5 Cavalry FC players who may decide the 2023 CPL Final
Canadian Premier League

Somewhere between 22 and 34 players may take part in this Saturday’s Canadian Premier League Final, to be contested at Hamilton’s Tim Hortons Field between Forge FC and Cavalry FC.

In such a high-stakes game between two good teams, though it may take just one or two of them to turn the game for either side. One goal, one tackle, or one save might be the difference between winning and losing, especially if it remains close in the final moments.

Cavalry, searching for their first playoff championship, boast a deep squad full of talented players, but a handful of them have been the major difference-makers throughout this season. Here are just five Cavalry players that could decide the 2023 CPL Final.

Marco Carducci, Goalkeeper

A two-time CPL Goalkeeper of the Year and nominated for the award again this season, Marco Carducci is the last line of defence for a Cavalry side that tries not to need him too much, but can count on him if they do.

Carducci started every game for Cavalry this year in his first season as club captain, and they’ve been relying on him between the sticks since the very beginning of the club. The Cavs conceded a league-low 27 goals in the regular season, and Carducci made 63 saves with eight clean sheets to help get them there.

The 27-year-old is this team’s leader on and off the pitch, and he’ll be desperate to win another trophy for his hometown. Carducci has also proven he can be clutch in high-stakes situations as well, from his outrageous penalty save in the 2019 Finals to his last-minute reflex stop against Pacific in last weekend’s semifinal.

Marco Carducci makes a save as Daan Klomp holds off the opposition. (CFC Media Mike Sturk)

Daan Klomp, Defender

This 25-year-old Dutch centre-back might just have been the best player in the entire Canadian Premier League this year. Klomp is one of the most well-rounded defenders in the league, with keen footballing intelligence honed in the Netherlands and now being put to effective use in Canada.

Klomp usually lines up in the middle of Cavalry’s back three, a spot from which he can either spray passes to launch attacks or carry the ball himself into midfield. On the defensive side of the ball, he was second in the CPL in blocks (17), aerial duels won (51), and possession won in the defensive third (87).

One other thing? Cavalry’s best defender might also be a not-so-secret weapon in attack. Klomp has 11 career goals for Cavalry, including five this year. His ability to climb above traffic and get his head on a cross — particularly a set-piece — is arguably unmatched in the league. Klomp scored a set-piece header last week against Pacific, and he got one from open play in last year’s semifinal against Forge.

Klomp was the only outfield player in the entire CPL to play every single minute of his team’s season, so it’s very easy to argue he was the most important player on the league’s most consistent team in 2023.

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Sergio Camargo, Attacker

Camargo and Carducci are the only two players still on the roster from the 2019 squad that played Forge in the Finals, and it’s fitting that both have been major difference makers facilitating their return in 2023.

After a frustrating 2022 that saw him make just 16 appearances (and only eight starts), Camargo has rebounded with gusto this year, playing 27 times and making 20 starting XIs. He’s been productive this year with six goals and three assists, including a goal in the 1-0 win over York United on the day Cavalry won the regular season title.

Camargo will likely find himself mostly in the half-spaces or just below Myer Bevan in this game, areas from which he can create for his teammates with clever, incisive passes into the box. He’s a very intelligent attacking footballer but also brings a relentless energy to Cavalry’s press, happy to just keep running for the entirety of his appearance.

There’s definitely an edge to Camargo’s game, and opposing teams aren’t always fond of him; he doesn’t mind a little physicality, and he can trade in some of the dark arts of gamesmanship that might make a difference in a final. If there’s one player likely to hear boos from the Barton St. Battalion this weekend (in lieu of the departed José Escalante, of course), it might be Camargo.

Sergio Camargo celebrates a goal vs. Valour. (CFC Media Mike Sturk)

Ali Musse, Attacker

The second of Cavalry’s two Player of the Year nominees, Musse has been a special player to watch in 2023. The 27-year-old, born in Somalia and raised in Winnipeg, is in his third season with the Cavs and has taken things to the next level this year.

Musse had five goals and six assists in the regular season, before going on to add another goal and two more assists in the playoffs. He’s as dangerous as anyone on the dribble, and he loves to beat defenders and create space for teammates to set them up. He ranked fourth in the CPL with 46 chances created, and second in the league in successful dribbles with 70.

Few players can do as many things that make you say ‘Wow’ as Ali Musse. He can score from distance, he can find the net with a free kick, and he’s got one of the best set-piece deliveries in the league.

If somebody is going to provide a moment of magic in this final, Musse feels like Cavalry’s most likely candidate.

Myer Bevan, Attacker

If Cavalry need a goal — and they will — they’re fortunate to have a player who’s scored more than all but one other person in the CPL this year.

Bevan shared the Golden Boot award with Atlético Ottawa’s Ollie Bassett this season, scoring 11 regular season goals in 2023. He’s a clever finisher who can get in behind to bring down crosses and finish past defenders when high in the box. Not all his goals are pretty (although some are), but he’s got a knack for popping up in the right place. Also, Bevan was the most effective penalty scorer in the CPL this year, burying all five of his attempts.

Something to keep an eye on: Bevan has been substituted off 15 times this year, as Tommy Wheeldon Jr. often likes to use his depth and get fresher legs on the pitch later in games. In both of Cavalry’s playoff games, though, he’s gone 90 minutes — though he came out in the 90th of the semifinal against Pacific, once the win felt more secure.

That might be Wheeldon keeping an eye on the possibility of a penalty shootout. If this final does go the distance, He’ll probably want the league’s best penalty taker on the pitch.

James Glezos/@jg.visuals__

The 2023 Canadian Premier League Final will be played Saturday, Oct. 28 at 6 p.m. ET between Forge FC and Cavalry FC, at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton. Tickets are available here, and the match will be broadcast live on OneSoccerFubo TV, and Telus Optik TV channel 980.