Okay. Let’s not beat around the bush here. Cavalry FC’s 8-0 victory over Valour FC is the talking point of Week 18. Sure, there were midweek matches and a CONCACAF League battle between Forge FC and Olimpia, and yes, of course, we’ll break all that down too, but coming off a Labour Day doubleheader, it’s pretty clear there’s one point we need to examine further, right?
So, without further ado, here’s what we saw from Week 18.
7. The days that define us
There are but a few moments in the history of a football club that stand the test of time.
Even the grandest outfits in world football can count on no more than two hands the iconic images that permeate through decades of highs and lows. If you’re a fan of the Brazilian national team, no doubt the sight of a teenage Pele lifting the World Cup high above his head is one of those moments … as is a sobbing David Luiz burying his head in his hands as Germany scored their last goal in a 7-1 drubbing in front of a shell-shocked crowd in Belo Horizonte.
As Valour FC’s players will learn over the next few weeks, a short history means the memory of significant wins and losses won’t fade quite so fast; nor can they be compensated for with reminders of not-too-distant glories, now left in the past. A short history means a brutal 8-0 lossto Cavalry FC on Labour Day at IG Field will sting much more painfully; it means that the fans in Winnipeg will grow cynical if things don’t turn around, and fast.
When coach Rob Gale built Valour FC, he said he wanted to bring together a team that would “make the province of Manitoba proud.”
“Winnipeg,” he explained, “is one of the smallest big cities you’ll ever find.”
As such, Valour needed to be filled with “good characters” above all else.
“They need to understand the culture,” Gale outlined. “We’re trying to build certain values as an organization; build a culture here that will stand the test of time.”
Good – today is Day 1 in building that culture.
Following this blowout defeat, Gale’s Valour now faces the greatest test of their character, resilience, and club values to date. Coming off a 2-0 win over HFX Wanderers FC that saw Marco Bustos shine ever so brightly, this team now goes into Week 19 likely feeling lower than ever. That sort of emotional roller-coaster is where attraction to football is born in the stands, but for the players, this kind of agony is what separates future champions from would-be pretenders.
So, mid-table at 12 points, two behind a third-placed FC Edmonton, with all to play for in the Fall season, how does Valour FC respond now?
Will this day define them? Or will it be forgotten in the winds of time, as a group of clearly talented footballers come together at last, with the shared goal of never repeating what they just endured?
6. Cavalry issues stark reminder
On the flip side to this particular storyline, let’s talk about Cavalry FC’s Fall season statement.
At the top of this second stanza, Cavalry coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. affirmed that his Spring-winning outfit wouldn’t take their foot off the pedal in the Fall, even with Canadian Championship obligations, even if his team has no spot to play for in the 2019 CPL Championship, and even if Cavalry could now theoretically experiment with younger players in lower-pressure situations.
Nope. None of that for the Calgarians. Fall was about making a statement. Wheeldon Jr. was out for Spring and Fall, and Cavalry wouldn’t let anyone forget it, either.
Following an 8-0 win over Valour, the Cavs have made their mission loud and clear, and if you’re Forge or FC Edmonton, you’re looking at this final handful or so of matches with even warier eyes. The Eddies, in particular, next clash with their Albertan rival, and you can bet that Jeff Paulus would love nothing more than to get the edge on Cavalry at Clarke Field on Sept. 11.
Meanwhile, Forge’s Bobby Smyrniotis has probably circled a pair of October meetings between his side and Cavalry as key dates for this final Fall stretch, as the two battle on Oct. 9 at Spruce Meadows, before meeting again on Oct. 16 at Tim Hortons Field. It all sets up for a final matchday meeting between Cavalry and Edmonton on Oct. 19 in Calgary – the fifth and final Al Classico bout of the 2019 season. These are the days that could come to define the 2019 seasons for Cavalry, Forge, and Edmonton, so stay tuned, CanPL fans – it’s all popping off.
There’s no eerier sight in football than an empty stadium … especially when that empty stadium is known for being packed to the rafters to create a hostile, intimidating atmosphere.
In keeping with this week’s theme of haunting memories, Forge went down to San Pedro Sula, home of Canada’s infamous 8-1 loss to Honduras, needing little more than a 0-0 draw to advance in the CONCACAF League.
Instead, Forge felt the full force of whatever curse San Pedro Sula has on Canadian soccer, succumbing to a 4-1 loss to Honduran outfit C.D. Olimpia and bowing out of the competition before securing a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League.
There’s not much to break down here – a full strength Olimpia team is a tough battle for even the best teams from MLS or Liga MX, making this particular clash too tall a task for Forge to overcome. There’s no shame in it; this club is four months old, after all, a fact that seems to escape us too frequently. To review: CPL clubs have eliminated MLS clubs from Canadian Championship play, made highlight reels with astounding goals, and went toe-to-toe with some of the region’s best sides, all in four-to-five months of existence. What a time, eh?
4. What to do about the Wanderers?
Blanked for goals in their last three matches, and limited to just one single goal in their last five, it’s become clear that Stephen Hart’s HFX Wanderers FC attack needs a bit of work, home or away, if this team is going to crawl out of the CPL basement by the end of the 2019 season.
Following a 0-0 draw with FC Edmonton, the Wanderers rightly felt like they had missed their opportunity, having outshot the Eddies 15-1, drawing seven corners to Edmonton’s zero, with Akeem Garcia nearly beating Connor James at the end of the first half, then nearly drawing a penalty at the end of the second. Goals were available if not for the staunch defensive work of the visiting outfit, who credited the crowd in Halifax for creating an intimidating atmosphere which, coupled with travel and turf, made for what Paulus called a “very tough place to play.”
The Wanderers’ away woes are well documentedbut it’s unlikely that the root cause of their lack of results on the road and their inability to find the back of the net of late are unrelated. Coming into this Edmonton bout on the back of a long period of rest, Hart returns to the training ground with another two weeks off, awaiting a Sept. 15 bout with Forge FC to kick off a series of home fixtures in quick succession. All of Hart’s attacking options seem to be available, if Luis Alberto Perea can return in good form, so the pieces are there … but how does HFX make the most of them?
It’s a question Hart is much more qualified to answer than this writer.
3. Telfer sparks international career
York9 FC didn’t play this week, but one of its star players still made headlines, as Ryan Telfer accepted a call-up to the Trinidad and Tobago national team, ending speculation regarding which nation would spark his international career. The 25-year-old was also eligible to play for Canada, but with T&T coach Dennis Lawrence extending an invitation for a pair of CONCACAF Nations League matches against Martinique, Telfer has seemingly made his decision, and would be cap-tied if he makes an appearance over the next couple weeks. Congratulations, Ryan Telfer, on a well-deserved nod!
Speaking of international call ups …
2. Can we talk about …
… Cavalry AND Canadian men’s national team goalkeeper Marco Carducci? That’s right, you read that correctly – the 22-year-old shot-stopper earned an invite to John Herdman’s Canadian national team for upcoming CONCACAF Nations League bouts with Cuba, and is now on his way to Toronto for the first of these two matches at BMO Field, before a trip down south for the second game. Carducci has been a standout in the CPL since the start of the season, sitting pretty atop our Volkswagen Premier Performer player rankings, and now has the distinction of being the first CPL player to earn a call-up to the Canada squad.