2022 CPL Regular Season — Match #59
Cavalry FC vs. York United
July 19, 2022 at 7:30 p.m. MT/9:30 p.m ET
ATCO Field in Calgary, Alberta
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York United are in Alberta this week seeking a massive turnaround in form, as they head to Spruce Meadows for a clash with league-leading Cavalry FC.
Martin Nash’s Nine Stripes have had a very frustrating run of late, with no wins in their last 10 matches — being outscored 15-3 in that stretch. On Friday night, they appeared poised to right the ship against Pacific FC at home as they had a pair of one-goal leads against the champions, but it ultimately wasn’t to be as an Alejandro Díaz hat-trick lifted the Tridents to a 4-2 win at York Lions Stadium and York’s fourth consecutive defeat.
As it stands, York is seventh in the table heading into the Tuesday night slate of CPL matches. They have 11 points from 15 matches so far, with a 2-5-8 record, putting them nine points back of Forge FC for the final playoff spot. They sit just one point above last-place FC Edmonton, having scored just nine goals this season — the only side not to hit double digits yet.
Still, there continues to be hope for Nash and his team; after struggling for depth all year, they appear to finally have a few options in attack, with Ronan Kratt scoring his first pro goal on Friday and fellow summer signings Kevin Dos Santos and Luis Lawrie-Lattanzio making their debuts as well. The return of Michael Petrasso off the bench was also a hugely positive sign, as was Osaze De Rosario getting on the scoresheet again.
This game will also see two suspended players return, as Jordan Wilson and Mateo Hernández are available again after missing Friday’s contest. Unfortunately, it looks as though Max Ferrari won’t be fit for this game, having injured his ankle in a nasty collision against Pacific.
Cavalry, meanwhile, has had a far more positive start to the year. They sit atop the league table at the midway point of the season, with an 8-4-2 record and 28 points, with more goals scored (27) than any other team in the CPL.
Tommy Wheeldon Jr.’s men are currently in the midst of a club-record unbeaten stretch, having not suffered a defeat for 11 consecutive games. Cavalry’s last loss was on April 22 — just their third match of the season — when they lost 2-0 to this same York side, in a game that Wheeldon has since pointed to as something of a turning point for his group.
“The league table is a nice placeholder, but what’s really important is how you finish the season in October,” Wheeldon told reporters on Monday. “We’re not getting too carried away; I’ve always been a fan of the league table and until that changes we’ll play it for what it is, one game at a time. Let’s live above the line of four, stay in the playoff numbers, and then when we get there that’s when we’ll be judged over the 28-game season.”
Last time out, the Cavs comfortably saw off HFX Wanderers FC with a 3-0 home win last Thursday, in which Ali Musse found the net twice and Sergio Camargo added a third all within 10 minutes of the second half to claim all three points.
In terms of squad availability, Cavalry has had a few positive developments recently, including David Norman Jr.’s return from suspension and Joe Di Chiara making his first start of the year on Thursday. Mason Trafford and Myer Bevan remain the two main fitness concerns at the moment (not counting those who remain out with long-term injuries). Aribim Pepple also won’t be with the team, as Wheeldon revealed in his pre-match press conference that the youngster is on the verge of signing for a club in Europe after Cavalry agreed to a deal in principle recently.
These sides have met twice already this year, both of them at York Lions Stadium. After York took the first meeting 2-0, Cavalry won the second by 1-0 scoreline in late May thanks to Pepple’s first CPL goal.
York gaffer Nash is, of course, very familiar with Cavalry, having worked under Wheeldon as an assistant coach for three years, as both managers will be very keen on claiming bragging rights over his longtime friend.
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3 THINGS TO WATCH
- York is desperate for goals, not at expense of defence: It’s becoming repetitive to say that York has struggled to score this season, but it remains the biggest storyline surrounding the club. They’ve put the ball in the net just nine times in the league — and Osaze De Rosario alone has five of those goals, with no other player accounting for more than one. Friday’s game against Pacific seemed an improvement in that respect, especially with Ronan Kratt getting off the ground so early; Nash opted to change his attacking tactics somewhat with a quasi-3-4-3 formation in possession, which really did seem to help them get into more dangerous areas, but he also pointed out post-match that he felt it had left them a little exposed at the back. York continues searching for a way to adequately replace Diyaeddine Abzi’s ability both on and off the ball on the left side; Max Ferrari’s deployment as a wingback on Friday seemed a positive development there, but with his injury, it may be back to the drawing board. York absolutely have to find a way to score more than their current 0.6 goals per game record, but ideally not at the expense of their greatest strength, which for most of this season has been their defensive solidity. “It’s been that way all season, the fine margins,” Nash said Friday night. “We seem to find a way to make the mistake or not score the goal; it’s been a funny season. At least now we’ve got some options, we can change the game a little bit and bring in some options whereas we couldn’t do that before, but I don’t want to lose the defensive identity that we have. We’ve got to find a way to get back to that and work on it because I think that’s got to be a staple for a young team like ours.”
- Second-phase set-pieces a danger area: One of the things that frustrated Martin Nash most about their loss to Pacific was the fact that York had conceded yet again on the second phase of a set-piece — this time, it was centre-back Amer Didic getting all the way to the end line to cut a ball back for Díaz’s second goal. “This is probably the fourth time now in the last five or six games where we’ve conceded on a second phase of a corner,” Nash said after that game. “We don’t clear the ball fully, we’re ready to all transition and the ball comes back in. We talked about it, we showed them, we worked on it, and still mental errors keep hurting us.” It’ll be imperative that York sort that problem out as soon as possible, especially when they have to play Cavalry — undoubtedly the best set-piece team in the Canadian Premier League. With just three days between games, it’s unlikely Nash will have had time to address the issue on the training pitch, but some work in the video room and an emphasis in prematch discussion will hopefully help his side find its focus when it comes to properly clearing those dangerous opportunities.
- Beware the Spruce Meadows fortress: Cavalry have been perfect at ATCO Field to start the 2022 season, with five wins from five league matches so far. That’s currently tied with a run Cavalry made at the end of 2019 for the most consecutive CPL home games won within one season, meaning they could set another record from this run of form if they beat York on Tuesday. In the Canadian Premier League, where travel (among other factors) makes points very hard to come by on the road, it’s vital to bank as many results as possible on home turf. That’s part of what has set Cavalry apart from other sides this year, with how good they’ve been at Spruce Meadows. Manager Tommy Wheeldon Jr. puts that down to a variety of factors, including their grass pitch — one of just two in the CPL. “We’ve got the best pitch and stadium in the league, in my humble opinion,” he said Monday. “I think grass does make a difference; turf, you understand that our climate calls for it, but there’s nothing like playing on grass, it’s the purest element of it. We get to train on it, so it does give us a bit of an advantage. And then our crowd is brilliant; whether it’s the Foot Soldiers, the grandstand, the friends and families, there’s a great atmosphere there and our players play up for it, it does become our 12th man.”
Cavalry wins: 8 || York United wins: 1 || Draws: 2
May 29, 2022 — York United 0-1 Cavalry FC
“[York] have everything to gain and nothing to lose. They’re in a tough run of form, but we watched them against Pacific and I personally thought they were the better team… We’re not gonna take York lightly; the league table is nice but we take every game as it comes, just one-off games. Essentially, it’s a best-of-four series, we’re tied one-one with York and we want to win the series against them.” — Cavalry FC head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr.
“It’s not gonna be easy, [Cavalry] are flying high right now. We’re gonna have to go in with the right mindset and we’re gonna have to be solid defensively because they’re scoring a lot of goals, so we’re going to have to manage the game well.” — York United head coach Martin Nash