SANDOR: Did Valour, FCE preserve Fall title race with late equalizers?

Forge FC and Calvary FC were poised to make early breaks from the pack in the Fall-season standings. Early Saturday afternoon, Cavalry had a 1-0 lead over Valour FC in Winnipeg at the 90-minute mark. Later that day, through 88 minutes of their match in the Alberta capital, Forge had a 1-0 lead over FC Edmonton.

Had those results held, Cavalry would have been a perfect four for four Fall-season matches, and coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr.’s men would have been on 12 points. Forge FC would have earned 12 points through five matches.

York9 would have been three points back, but teams four through seven in the standings would have all been eight points or more back of the top two.

Even though we’re less than a month into the Fall season, we might just have been talking about a three-team race.

But, it was not to be. There were twists to come. Both Cavalry and Forge surrendered late equalizers.

In Winnipeg, Valour FC’s Marco Bustos converted from the spot, squeaking the ball past Cavalry’s Marco Carducci, despite the fact that the keeper guessed correctly and dove the right way.

In Edmonton, Amer Didic delivered an inch-perfect cross for Easton Ongaro to head home — it was Ongaro’s first Canadian Premier League goal, and an important make-up moment for Didic, who collided with keeper Connor James in the lead-up to Forge’s goal.

Those two goals combined to have a massive effect on the standings. Instead of being eight points back from the leaders, FC Edmonton got a point while Forge and Cavalry FC dropped two. So, as of today, the Eddies are five points back, and have a game in hand on Forge. The Eddies host a reeling HFX Wanderers team on Wednesday, and will be the likely favourites to make up three more points. The Wanderers have just one draw to show for eight road matches over the course of the spring and Fall seasons — so it would require a major reversal of form for the visitors to shock FCE at Clarke Stadium.

York9 is just a point back.

Now, only one team — Valour FC — is eight points back. As mentioned earlier, had Cavalry and Forge sealed their deals, there would have been four teams eight points back or more.

While readers in Hamilton and Calgary will vociferously disagree, and, while losing two points early in the Fall season might be forgotten in just a few weeks, anything that keeps one or two teams from running away from the pack is good for the league as a whole — especially a league in season one of its existence.

There’s another important correlation between the two late equalizers. Let’s face it, Forge and Cavalry have received the majority of the attention so far this season. They’ve developed the most notable rivalry in the CPL. Cavalry has won the spring season and became the first CPL team to beat MLS competition. Forge begins play in the CONCACAF League this week.

So, maybe more important than the points lost is, that on one Saturday, both of these teams were pegged back. They weren’t untouchable. They were fallible. Instead of being able to see (yet another) win out, each of them slipped up with what looked to be a sure three points in the bag.