The Breakdown, Week 24: Cold-blooded Cavs, CanMNT expectations

Behold, the final month of the 2019 Canadian Premier League season.

A trio of midweek matches, coupled with another three over the weekend, brings our Fall table picture to a little more clarity, as we approach the home stretch of the season.

Here’s what we learned in Week 24.

7. Cold, cold Calgary

Dominique Malonga of Cavalry FC almost scores on this play against Forge FC. Mike Sturk/CPL
Dominique Malonga of Cavalry FC almost scores on this play against Forge FC. Mike Sturk/CPL

Ah, it’s getting colder across our mighty land.

Proof was in the air, and in the breath of players, in Calgary at midweek. Under the lights, Cavalry FC surged past Forge FC 2-1 in a Canadian Premier League Finals 2019 Finals preview.

It was -4C when the game kicked off at 7:00 p.m. local time, and it was significantly colder as the night went on, with a blistering wind gusting from the southwest. The windchill hit -12C by the final whistle.

Marco Carducci was quick to credit the grounds crew at Spruce Meadows for dressing ATCO Field up nicely. The pitch appeared in great shape, all things considered.

Could these late-season sub-zero matches be part of the CPL’s narrative for years to come? Headlines such as “Pacific FC laments mid-October Alberta road swing” or “FC Edmonton set to host wintry Finals finale” would be so quintessentially Canadian.

Actually, come Nov. 2, who knows what we might see…

6. Not the last we’ve heard from

It seemed like no one wanted the HFX Wanderers’ match to end on Wednesday. HFX’s final home match of the season ended in a 1-1 draw to Pacific FCand a few teary eyes in The Kitchen. Halifax’s first season in the Canadian Premier League has been an incredible ride; packed home matches, incredible atmospheres and some wonderful on-the-field moments to boot … save for the whole bottom-of-the league thing.

I mean, just listen to the crowd when Luis Alberto Perea buried that penalty against PFC…

Huge shoutout to Privateers 1882, too, for awarding Matthew Arnone their player of the season award. Love to see a fan-awarded play of the honour.

Could we hear “Arnone’s Privateers” next season? Just asking…

5. What are you thankful for?

You can get your tickets to Finals 2019 for Leg 1 in Hamilton HERE, and for Leg 2 in Calgary HERE.

With Thanksgiving weekend now come and gone, it’s time to reflect on what we’re privileged to have this year. Of course, that included the Canadian Premier League and over 100 matches of professional Canadian football we’ve been fortunate to watch over the past calendar year.

But what about the clubs?

For Valour? It’s Winnipeg’s temperamental weather for playing nice.

Cavalry? Nico Pasquotti’s long throw abilities have been an unexpected treat.

FC Edmonton can be thankful for … the OneSoccer broadcast? Yeah, believe it or not.

4. Meanwhile, south of the border…

The U.S. breezed past Cuba on Friday, notching a 7-0 CONCACAF Nations League League A, Group A win in the process. Weston McKinnie’s goal 30 seconds into their match set the tone in a victory that eerily compared to Canada’s against the same opposition in September.

The U.S. coasted through much of the match, wiping away Canada’s early perceived advantage of a one-match international window, slated to begin and end on Tuesday at BMO Field (7:30 p.m. ET/OneSoccer) in back-to-back North American Nations League matches.

Steven Sandor covered this at length in his Monday column, specifically targeting Canada’s backline and the potential to be overrun by the fresh legs of Werder Bremen’s Josh Sargent, Seattle Sounder Jordan Morris and Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic.

Do you think this is hyperbole? Check out these quotes:

“We wanted the game to go like this, it’s cost us less energy,” said U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter in the post-match press conference. “It’s about maintaining freshness as we go into the (Canada) game.

“If I could have written this game up, it would have been exactly like this, score many goals early and then cruise.”

If Gregg Berhalter is to be believed, the U.S. is set up for success against Canada…

3. What are realistic CanMNT expectations vs. U.S.?

Jonathan David. (Canada Soccer).
Jonathan David. (Canada Soccer).

While we’re on that, what would you consider realistic expectations against the U.S.?

Truth is, “realistic” is hard to define at this point.

Canada under John Herdman promises to be a new and much-improved group over yesteryear. They’ve largely delivered, too, dating back to 2018 CONCACAF Nations League qualifying.

But one thing has been missing: consistent tests against difficult opposition. Yes, there were matches against Mexico and Haiti at this summer’s Gold Cup, but more measuring sticks are needed for this group.

In comes the U.S. national team, who are themselves in a transition. If Junior Hoilett, Jonathan David and Alphonso Davies can do the work many Les Rouges supporters expect, Canada should win and meet these supposed “hang with the big dogs” presumption.

But history points to the opposite result. Canada hasn’t beaten the U.S. in 34 years. Could it really happen this weekend at BMO Field?

2. Can we talk about …

With a week left in the CPL’s inaugural Fall campaign, and ahead of the York9 FC’s final 905 Derby tilt with Forge FC, I asked a simple question: Rodrigo Gattas, Simon Adjei … or both?

We’ve seen the pair chop and change out of that centre-forward role. Both offer something different – but which option is “most right” in a beer-filled pub discussion in York Region.

The immediate answer? Both. Adjei appeared up top, Gattas on the right-wing on Saturday in their 905 Derby win over Forge.

What we saw was a great example of both of their strengths. Adjei held the ball up well, broke through the backline – shown on his goal – and gives a great anchor piece to the midfield to feed off of. After all, as discovered, the 25-year-old sits in the top 10 per cent of CPLers in assists (.32), shots (3.34) and line-breaking receptions (2.91) per 90 minutes. It’s quite the radial chart, one the nerds will be happy to see below. Gattas, meanwhile, was in the right spaces and just kept firing at goal, and completed one of his trademark one-hit wonders.

With only two matches before 2020 preparation begins, perhaps Jimmy Brennan can have it all with both of his two international attackers.

1. Your photo of the week

Approximately -10C in Calgary when this photo was taken... (Jack Cusano).
Approximately -10C in Calgary when this photo was taken…
(Jack Cusano).