It was an impressive performance by Calgary-based Cavalry FC on Saturday against Canadian Premier League rivals Pacific FC in Victoria. Despite the narrow 3-2 victory the Canadian Premier League spring was in total control throughout the 90 minutes and is now looking forward to host the Vancouver Whitecaps for the first leg of the Canadian Championship third round at Spruce Meadows 6:30 p.m. PST.
Make no mistake the CanPL side will be the underdogs as they host the Whitecaps. At the same time, there was a sense of optimism on Saturday at Westhills Stadium in Victoria among the Cavalry staff and players.
“The players are excited now,” Cavalry head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. said after the game on Saturday. Today we take the three points we will get the guys recovered and then prepare for Wednesday. It should be a cracker,” he added.
On Saturday the Cavalry game plan was about building slowly from the back and then hitting the opponent on the break once an opening appeared. It is how Wheeldon’s team have played all season, but the Cavalry head coach was careful about revealing his plans for Wednesday’s game. “We want to catch them by surprise,” Wheeldon said. “So I’m not going to give too many secrets away,” he added laughing.
“We’re very controlled, and we like to control the tempo of the game, whether when we have the ball or when we don’t have the ball,” Wheeldon said about Cavalry’s general philosophy.
“We are looking forward to see ourselves tested against an MLS side, they are a quality group, and they have been together a lot longer than we have. So this is a very good opportunity to see where we are at,” Wheeldon added.
“For us, this game is like the FA Cup,” Wheeldon Jr. said.
It is a sentiment that was echoed by Whitecaps head coach Marc Dos Santos on Monday. “For Canadian teams that are not in MLS that is there opportunity to shine,” Dos Santos said.
Meanwhile, the Vancouver Whitecaps will see this game as an opportunity to make up for Saturday’s disastrous performance against LAFC. “We have to react quickly to what happened in LA and put everything into perspective,” Dos Santos said.
“At the end of the day we lost just three points, even if it was 6-1,” Dos Santos said. “It is something that we need to forget and move on but also switch on right away because Wednesday is not going to be easy.”
⚽️Food for thought for Marc Dos Santos
— Manuel Veth (@ManuelVeth) July 7, 2019
With the Whitecaps slipping out of the playoff race the Canadian Championship has become a high priority. “[Winning it] puts the team in the [Concacaf] Champions League and we want to be there in every year to allow our fans to experience that competitions,” Dos Santos said. “That means that competition is going to be a priority.”
Furthermore, while in the past the Whitecaps have used the Canadian Championship to rotate players Dos Santos was adamant that he will use his strongest side on Wednesday. “When you rotate a lot it is disrespectful to the competition,” Dos Santos said. “We are going to do our best and go all in to go as far as we can,” Dos Santos added.
That, in turn, will provide a tough challenge for Cavalry. “I think we got to take our chances even more, be more compact, more disciplined in tracking back and we can’t give up easy goals to the opponent,” Cavalry midfielder Julian Büscher said. “Especially, when we play a very competent, strong team that has quality like Vancouver — you give them something easy they will punish you.”
A tough challenge then for Cavalry against a Whitecaps side that will take this game very serious. But with the lower division side in form and the MLS side struggling this tie has the potential to see a true upset an upset Dos Santos’ men will want to prevent to salvage what has been a difficult season.