Final Score: Cavalry FC 2-0 Atlético Ottawa
Goalscorers: Camargo 22′, Klomp 67′
Game of the 2023 season: 24
CPL match: 391
Match in a minute or less
Cavalry FC have finally picked up their first win of the 2023 season, with a 2-0 victory at ATCO Field over Atlético Ottawa. Prior to this weekend, the Cavs had managed a CPL record five-straight draws (shared with Halifax Wanderers), meaning that they remain the only team other than Forge to still be undefeated this season after the Wanderers’ loss against York.
Sergio Camargo opened the scoring on the second phase of a free kick in the 22nd minute, before Daan Klomp doubled Cavalry’s lead in the 67th minute on another well-worked set-piece routine.
It was the Calgary side’s first clean sheet of the season as well, but one which keeper Marco Carducci didn’t have to do much to earn with Ottawa managing just a single shot on target — an inconsequential Luke Singh free kick from distance. With the win, Calvary moved up into third place in the table.
Patient build-up, quick ball movement in midfield, see Cavalry to first win of 2023
It is one thing knowing what to expect when Atlético Ottawa comes to town and an entirely different challenge to maintain composure and belief for an entire 90 minutes against a side determined to stay patient and in their shape. It is a task, in fact, that Cavalry greatly struggled with both times that Atleti visited ATCO Field last season.
However, that is exactly what Cavalry managed to do on Sunday evening, completing 84.9 per cent of their 485 passes, and patiently shifting the ball from side to side throughout the match while expertly picking their moments to strike.
“I think Carlos is a fabulous coach, he’s got them well organized, they know their jobs, they are disciplined, so we had to be as well,” said Cavalry FC head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. “We knew our opportunities would come if we kept disciplined because the movement of the ball, the circling, we had to bait their press to create the spaces and that is what I am very pleased with today. The boys trusted the system.”
The Cavalry passing chart below shows just how much the club switched play over the course of 90 minutes, carefully choosing their opportunities to go forward.
The crucial next phase, however, was to turn that possession into opportunities, and Cavalry consistently did that through clever runs and combination play in the middle of the park.
In his 57 minutes of action, Camargo was critical to that effort, as he consistently popped up in pockets of space between the lines to facilitate the host’s attack. His tireless movement also created openings for the team’s other attacking weapons to exploit, whether it was running beyond fellow attackers Myer Bevan and Ali Musse, or dropping deep to collect the ball — the unpredictability of Camargo’s movement was key to unlocking the Ottawa backline.
“Ottawa is always very organized, we knew what we were up against and I think our dynamic movement in the midfield, everyone in the midfield we knew we had to get them moving, we caused problems for them and we just had to try to shift them as quickly as possible to get chances, and we did that today,” said Camargo.
Set pieces the difference, as Cavalry ‘adapt and overcome’
After an incredibly frustrating start to the 2023 season for Cavalry, which has seen them already drop 10 points from winning positions, there were a few moments in this match which could have changed its course.
The first came just 15 minutes in, when after some brilliant combination play, Camargo was slipped through into the Ottawa box, only to sky his clear-cut opportunity. Just over five minutes later, however, when the ball fell to Camargo again off of a half-cleared Cavalry free-kick, Cavalry’s #10 made no mistake sliding the ball through traffic and into the back of the net.
Early in the second half, Cavalry looked to have found their second goal through an excellent strike from José Escalante, only for it to be called back as Myer Bevan was deemed to have interfered with Sean Melvin from an offside position.
Hard done by the decision or not, Cavalry didn’t let another decision decide their fate in this match, as just over 10 minutes later they finally doubled their lead through a brilliant set-piece routine. Fraser Aird, who was exceptional on the night, creating three chances and playing 8 crosses, delivered perhaps his best ball of the night, which Musse headed into the path of Klomp for the central defender to tap home.
The Calgary club has developed a reputation for being lethal from dead-ball situations, and this was another example of that in action. Set pieces have proven to be a bit of a thorn in Ottawa’s defensively solid side this year, and Cavalry took full advantage.
After a season so far where the ‘bounces’ maybe haven’t gone their way, Cavalry made some bounces of their own, and for the most part, those came from free-kick opportunities.
Atlético Ottawa punished for lack of ambition, invention in attack
There was always going to be some sort of course correction after Atlético Ottawa had scored a club-record five goals last week against Vancouver FC. But Ottawa elected to return to a defensive shape that never really came out of its shell during a disappointingly negative performance on Sunday.
It started, in some ways with the tactical decision to play Malcolm Shaw as wide midfielder instead of Gianni dos Santos. The idea, according to González was to shift Shaw centrally when they were on the ball, as well as the defensive coverage he would provide against Ali Musse. He was supposed to share that responsibility with the solid MacDonald Niba, who unfortunately had to be removed through injury in the 19th minute.
Shaw actually did quite an admirable job against one of the league’s best attackers, but as a microcosm of what went wrong for Ottawa on the day, his defensive positioning removed him from being an attacking outlet. The graphic below shows just how far the Atlético Ottawa left side was pinned back through 90 minutes — as well as the average position of all their starting players during the match.
“We had trouble getting out when we won the ball,” said Atleti defender Max Tissot after the match. “Because we were sitting deep at times, guys maybe weren’t in the proper positions to help us get the ball forward and then try to create something from there. I feel like our first pass out was a low percentage pass, a risky one, which complicated things for us.”
There was also, especially in the first half, a complete lack of the sort of pressing energy that makes Ottawa so dangerous when they are at their best. At one point in the first half, a frustrated Ollie Bassett went on a solo marauding run without the ball in the Cavalry half to press their backline after his team had been pinned in their shape for several minutes.
Tissot mentioned that struggling in transition in matches where they allow the first goal has been an issue that has haunted Atleti since last year any time they went down a goal early. Seeing as this was the fifth time in six CPL matches this season that they have done that, something will have to change soon in the capital.
CanPL.ca Player of the Match
Sergio Camargo, Cavalry FC
He played just 57 minutes in the match, but Camargo was the spark that ignited an impressive offensive effort from Cavalry. He had a goal on three shot attempts while completing four dribbles and winning an impressive match-leading nine duels.
Cavalry FC are off to York Lions Stadium next Sunday, May 28, where they take on York United (3:00 p.m. MT). Atlético Ottawa, meanwhile, search for their first home win over the season as they host league-leaders Forge on Saturday, May 27 (2:00 p.m. ET)
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