Cavalry FC: 3 key performers of 2019

All season long, reviewed key performers from each Canadian Premier League match, giving due credit to a trio of players who impressed over 90 minutes. Now, we offer this one last look at standout performers for Cavalry FC to bring a close to an exciting inaugural CPL campaign.

Cavalry FC was, perhaps, the most consistent team in the CPL in 2019. They coasted to the Spring season title, and pulled it out on the last last day to claim the Fall crown. The Cavs faltered in the CPL Finals, failing to score in their 2-0 aggregate loss to Forge FC, but they were undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with this year.

It was an incredible season for Tommy Wheeldon Jr.’s side, with so many memorable moments — their last-gasp winner against Forge in May, their 8-0 blowout of Valour in September, and of course their historic Canadian Championship run that saw them take down the Vancouver Whitecaps.

RELATED READING: Cavalry FC: 2019 season in review

The Cavs scored more goals and conceded fewer than any other CPL club, topping the combined table for both seasons by six points. With that in mind, there were so many huge contributors for Cavalry that it was hard to pick just three for this list. Some players, such as Julian Büscher, Nik Ledgerwood, Sergio Camargo, or Nico Pasquotti, would probably be recognized here had they played for any other club.

Still, these three rose above the rest, in one way or another.

3 Key Performers for 2019

1. Marco Carducci

Marco Carducci of Cavalry FC stretches for the ball on FC Edmonton’s only goal. (Mike Sturk/CPL).
Marco Carducci of Cavalry FC stretches for the ball on FC Edmonton’s only goal. (Mike Sturk/CPL).
  • Position: Goalkeeper
  • Appearances (starts): 25 (25)
  • Minutes played: 2,250
  • Clean sheets: 9 (joint-1st in CPL)
  • Goals conceded: 17
  • Saves: 66 (3rd in CPL)

This was an easy choice. Carducci was the CPL’s goalkeeper of the year, as well as the Volkswagen Premier Performer winner due to his consistently rock-solid play. 

He was the first CPL player called up to the Canadian men’s team (soon to be followed by another Cav on this list), and at the club level he backstopped his side to so many triumphs in 2019. Cavalry probably wouldn’t have managed to get past the Vancouver Whitecaps in the Canadian Championship without some key stops from Carducci. Plus, who could forget his ninja-kick save on a penalty in Leg 1 of Finals 2019

Carducci is a wonderful success story, having failed to make an impact in his previous landing spot with the Vancouver Whitecaps reserve system (look where he is now, Vancouver!). He took a huge step into the professional game after a successful 2018 with Calgary Foothills, and hasn’t looked back. 

What they said: “He’s doing a really good job … I’m really surprised, actually. This is the first time I’ve met him, but he has a bright future in front of him.” — Milan Borjan, Canadian men’s national team goalkeeper

2. Dominick Zator

Cavalry FC's Dominick Zator battles for the ball with Pacific FC's Victor Blasco. (Mike Sturk/CPL).
Cavalry FC’s Dominick Zator battles for the ball with Pacific FC’s Victor Blasco. (Mike Sturk/CPL).
  • Position: Centre-back/right-back
  • Appearances (starts): 29 (26)
  • Minutes played: 2,425
  • Goals: 1
  • Assists: 3
  • Touches: 1,933 (2nd in CPL)
  • Tackle success: 81%
  • Interceptions: 51 (joint-1st in CPL)
  • Aerials: 149 (2nd in CPL)

Zator may well have been the best defender in the CPL during the inaugural season. He was an anchor at the back for the team with the best defensive record in the league, and he was an absolute workhorse all year long, missing just one game.

He was extremely confident on the ball, and he was an immovable object in defence against any kind of opponent. Zator turned heads all year, earning himself some attention from the Canadian men’s national team (and a call-up to John Herdman’s squad in November). He entered the year as a full-time centre back, but when Dean Northover went down with injury, he deputized at right fullback and didn’t miss a beat.

Of course, the highlight-reel moment of his year had to be the towering header he scored at BC Place to secure victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps. Zator was, in many ways, the fulcrum of Cavalry’s outstanding defensive performance in their Canadian Championship campaign, and the goal was a just reward.

Zator has re-signed with the Cavs for 2020, which means they’re sure to be a tough team to break down yet again, with such a steady presence at the back. The future is bright for this 25-year-old.

What they said: “He brings a physicality and real commitment to that defensive side… One thing we may need is that solid defensive focus and physicality of a Dominick Zator.” — John Herdman, Canadian men’s national team coach

3. Dominique Malonga

Cavalry FC attacker Dominique Malonga controls the ball against York9 FC. (Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports for CPL).
Cavalry FC attacker Dominique Malonga controls the ball against York9 FC. (Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports for CPL).
  • Position: Striker
  • Appearances (starts): 26 (23)
  • Minutes played: 1,961
  • Goals: 11 (2nd in CPL)
  • Shots on target: 34 (3rd in CPL)
  • Big Chances: 27
  • Pass accuracy: 81.60%

The experienced Congolese international was, in many ways, the most deadly out-and-out striker in the league this year. Malonga finished the year knotted with Terran Campbell for second in the Golden Boot race with 11 goals, having surged up the charts in the last two months of the Fall campaign.

Malonga held up play well for Cavalry, and he was exactly the goalscorer they needed. It often wasn’t pretty, but he typically got the job done and finished chances clinically (although they could’ve used a little more of that in Finals 2019). He had more opportunities than anyone in the league — 15.56 expected goals, to be precise — in large part due to his ability to get the ball on the turn and put himself in a good position to score.

The 30-year-old came to Calgary with an impressive resume from Europe, with time spent in Italy’s Serie A and the Spanish second division, among others. His wealth of experience helped out a lot, as a seasoned professional who could put the ball away reliably in front of goal.

What they said: “His overall quality is unbelievable. If you broke down his game and saw the way that he holds up the ball, the way he drop drops into pockets and he’s able to turn with a defender on his back, a lot of people that do understand soccer in-depth have seen his qualities throughout the year.” — Nik Ledgerwood, Cavalry FC captain

Cavalry FC’s Top 5 goals from 2019