CALGARY — Flashback to 1985.
Rocky Balboa versus Ivan Drago going toe-to-toe in the boxing ring. A crowd going crazy in the background as the two juggernauts trade punches, trying to hold their ground over the course of 12 gruelling rounds.
That’s how Cavalry FC head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. sees this Canadian Championship semi-final versus the Montreal Impact.
“All we talked about was staying in the tie,” he told CanPL.ca of last week’s meeting in Quebec. “When they went up 2-0 and didn’t score that third, we felt we were still in the fight. It’s like Rocky IV, like going to Russia. Ivan Drago is just pounding the hell out of him, and Rocky is just staying on his feet, staying in the fight, especially when we went down to 10 men. We said we have to stay in the fight. It just speaks volume about the character of our boys.”
And the team will be looking to dish out a powerful uppercut of its own Wednesday night during the second leg at ATCO Field, as the Impact come to Calgary leading 2-1 on aggregate but with the home team holding a crucial away goal that could be a potential difference-maker.
“We bring that valuable away goal back to Spruce Meadows, a place that’s a vibrant atmosphere that’s close, compact, noisy, the field will be slower. It’s a real opportunity for us to have a go at them,” Wheeldon Jr. explained.
Calgary’s goal in Montreal last Wednesday came off the foot of Sergio Camargo, who echoes the comments of his bench boss.
“We know the Impact are the biggest test we’ve had all season,” the midfielder said. “But, we have them at home now. We love playing here.”
By all accounts, the Impact are gearing up to play their top starting 11, which is something Camargo and Wheeldon Jr. both welcome and have come to expect.
“We want that challenge,” Camargo emphasized. “We want to be able to measure up against their best. Obviously, it would be nice to go through and play the easiest team that they have, but at the same time, you want to say that you beat the top 11, the strongest lineup Montreal had. That means you played for something.”
While it appears Montreal will be without the services of Ignacio Piatti due to injury, there are plenty of other threats on the Impact roster.
“Although that is good for us, they have other weapons that they can put on the field that can hurt us,” Camargo admitted.
“They don’t have a shortage [of fire power],” Wheeldon Jr. stated. “Bojan Krkic just came over from Stoke. They just brought back Ballou Tabla, who was in Barcelona. You’re looking at their roster wondering which piece of talent they can throw. Whoever they go with, we have to make sure that we nullify them as best as possible. Don’t give them an easy chance like we did for the first goal in Montreal. We don’t want to extend that courtesy again. We want to make it tight and cagey. The longer it stays a close game, the longer we have a chance of scoring.”
Like Rocky Balboa said, “it ain’t over ’til it’s over” for Cavalry, as the Calgary club has a chance to deliver a knockout punch at home come Wednesday night.