Much was made about Marco Carducci’s dominant 2019 CPL season between the sticks for Cavalry FC, and rightly so. His 18 wins and 10 clean sheets in all competitions were ample reason for the 23-year-old to deserve the CPL’s Goalkeeper of the Year honours.
Perhaps flying a little under the radar, though, was Niko Giantsopoulos’ contribution to the best goalkeeping tandem in the league. For his part, he started nine times, banking five wins and three draws, and he recorded four clean sheets.
Giantsopoulos was particularly key for the Cavs in their Canadian Championship run, where he played both legs against Pacific FC and Forge FC, steering them through both rounds. In his CPL showings, he let just two goals past him all year. Typically, he faced more shots in most games than Carducci as well, with Cavalry often opting to rotate other parts of the lineup for those nights, too.
Indeed, some have speculated that Giantsopoulos, although a backup at Cavalry, could himself be a top goalkeeper in the CPL if given a starting job. Of course, any coach anywhere would tell you how important competition is in training; it’s possible that Carducci wouldn’t have had the season he did without Giantsopoulos behind him.
“That’s our job,” Giantsopoulos told CanPL.ca of pushing Carducci to be better. “Only one goalkeeper can play, so whoever’s in you’ve got to support them. … Our job is to make Tommy (Wheeldon Jr.)’s decision as hard as possible. I thought we did that last year, and that’s the plan this year.”
The 25-year-old Markham, Ontario native added that he has no problem using training to stay ready for his opportunities, knowing he’s not playing every week.
“There’s no reason to be upset or anything,” he said. “Whenever I did play, I did really well. It’s staying level-headed, seeing the bigger picture that it’s about the team, and knowing that when you do get your chance you have to take it.”
If Carducci’s role continues to grow with the Canadian national team, then Giantsopoulos will be even more important to the club.
Cavalry fans and players alike should be comforted by the fact that this Carducci-Giantsopoulos tandem will be back for 2020, after such a consistent first season. Actually, much the same is true of a lot of things that made the Cavs great in year one, with most of the cast that contributed to their 19-win maiden voyage returning.
Contrary to other CPL clubs, the Cavs aren’t much changed for year two, save for a few key additions (and a couple tough losses, though, in Julian Büscher and Dominique Malonga), and as such they could be set up to emerge from an uncertain time like this with a leg up on the competition.
“I don’t want to speak for anyone else, but for us I think it’s an advantage,” Giantsopoulos agreed. “We had really good chemistry last year and we retained a lot of similar players, but the culture here in Calgary is pretty unique. … Even with the new players coming in, I think they got a taste right away.”
He added that just two weeks of training camp gave him a solid gauge of how keen his team is on avenging their loss in Finals 2019.
“We were all pretty impressed with how fit everyone came in,” Giantsopoulos said. “We were kind of flying.”
Unfortunately, the Cavs won’t be flying anywhere for the time being. The challenge right now will be to keep that fitness up while at home.