MATCH ANALYSIS: Vancouver FC and Cavalry FC split points in high-tempo stalemate in Kelowna
Canadian Premier League

Final Score: Vancouver FC 0-0 Cavalry FC
Goalscorers: None
Game of the 2024 season: 39
CPL match: 523

Match in a minute or less

The Canadian Premier League touched down in Kelowna, British Columbia on Sunday as Vancouver FC and Cavalry FC played to a 0-0 draw at the Apple Bowl.

Although goalless, it was an entertaining spectacle for the 6,281 fans in attendance. Vancouver had a litany of chances in both halves, with 18 shots and 1.75 expected goals, but they ultimately weren’t able to solve the Cavs’ defence nor goalkeeper Marco Carducci.

With a point apiece, Vancouver thus climbed into third place in the CPL table, while Cavalry extended their unbeaten streak to nine games.

Three Observations

Kelowna embraces CPL, treated to back-and-forth show despite goalless scoreline

It’s not every day that people come away from a 0-0 match feeling entertained, but that might be the case on Sunday.

Although neither Vancouver nor Cavalry were able to break through and separate themselves with a goal, it was not for lack of trying. Vancouver, in particular, felt destined to score one of their 18 shots, but a combination of last-ditch defending, goalkeeping and shaky finishing left them at zero.

Still, the more than 6,000 people at the Apple Bowl seemed in good spirits after the final whistle, having thoroughly enjoyed the occasion and the edge-of-your-seat frantic pace of the match, where both sides genuinely threw all they could at the other in search of a goal.

The crowd was a record attendance at the stadium for a professional sporting event, and the Okanagan community demonstrated real eagerness for soccer in this, the first pro game played in the city. In spite of somewhat chilly temperatures and a steady drizzle throughout most of the game, the city still showed up in full voice — as did the fans who travelled from both Vancouver and Calgary, with strong contingents from the Fraser Valley Fanatics and the Foot Soldiers on hand.

“This project as a whole, for me it was very special,” Vancouver head coach Afshin Ghotbi said postgame. “I was very inspired to see not only our staff but everyone involved, how hard they worked, from the mayor of the city, everyone within the city, the hospitality they showed. There’s enormous energy in this city and enormous love for the game.”

Of course, this was a full weekend of events celebrating soccer and the Canadian Premier League in Kelowna, and VFC captain Callum Irving was quick to shout out the work that went on behind the scenes to bring a pro match to the city.

Having spent some time interacting with the community over the past few days, Irving said he was impressed with the excitement he felt in the lead-up to Sunday’s game. Players and staff from both Vancouver and Cavalry had been out visiting various Kelowna-area schools and youth soccer clubs all weekend, spreading the word and engaging young fans.

“For us as players, we were afforded a lot of comfort throughout these days while a lot of other people did the heavy lifting,” he said. “On my part, I really tried to embrace it and enjoy it, and I think the rest of my teammates did as well. We got to go visit some schools, interact with some people in the community, and I thought that was probably the best part about it.

“I think that’s a big part of the CPL, is you want to engage with the community you’re in and build that relationship, and I thought that Kelowna really welcomed us with open arms and that turned out to be a good foundation for a really good day.”

The players and staff from both sides will of course now return their attention to their home cities and the rest of the 2024 CPL season, but they won’t soon forget their experience here — nor, for that matter, will the Kelowna community forget its first taste of professional soccer.

A view of the main grandstand at Kelowna’s Apple Bowl. (Photo: Beau Chevalier/Vancouver FC)

Vancouver directness, aggression produces great chances, but can’t find the goal

Vancouver FC weren’t quite at home on Sunday, but early in the match they seemed like the more comfortable side, feeding off the energy of a crowd that was, for the most part, backing them as fellow British Columbians.

The Eagles came into the game with a very clear game plan, some what similar to the way they played against Halifax Wanderers at home earlier this year. They were fast, direct and aggressive in attack, hoping to produce a little bit of chaos to break a typically well-organized Cavalry side.

The first half, perhaps as Vancouver had hoped, saw Cavalry have over 60 per cent possession, but outshot 12 to two. VFC were exactly level with the Cavs in first-half entries into the final third at 27, but in a display of their greater efficiency, they had 23 touches in the box to Cavalry’s five, and 0.92 expected goals to 0.1 for the Cavs.

