‘Sharpening the axe’: Wheeldon Jr. aims for match readiness after successful pre-season

CALGARY – Mission accomplished.

That’s how Cavalry FC head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. is feeling after his squad’s recent training camp stint in the Dominican Republic.

“Good competition,” Wheeldon Jr. succinctly told of the exhibition matches his side played while in the Caribbean. “We played a Dominican team that presented the perfect CONCACAF experience if you will. They were unorthodox, and they were physical, technical. They played different styles of defending. We also got a chance to face our May 4 opponent in York9 FC.”

Three games in 10 days — all of them wins. While victories are always ideal, it’s about the bigger picture for Wheeldon Jr. ahead of the aforementioned season opener and making sure each member of his group has seen plenty of time on the pitch in competitive action before that meeting.

“Our chemistry is coming together,” Wheeldon Jr. said. “The next step is sharpening the axe. In our first game, everyone played 45 minutes. The second game was ‘Can we get players to 75 and 90?’ We did the same thing for the final game. Everyone left there with a game and a half or more under their belt.”

Earlier this week, the club announced the multi-year contract of 17-year-old Calgary product Victor Loturi. When the coach teased his midfielder’s signing a few weeks ago, he offered a style comparison to legendary Canadian national Atiba Hutchinson.

“Lovely feel for the ball,” Wheeldon Jr. recalled of his early impressions of Loturi. “He plays the game with such intelligence. We brought him into the prospects camp, a few training sessions, and he didn’t skip a beat. He’s humble, and he’s hard working. He’s got time with us now to develop. We’ll be patient with his progress.”

While Loturi checks a lot of boxes when it comes to technique, the youngster also offers a local player for the Cavs faithful to look up to, showing others developing in the Calgary ranks that there is a road to professional soccer in their home city.

“I always talk about the road to the 2026 World Cup and what we’ve done is we’ve created a pathway” the Cavs’ coach explained. “We also have to look at ourselves and say beyond Kevin McKenna, Charlie Trafford and Sam Adekugbe, what is our Calgary footprint on the national team? Who is the next wave after Sam and Charlie? We need that now, and we need to start working together. Our mandate has to give these young players a chance.”

While the opening games of the inaugural Canadian Premier League season kick off next weekend, action for the Cavalry isn’t until May 4. But Wheeldon Jr. doesn’t mind the wait, because there are still a few ‘to dos’ before that opening whistle, including an official roster launch next Wednesday and then an open house with fans at Spruce Meadows.

And for anyone not familiar with weather in southern Alberta, it can be precarious at the best of times, especially in early May.

Does that mean Wheeldon Jr. is keeping an eye on the long-range forecast?

“Oh no, no,” he said with a laugh. “Still too far out.”

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