MATCH ANALYSIS: Last-gasp winner lifts Cavalry to exhilarating win at Atlético Ottawa

Final Score: Atlético Ottawa 1-2 Cavalry FC
Goalscorers: Singh 88′; Camargo 45′, Akio 90+8′
Game of the 2023 season: 87
CPL match: 454

Match in a minute or less

Cavalry FC stayed hot on Saturday night, winning an incredibly boisterous affair at TD Place, 2-1 over Atlético Ottawa. The first half saw the visiting Calgarians fairly comfortable, taking a lead just before halftime thanks to Sergio Camargo’s goal from a quick transition in the final third.

The Cavs protected that one-goal lead for most of the second half, but sometime during the last half-hour a game that had been a chess match turned into a slugfest. Not only did the intensity increase, but so too did Ottawa’s attacking impetus, right up until the 88th minute when they won a corner, which Carl Haworth sent across the box to where Luke Singh scored with an outrageous acrobatic volley, tying the game and seemingly rescuing a point for Atleti.

The result was not to be, though; in the eighth minute of stoppage time, with almost the last kick of the ball, a second-phase set-piece ball fell kindly in the box near Maël Henry, who played it into traffic where it came to William Akio, who turned in a tight space to fire it home and score a dramatic winner, keeping Cavalry four points clear at the top of the table.

Three Observations

‘The Cavalry way’ lifts visitors to dramatic statement away win

In his interview on OneSoccer after the match, Sergio Camargo made reference to doing things “the Cavalry way.”

Last week, Tommy Wheeldon Jr. spoke about how his side is becoming a “new Cavalry, with old values.” Certainly, this team continues to evolve tactically, but several core pieces of the club’s historical identity remain fundamental to how they go about their business. They remain a tenacious, annoying side to play against, with an edge that has a tendency to frustrate opposing players.

“I can’t give you all our trade secrets, but a big one for us is unity, belief, competitiveness,” Camargo elaborated. “We trust in our coaching staff and our scouting system to bring in the talent. It’s up to us to bring it all together and keep that effort and desire high every game.”

Something else that absolutely has not gone away is their ability to press with energy and make it difficult for teams to play out of the back.

Playing in Ottawa, against an Atleti side that has always been a thorn in their side (Cavalry had won just two out of 11 meetings), the league leaders showed no fear or signs of pressure, defending on the front foot. In the first half alone, they won possession in the final third five times — including in the build-up to Sergio Camargo’s opening goal.

That moment was an excellent demonstration of how ruthless this Cavs side has started to become; although last year at times they struggled to finish off promising moves after winning the ball, this season they’ve been a little more efficient and dangerous going forward with pace in those situations.

“I think the adrenaline’s still coursing through my veins,” Tommy Wheeldon Jr. told reporters after the emotional victory. “That was a hell of a match — both sides. They’ve scored an incredible equalizer that you think has got them a point, and we knew that we had a moment when Maël Henry came in, we knew Willy Akio has been on form, we knew something could happen.

“Tactically there were some great changes on both sides, it was physical at times but let’s not undervalue the ability and quality of both teams as well. It literally brought everything.”

Wheeldon went on to add that adding to the incredible playoff atmosphere of this game was a bit of hostility and banter between sides. Last season, Atleti went to Calgary and won big, prompting players to shush the ATCO Field crowd. Now, the Cavs have struck one back on a quest for a regular season title of their own.

If this is the kind of bite that Cavalry will continue to play with over the next two months, a trophy — or two — may very well be in their future.

PHOTO: Matt Zambonin/Freestyle Photography

‘Heartbreaker’ for Ottawa but performance not enough for result

This match was incredibly close to being another memorable, happy night at TD Place, a place where Atlético Ottawa had been unbeaten in their last seven games.

For the elation following Luke Singh’s wondergoal to be ripped away so quickly would be extremely painful for Ottawa, who had worked very hard late in the second half to get themselves back in the game.