“I thought we created enough chances to win the game,” Ghotbi said postmatch. “In the first half we had 300 per cent chances that we should score at least one or two goals. In the second half at times we lost control of the game, but still I felt we had the possibilities. We got behind their midfield, we won a lot of balls in the attacking half, we just missed the concentration that you need to score goals.”

Ghotbi was right to notice his side winning balls high up the pitch; they took possession 12 times in the final third. They weren’t as dominant in the shot count in the second half — it was an even six apiece — but still, they had plenty of moments to find their goal, right down to the final few seconds.

It was encouraging to see how they dictated the pace of play in the first half, coming at Cavalry with energy, although Ghotbi added that he was frustrated that his side still was giving the ball away at key moments that prevented even more quick transitional chances for them.

Overall, Vancouver felt for long stretches of the match like the more likely side to score, but it was the final moment — the little bit of execution, composure or focus in the penalty area — that eluded them.

Vancouver FC plays Cavalry FC on June 15, 2024 at the Apple Bowl in Kelowna, Canada. (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)

Cavalry hold firm under fire, can’t capitalize on chances to counter

After playing so well at home against Forge FC a week ago, Cavalry weren’t able to establish themselves as well in this game and ended up on the back foot for stretches, especially when Vancouver managed to get balls over the top and bypass their press to create space.

With Vancouver being so direct and vertical, Cavalry were still mostly looking to play patiently out of the back especially in the first half — although they too embraced the more fast-paced nature of the game in the second frame, where the shot count and possession numbers were both more even. William Akio changed the game with his ability to counter-attack when he came on in the second half, but unfortunately an injury meant his cameo was limited as he came back out of the match after just 13 minutes.

“If you look at the first half I don’t think we deserved a point here,” defender Daan Klomp said on OneSoccer postmatch. “The first 15 minutes were not good; the second 15 minutes I thought we got back to ourselves a little bit, but then I think we shot ourselves in the foot too many times. I think we were lucky to keep a clean sheet here, but on the other hand I think with [Lleyton Brooks’] chance, that was an unbelievable save by Irving and we could also walk away with a win here.”

Indeed, the cross that came in from Fraser Aird was perfectly placed on Brooks’ head after the Australian winger made an excellent run into the box, and in most circumstances it would’ve been the winning goal but Irving made an exceptional save to catch it out of the air while diving.

Klomp also expressed some frustration that his side hasn’t been as dangerous from set-pieces as they were most of last year; he gave credit to Aird for still providing excellent delivery from the corner flags, but took responsibility himself as one of several players who haven’t been able to finish those chances.

Given how the game played out, Cavalry are likely the side happier to emerge with a point and their nine-game unbeaten streak remains intact — dating back to the second match of the season.

Still, after the weekend’s results the Cavs remain outside the playoff positions in sixth, which is far from where they want to be by the end of the season. It remains early, with 18 games left to play and plenty of points still on the table — with Cavalry sitting just one back of fifth and only eight behind league leaders Atlético Ottawa — but they’ll be itching to put points on the board quickly.

(Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze) Player of the Match

Kadin Chung, Vancouver FC

The fullback was outstanding all game for Vancouver, currently playing at the height of his abilities after some injury troubles early this year. Chung made nine passes in the final third and won nine duels — including four out of five in the air, which Afshin Ghotbi pointed out is impressive given his 5-8 frame. He won possession seven times, and made at least three potentially goal-saving tackles at the last moment in the box.

What’s next?

Both sides will be back on more familiar ground next week, beginning with Friday, June 21 when Cavalry take on Atlético Ottawa at ATCO Field (7 p.m. MT/9 p.m. ET). Vancouver, meanwhile, will be back at Willoughby Community Park on Sunday as they host Halifax Wanderers FC (4 p.m. PT/8 p.m. AT).

Watch all CPL and Canadian Championship matches live on OneSoccer. In addition to its website and app, OneSoccer is now available on TELUS channel 980 and on Fubo TV. Call your local cable provider to ask for OneSoccer today.