SANDOR: Cavalry fans enjoy night to remember … even with stinging result

CALGARY – Cavalry FC coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. asked Calgarians to have Spruce Meadows full 10 minutes before his team and the Montreal Impact walked out for the second leg of their 2019 Canadian Championship Semi-Final bout.

He wanted his team to feel the wall of noise from a capacity crowd. He wanted the Impact to know how strongly Calgary was behind their Canadian Premier League team.

But, despite the bluster of the home crowd, it was the Impact that got off to the quick start. Down 2-1 after the first leg, the home side gave up a goal in the 11th minute, and couldn’t recover, despite launching 18 attempts at the Impact goal. A 1-0 loss ended the run of the final CPL team in the Canadian Championship on Wednesday night.

How often do we see it? The home side comes out to a massive welcome, but it’s the road team that responds.

Just moments into the game, Jay Wheeldon’s back pass to keeper Marco Carducci took an awkward hop on the Spruce Meadows grass. The ball passed over Carducci’s foot and the crowd breathed a collective sigh of relief as the ball skipped just wide.

And Impact striker Anthony Jackson-Hamel got the first goal of the game — and the Impact’s third goal of the tie — off a Saphir Taider. It was an odd-looking goal. For a Cavalry team that prides itself on maybe being the CPL’s best on set pieces, there had to be blushes on giving up a goal on a corner that Jackson-Hamel had to crouch down to head into the net. No, he didn’t have to rise high to win the ball; he had the opportunity to wait for the ball to come to him.

But, when asked about the beginning of the game, Cavalry coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. denied any notion of his team being off to a nervy start.

“I thought we pressed the action, got in behind them, I thought we started very well,” he said. “We asked the fans to be in their seats early. The reason being, as we grow this football culture in our country, when you look at any pictures in Europe, the fans are there in the seats, ready to welcome the players… I think the boys, you could see their chests were puffed up… I couldn’t thank our fans enough.”

As the single bank of floodlights struggled to illuminate the field as darkness set in, fans set their cellphones alight.

“I wouldn’t say we were nervous,” said defender Mason Trafford. “We were ready, we were eager, we were hungry. We had the belief we were going to turn the tide and advance.”

He said that being bathed in cellphone light is a memory that will stick with him.

For Shamit Shome, the Impact starter who got his pro start at FC Edmonton, it marked the first time he’s played in Calgary since his University of Alberta.

“It’s been a long time since I played here, it reminded me of when I was a kid,” said Shome, who played in front of his family, who made the drive south to see the game.

Well, that’s one Alberta family that went home happy.