‘It’s extra special’: Carducci plays hero vs. Pacific after CanMNT nod

CALGARY — Marco Carducci needs a moment to catch his breath.

Could you blame him? It’s been a whirlwind 24 hours for the 22-year-old, who was still searching for the right words to describe his historic selection to the Canadian national team after playing hero in Cavalry’s 1-1 draw with Pacific FC on Wednesday at Spruce Meadows.

“It’s very exciting to have the opportunity,” Carducci told, after the match. “It’s just a step in the right direction for me. I’ve made it public that I want to be the men’s national team starting goalkeeper as near as possible in the future.”

The 22-year-old from Calgary says he learned the news a few days before it became official. He told his family first, and they had to keep it under wraps.

“It was really exciting for us,” he said. “I owe a lot to my parents. They were super excited. I’ve got a lot of people to thank who have all made this possible.”

Related: Wheeldon Jr. praises Carducci for ‘fully-deserved’ CanMNT call-up

His resume this inaugural Canadian Premier League campaign is impressive, and his list of accolades is long: Backstopping his side to the Spring title, earning a win at B.C. Place over the Vancouver Whitecaps in quarterfinal play of the Canadian Championship and leading the league in clean sheets across both seasons.

His heroics were plentiful in Cavalry’s most recent action, a 1-1 draw versus visiting Pacific FC, making five saves — many of them worth a second or third look on the highlight reel.

But for Carducci, that’s all in a day’s work with the Cavs. Pulling on the maple leaf will be extra special because he knows he’s representing the CPL and the level of play that’s been on display from coast-to-coast since the season’s opening match.

“It’s cool that I get to use this league as a platform and to be the first player called up,” Carducci proudly stated. “It’s definitely a big honour for me. I think you’ll see more and more in the future, for sure. It’s just a step in the right direction.”

And not lost in all of this is the fact it’s been a long time since a player from Calgary has been a regular call-up for the men’s national team.

“It’s extra special,” he told with a smile. “Having an opportunity no matter where you are from, representing your country is obviously huge. I’m representing my city, not only with Cavalry but with the national team. If I can be that next mainstay for this city, that would be awesome.”

Marco Carducci of Cavalry FC and Jonathan Wheeldon of Cavalry FC scramble to keep the ball away from Marcus Haber of Pacific FC. Mike Sturk/CPL
Marco Carducci of Cavalry FC and Jonathan Wheeldon of Cavalry FC scramble to keep the ball away from Marcus Haber of Pacific FC. (Photo: Mike Sturk/CPL).

When he touches down in Ontario for the start of camp next week, he’ll join the experienced goalkeeping duo of Milan Borjan, who is UEFA Champions League group stage bound with Serbia’s Red Star Belgrade, and Vancouver Whitecaps standout Maxime Crépeau.

“Max, I’ve gotten to know him a couple of times,” Carducci said. “We’ve been at a couple of camps before with the youth national teams. Then, obviously, a few weeks ago, playing the Whitecaps and seeing him again. I don’t know Milan personally, but he’s been a mainstay with the national team. It’ll be cool to train with him and see what he’s all about.

“It’s going to be a huge learning experience for me. I’m going to go in there and play the role they want me to play. It’ll be good to get my foot in the door.”

Canada welcomes Cuba to Toronto’s BMO Field Sept. 7 for the opener of the two-game series. The second meeting is slated for Sept. 10 at a neutral venue in the Cayman Islands.