Tommy Wheeldon Jr. on Forge: ‘We can finally put Finals 2019 behind us’

Do you remember what you did 286 days ago? Probably not, I’m guessing.

But memory can be aided by, well, a lack of new memories.

That’s the case for Tommy Wheeldon Jr., who has lived with Cavalry FC’s 2-0 aggregate loss to Forge FC in Finals 2019 since last November.

Now, 286 days removed from that Leg 2 defeat, Wheeldon Jr.’s team will finally return to the pitch on Thursday in Prince Edward Island to try to exact some revenge on Forge in the 2020 CPL regular season opener (8:00 p.m. ET/9 p.m. AT, OneSoccer).

“It’s a chance to finally put November 2nd behind us,” Wheeldon Jr. told reporters on Wednesday. “We had a great regular season, and a Canadian Championship, but fell at the last hurdle.

“We just need a game. So why not against the team that beat us in the finals?”

RELATED READING: 2020 CPL regular season: The Island Games

Cavalry and Forge are on equal footing injury-wise. Wheeldon Jr. confirmed every Cavalry player in PEI is available for selection, a similar claim made by Forge coach Bobby Smynriotis.

The Cavalry boss has highlighted the need for a strong start at The Island Games, which begins with a round-robin group stage involving all eight CPL clubs before moving to a four-team second round in September. Matches will come thick-and-fast for Cavalry, with Thursday’s tilt leading to a match against Valour FC on Sunday. Thus, squad rotation will be very important in PEI.

When asked if Cavalry’s “90 minutes of hell style” will hold up in a high-intensity, multiple-matches-a-week season, Wheeldon Jr. said his side isn’t as prepared as they were before the 2019 season – like every other CPL club limited by COVID-19 protocols – but they’re confident.

“Last year, we started the season brilliantly, but that was with several exhibition games and a pre-season in the Dominican Republic – plenty of opportunities to work out the kinks,” he said.

“This year, we’ve been fortunate to rehearse some of them on our own in practice, but it’s not the same. We have to activate one of our biggest strengths which is tactical flexibility. We’ve always thrown out formations and surprise packages that no one expected. This is the time for a few of those.”

RELATED READING: The Island Games: Why your team will win the 2020 CPL championship

Cavalry enters The Island Games without two players who would have made “surprise packages.” Jose Escalante and Richard Luca were left stranded in Honduras and Brazil, respectively, as COVID-19-related protocols prevented the pair from joining the side in Canada. Virtual Newsroom theorized what their absence would mean, and if it could cost Wheeldon Jr. a championship.

When asked, Wheeldon Jr. pointed to other wide options.

“We were confident in what Escalante and Luca could have brought, but we look to Oliver Minatel, Sergio Camargo and Jordan Brown,” Wheeldon Jr. said.

“We know what we have up our sleeve and we can move to backup plans if the game tells us something different. We’ll see if it’s working and move to Plan B when needed.”

Support your club, support your league. Be a part of The Collective
Support your club, support your league. Be a part of The Collective