begs the question: who’s next?

Eryk Kobza is on a steady upwards trajectory, while Maël Henry and Michael Harms are also young Canadian players that could be set for a breakout campaign with the Cavs.

Who will Cavalry add for defensive depth?

Cavalry’s core remains intact for next season, but some pieces will need to be added throughout the offseason to boost the team’s depth ahead of their Concacaf Champions Cup run in February, and the 2024 CPL campaign.

Daan Klomp and Callum Montgomery are expected to be the first-choice centre-back duo as things currently stand, with Eryk Kobza and Bradley Kamdem also able to play there, but Cavalry will likely look to add more depth at the position over the coming weeks and months. After Roberto Alarcon left for Valour FC, the Cavs could look for another player at right back to compete with Fraser Aird, although they do have teenager Michael Harms under contract as well for 2024, and both Shamit Shome and Kobza comfortable playing there. On the left side, Bradley Kamdem is capable of playing both left back and left centre-back, while Cavalry also have until December 31 to trigger the contract options on Tom Field and Ben Fisk.

Having several versatile players that can step into various roles is great, but having depth that can plug into the starting lineup at any time and have everyone in their natural positions is likely the preferred option — especially with a longer season due to Champions Cup commitments.