PREVIEW: FC Edmonton vs. Cavalry FC — Match #59

2021 CPL regular season — Match #59
FC Edmonton vs. Cavalry FC
September 1, 2021 at 9 pm ET/7 pm MT
Clarke Stadium, Edmonton, Alberta
Watch Live: // Tickets available here


For the second time in just a few days, the two Alberta CPL teams will square off in another Al Classico showdown, this time with Cavalry FC visiting FC Edmonton for a match on Wednesday evening.

These clubs met on Sunday in Calgary, where they played out quite an exciting 2-2 draw; the Eddies, taking a 65th-minute lead from the penalty spot, looked poised to hold on for their first ever win over the Cavs, but Joe Mason had other ideas when he scored to equalize just before stoppage time. So, FCE are still looking for their first win against their provincial rivals after failing to secure the three points in eight attempts (plus a defeat in the Canadian Championship earlier in March).

Alan Koch’s Edmonton side were frustrated to miss out on that big away win, and perhaps even more frustrated to be winless in their last five league games (although they’ve earned a point in three of them). They currently sit sixth in the CPL standings, eight points back of Valour FC (with a game in hand, though) for the fourth and final playoff spot. A statement home win here, however, could go a long way toward turning things around; the Eddies are just three points behind York United, who also play on Wednesday night, so it’s not impossible that they draw level with the Nine Stripes in fifth.

FCE have played Cavalry three times now in the past month, taking a lead against them in two of those games but not securing the win yet. Still, after playing them so many times, have the Eddies started to figure out how to play against this particular foe?

“I think we’ve learned more about ourselves than about Cavalry,” Koch told reporters Tuesday. “I’ve said it several times, right now they are ahead of us as a team and they’re where we want to get to and beyond. We’re trying to shrink that gap as much as we can. We almost did it on Sunday, but almost in this business is not enough. Now it’s about trying to get another opportunity tomorrow to see if we can take it and embrace it and make the most of it.”

Cavalry, meanwhile, will be happier with recent results, now undefeated in five matches. They were disappointed not to win on Sunday against Edmonton, having heavily out-possessed and out-chanced their fellow Albertans, but their late goal to take at least one point was still a welcome sight for Tommy Wheeldon Jr. The Cavs are third in the table right now, although they’re equal with second-placed Forge FC on points (the Hamilton side has a better goal differential). Since Forge don’t play midweek, Cavalry could jump back into second place and even draw level with first-placed Pacific FC with a win.

According to Wheeldon, the Cavs are starting to get a little healthier after some concerns, although a few key contributors — Ali Musse, Tom Field, and Oliver Minatel — will likely be returning to the squad sometime in mid-September. The coach has had a tough job in picking squads recently, having to balance rotation and maintaining freshness with putting as much firepower on the pitch as possible.

He explained in his prematch press conference:: “Do you go up there with everything you’ve got, or do you rotate and manage? Looking at the big picture, like I’ve looked at previously, we’ve led the table more than most clubs, and then really at the end, we ran into injuries near the back end of the season. This year, we’ve tried to manage the bubble, we’ve tried to manage the rotations, and when you play the same opponent six times sometimes you want to throw a bit of a curveball.”

We’ll see on Wednesday night at Clarke Stadium whether either side has another of those curveballs in store.

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  • Cavs embark on marathon road trip: Starting on Wednesday, Cavalry will begin a run of seven consecutive CPL games away from home — mercifully, broken up after the first four by a home date in the Canadian Championship. The Calgary side has managed to pick up points in recent games on the road (a 2-1 win at Pacific, and a 2-0 CanChamp win over Edmonton), but it’s never easy to be away from home for that long. Of course, playing outside of Spruce Meadows is nothing new to them, having been through the bubble experiences of the Island Games in 2020 and the Kickoff in Winnipeg to open this season, but it’ll still be a difficult stretch to manage. Tommy Wheeldon Jr. offered that his side is capable of handling a test like this: “It’s a mobile bubble, that’s how we’re approaching it. If you strip it back and take it to the simplest tee, we’ve played more away games than we actually ever will… When you know those facts you kind of adapt around it and just feel comfortable living out of a suitcase, being on the road, turning up and crashing people’s parties whether you’re playing in front of no fans or their fans. We kind of like it to be honest, we’ve always been a bit of a disruptor of the league.”
  • FCE look to be protagonists at home: Edmonton played quite a defensive style on Sunday at ATCO Field, with usual midfielders Hunter Gorskie and Ramon Soria playing in defence due to a suspension to Amer Didic. Koch was, overall, pleased with his side’s ability to execute their game plan to try and keep Cavalry from opening them up and exposing them, but he mentioned on Tuesday that he’s not necessarily looking for things to play out similarly in Wednesday’s reverse fixture. The coach explained that he’d like to get the attack more involved, despite the short turnaround between games: “I thought the plan that we had (on Sunday) was very good, but we sat back a little bit more than we’d like to. So now, coming home, we want to be the protagonists more. We’re looking forward to embracing a different type of game because no two games are exactly the same. What happened on Sunday, there may be some similarities in the game tomorrow night, but it will be a completely different match.”
  • Can Eddies put pressure on Cavalry CBs? One of the Cavs’ greatest strengths so far this season has been their ability to deploy mobile, skilled centre-backs like Daan Klomp, David Norman Jr., and Karifa Yao that have excellent passing range and ability on the ball. Cavalry made 587 total passes on Sunday against the Eddies (the visitors made just 267), as they looked to play out of the back repeatedly and allow their attackers and fullbacks to get forward more freely. On the other side of the coin, Edmonton invited the Cavs to play that sort of possession style, putting up a low block with their own defenders and midfielders which made it hard for Cavalry to break them down. The Eddies have, in the past, used their strikers — Easton Ongaro or Tobias Warschewski (or both) — to put pressure on defenders trying to play out like that, so perhaps they might look to take away some of Cavalry’s space this time? According to Koch, Ongaro logged more distance covered than any other Eddies player on Sunday; he’s a player with excellent stamina who could, perhaps, cause real problems for ball-playing centre-backs.


Cavalry FC wins: 6 || FC Edmonton wins: 0 || Draws: 2

Previous match:

August 29, 2021 — Cavalry 2-2 FC Edmonton


“(Alan Koch) is a very good coach… The fact that they’ve changed their system to accommodate us is often a compliment.” — Cavalry FC head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr.

“We’re having our ups, we’re having our downs; we’d love to win every single game, I think that’s unrealistic, but we’ll focus on the process of what we need to do and where we’re going. We have a long term vision, we don’t get caught up in the daily ups and daily downs.” — FC Edmonton head coach Alan Koch