Of course, they’ll also emerge from this match feeling their 90-minute performance was not strong enough for a result. They finished with just five shots, their only one on target being Singh’s goal, and they had only nine touches in the penalty area — three of them in the first half.

Head coach Carlos González, perhaps surprisingly, admitted postmatch that his team had been caught off guard somewhat by Cavalry’s tactics, especially their press.

“They surprised us. The way they pressed, the way they were defending, it was an unexpected way. This creates a little bit of uncertainty in how we play, how to break them down, how to get into the correct areas,” González said.

He added: “They were a little bit more hungry at the beginning. I saw that in every single individual action, and this cannot happen at this stage of the season. Collectively, as I said, I put my hand up because they surprised us. Their plan was a little bit different to what I was expecting. I felt that at halftime we did two subs and changed small details, and we equalized everything again. We started to see a better plan, a better map of what was going on in the field.”

González did bring in Carl Haworth (who assisted the equalizing goal) and Noah Verhoeven at halftime, and the adjustments did help Ottawa retain the ball more, though ultimately not enough.

Because of how tight the table is, Atleti have now found themselves in a position where they could fall as low as fifth if Forge and Halifax win this weekend. They head out to Vancouver next weekend, which begins a three-game week that’ll see them touch both coasts with a home match against Pacific in between.

Not an easy run, but winning a title never is.

PHOTO: Matt Zambonin/Freestyle Photography

Cavalry back three continues to evolve as ‘press-resistant’ Klomp steps forward more

This new-look Cavalry back line debuted a couple of weeks ago, but its evolution continued in this match with Daan Klomp given more license than ever to step forward into midfield, both on and off the ball. For stretches in the first half, Klomp did a lot of running to track Ottawa striker Samuel Salter — helping limit him to just seven first-half touches (including a kickoff), none of which was in the final third.

On the ball, Klomp could often be seen strolling forward into midfield, first looking for a dangerous pass to pick out but occasionally choosing instead to take it himself. It’s not every day a centre-back ends up with a shot on target from open play, but Klomp had a fairly dangerous effort from just outside the box in the first half after a clever bit of interplay through midfield to get himself into an attacking position.

“We know that they were going to press in a certain way, but when they do so how do you have players that are press resistant,” Tommy Wheeldon Jr. explained. “For me, Daan Klomp’s one of them. There’s a nice little versatility that Charlie [Trafford] and him have, a little rotation and a rollout and it just gets us into the second line of our attack.”

Also worth pointing out: Tom Field, who hadn’t played a professional match since 2021 and only recently returned to the Cavalry squad after regaining his fitness with Calgary Foothills this year, came off the bench surprisingly early in the second half. For a player still returning to full match sharpness, he was trusted with over half an hour of difficult defensive work in a one-goal game. For a lot of that time, Field — a natural left-back — had to play on the right side of the back three, as well. Overall, a good evening for the 26-year-old former Brentford player.

“He’s been the 19th man for a while, just being patient knowing that we were on a good run,” Wheeldon said about Field. “He’s a pro that’s played at a high level and if it wasn’t for his injuries he would probably have been with us from the start of the season.”

Wheeldon added: “They had a tactical game plan to get after [Eryk] Kobza because he had a yellow card, not too dissimilar to Luke Singh on a yellow card the other way. It could have gone, it’s a mistimed challenge here, a late tackle there and suddenly you’re down to 10 men — and this is not a place you want to play with 10 men. We shuffled the deck, Tom played on the right side and I thought was very comfortable. Then when Brad [Kamdem] starts cramping, we put him on the left side as well. That kind of versatility is important in the run-in.” Player of the Match

Daan Klomp, Cavalry FC

The Dutch centre-back continues to stir the drink for Cavalry, playing in the middle of the back three. He led his team with 51 accurate passes and won five of seven duels, commanding the general organization of the team both in and out of possession.

What’s next?

Both sides will be on the road as part of a CPL doubleheader next Saturday, Sept. 9, when Cavalry travel to Hamilton to play Forge FC (7 p.m. ET), while Ottawa head west to take on Vancouver FC (7 p.m. PT/10 p.m. ET).

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