The 2023 Canadian Premier League playoffs are upon us, and five teams have earned the right to battle for the North Star Cup. This season’s innovative new format gives each side a chance, but rewards regular season success with increasing benefits for higher places in the standings.
With the postseason kicking off on Oct. 11 and running to the end of the month, the team at CanPL.ca has put together comprehensive previews for each of the five playoff-bound clubs. To read the rest of them, click here.
Cavalry FC – 1st place, 55 points
Record (W-D-L): 16-7-5
Goals For/Against: 46/27
Top Scorer: Myer Bevan, 11
Assists Leader: Ali Musse, 5
Cavalry FC enter the playoffs riding an incredible high, having already lifted one trophy this year as regular season champions. As a result, they’re undoubtedly the favourites going into the postseason, and they’ll have a chance to win the North Star Cup without setting foot outside of Calgary if they win two straight playoff matches.
Their campaign opens on Oct. 14 when they host second-place Forge FC, in a qualifying semifinal that offers both sides the opportunity to advance directly to (and host) the CPL Final two weeks later.
It’s no secret the Cavs have been the most consistent team in the regular season this year — and most years in their history — but they haven’t yet translated that to postseason success. In fact, they have yet to win a playoff elimination match in the CPL. Tommy Wheeldon Jr. and co. will be desperate to change that immediately.
How They Got Here
Simply put, Cavalry got here by being the best team in the CPL. They finished 13 points clear atop the table (a league record), and they scored more goals and conceded fewer than any other side in the league.
They ended the year on a five-game winning streak and a nine-game unbeaten run (eight of them wins), as the Cavs fully started running away with the league around the beginning of September. They had a few key statement wins, including a 3-0 triumph over Forge at ATCO Field in early August and an electrifying 2-1 win at Atlético Ottawa where William Akio scored a last-gasp winner.
Cavalry took over first place on Aug. 27 when they beat Pacific at home, leapfrogging the Tridents who had been ahead of the pack since mid-June. The season didn’t start so well, with five consecutive draws that had the team questioning itself, but they stuck to their tactical blueprint and found their form eventually. They continued to crescendo into a sizzling run of form to end the season, and now enter the playoffs brimming with confidence.
3 Key Players
Daan Klomp, Defender
The Dutch centre-back has been one of the best players in the entire league this season, and he’s been crucial to Cavalry’s success. Klomp is the only outfield player to have played every single minute for his club in 2023, and to do so for a team as deep as Cavalry proves how crucial he is.
Recently, Klomp has lined up as the centrepiece of Cavalry’s back three in defence, occasionally stepping into midfield to make better use of his outstanding passing range. His 1,494 passes completed was second-most in the league, and he hit them with 90 per cent accuracy. Klomp is the foundation of Cavalry’s build-up in possession, and also the most competent defender they have. Plus, he’s always a threat in the air on set-pieces, with four goals to his name this year.
Ali Musse, Attacker
Musse has always been one of the most electrifying attacking players in the CPL, but he took his game to a new level this year in Calgary. He finished with the fourth-most chances created and third-most expected assists in the league, also ranking second in dribbles completed with 70.
Few players in the league are as dangerous with the ball at their feet as Musse is; he’s shown an ability this season to beat almost any defender in the league one-on-one. Expect him to drive at fullbacks and try to cut toward the box to create opportunities for fellow attacking players.
Sergio Camargo, Attacker
Camargo is one of two remaining year one players at Cavalry, and he’s a key leader on this team alongside club captain Marco Carducci. The clever winger is excellent cutting in from the left flank or playing beneath a striker as a number 10, with his ability to pick out a dangerous pass from the half-space.
He’s also a sparkplug player who provides energy, particularly off the ball. Camargo often plays on the edge and can be well-suited to feisty playoff games, where tempers can occasionally bubble over. The Colombia-born, Toronto-raised attacker will be a fun player to watch during the postseason.
What They’re Saying
“As soon as we secured first place it was about, what’s next? … Our focus is going to shift really quickly in the playoffs, hopefully we’ll be able to go for the double.”
— Cavalry FC goalkeeper Marco Carducci
“The boys are super hungry. You saw it [against Pacific], we didn’t need to go win 3-0, but we went out there and proved that we deserve to be regular season champions. Now it’s on us to keep that hunger, keep that intensity and that level. There’s nothing stopping us if we play our game.”
— Cavalry FC attacker Sergio Camargo
Cavalry FC will win the North Star Cup if…
…they continue doing what they’ve already been doing.
Seriously. This is the best team in the CPL, and if they continue to be so, they will more than likely win a second trophy this year. The road to the North Star Cup is guaranteed to go through Calgary or Hamilton — and if the Final is to be in Hamilton, that’ll mean Forge beat Cavalry at ATCO Field.
That said, nothing is ever guaranteed in the postseason. Cavalry have never won an elimination playoff game, and they’ve had some painful nights on this stage. If this is, as the club’s players and staff have been saying this year, a “new Cavalry,” then perhaps this is the year they make further club history with a playoff triumph.
There’s no denying that Cavalry will have a target on their backs in the playoffs, even without past success in the postseason. They’ve shown they’re made of stern stuff this season, though, and if they can maintain their same composure — smothering defensive play with methodical, efficient attack — then nobody would be surprised if Marco Carducci is holding another trophy at the end of October.