PREVIEW: Cavalry FC vs. Vancouver Whitecaps (Leg 1) — 2024 TELUS Canadian Championship
Canadian Premier League

2024 TELUS Canadian Championship — Quarter-final Round
Cavalry FC vs. Vancouver Whitecaps (Leg 1)
May 7, 2024 at 7:00 p.m. MT / 9:00 p.m. ET
ATCO Field in Calgary, Alberta
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It remains one of the biggest giant slayings in the history of the Canadian Championship.

In July of 2019, in the club’s first-ever season, Cavalry FC stunned Major League Soccer’s Vancouver Whitecaps with a 2-1 aggregate win in the competition’s third qualifying round. It was the first time a Canadian Premier League club had defeated a team from Major League Soccer, and was a significant moment for the fledgling league.

Almost five years later, the two sides will meet again for the first leg of another home-and-away series on Tuesday night at ATCO Field in Calgary in the 2024 Canadian Championship quarter-finals.

“We look forward to these matchups with the Whitecaps, because that series in 2019 helped validate the importance of our league,” said Cavalry FC head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr.

The Cavalry manager, however, is quick to point out that half a decade later this is a very different Whitecaps team they will be facing. The Cavs and Caps met again in the 2022 Canadian Championship, with the MLS side prevailing on penalties after their single-knockout matchup ended 1-1 after 90 minutes.

“I’m very fond of that game, because I think it was kind of a turning point of the season of 2022 and also my tenure as a Whitecaps coach,” said VWFC head coach Vanni Sartini.

That match would prove to be a sign of things to come, as the Whitecaps went on to win the 2022 final, also on penalties, against Toronto FC. They went back-to-back last season, lifting the 2023 Voyageurs Cup trophy, and are strong favourites to do so again after losing just twice through their first 10 matches of the season in MLS (five wins, three draws).

As a result of winning last year’s competition, the Whitecaps were given a bye through the preliminary round of the 2024 tournament. Cavalry, meanwhile, ground out a gutsy 1-0 win over Vancouver FC despite being down to ten men with Shamit Shome sent off.

“I think under Vanni Sartini now they’re playing a very specific way, they’re very organized and tough to break down and very clever and quick on their counters,” said Wheeldon Jr. “White and Gauld have got a really good partnership together, if they play in this, we know we’re going to have our hands full with that.”

Just as big of a story as who might be playing for both sides, however, is who potentially will be missing from the lineup on Tuesday. For Cavalry, that could include 2023 Canadian Premier League Players’ Player of the Year Ali Musse, who was removed after the 27th minute from the club’s league match against Vancouver FC on Friday, with Wheeldon Jr. saying he is doubtful for this match.

The same can be said of the availability of fullback Tom Field, who was also taken out after suffering an injury against VFC, but he isn’t expected to miss significant time, while Shome is officially unavailable through suspension. The good news is that Jesse Daley and Eryk Kobza are once again available, the latter of whom actually spent time with Vancouver Whitecaps Academy.

The Whitecaps meanwhile, will be without Canadian national team fullback Sam Adekugbe, who would have been making his homecoming to Calgary having grown up in the city, and who once even spent time training with Cavalry FC when his brother was on the team. Sartini said he is likely to miss the whole series as the Caps are still waiting for a full update on his injury situation. Damir Kreilach is the only other player unavailable for the Whitecaps through injury.

It is also worth noting that the two sides will play in the second leg on Tuesday, May 21 at BC Place (7:30 p.m. PT / 10:30 p.m. ET). Away goals are in effect, so a strong defensive performance will be critical to Cavalry’s success in the opening leg.



  • True home advantage for Cavalry FC:  The last time Cavalry FC played a ‘home leg’ it was at Starlight Stadium in Langford, BC during the 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup as a result of weather concerns at their home of ATCO Field. That true home advantage will be regained on Tuesday, as Cavalry step onto the home pitch where they have been incredibly dominant over the past few years. They lost at home just twice in 16 matches in all competitions last season, and are unbeaten in three straight at home to begin 2024. “We were playing a home-away and there was no advantage,” said Wheeldon Jr. “Here we have an advantage, this is our pitch, we are on grass. BC Place is a big turf pitch. We know it, it’s not in its midseason form yet but we know the bounces of it and we are starting to play to it. Our fans have been brilliant, to have more and more of them pack the house and paint the city red I think is really important for us here.”


  • What can Cavalry learn from two legs against Orlando: Playing that series against Orlando will also give Cavalry insight into how to better manage two-legged ties against MLS clubs. One thing that Cavalry were taught incredibly quickly during that series was the fact that any mistake would cost them dearly. They gave up two goals before half-time in the first leg against Orlando and lost the match 3-0, which immediately put them in a difficult position before they had even travelled to Orlando. “It’s important that we don’t give up easy goals like we did against Orlando, we felt like that wasn’t us, but we’ve corrected that since then,” said Wheeldon Jr. “I think we’re a different team since that Concacaf Champions Cup”. Cavalry’s defence has allowed the fewest expected goals in the Canadian Premier League so far this season, just 2.44 through four matches.


  • Whitecaps out to prove they are once again the top team in Canada: Earlier this year, Vancouver Whitecaps coach Vanni Sartini took the Canadian media to task, saying that they were not talking enough about the fact that his side were the best team in the country. With back-to-back Canadian Championships under their belt, and significantly outperforming their fellow Canadian MLS sides in the league over the past few seasons, they have put together a strong body of evidence. After struggling in this competition for so many years, winning just once in the first 14 editions, they have clearly prioritized it in recent years. “If we win the Championship again it would be three times in a row, it had only been done once by TFC, the dream team TFC when they won MLS Cup and everything,” said Sartini. “So that would be a huge statement to everyone in the country that we are kind of the leading team.”



Cavalry FC wins: 1 || Vancouver Whitecaps  wins: 1 || Draws: 1

Last meeting:

May 25, 2022 — Cavalry FC 1-1 Vancouver Whitecaps (3-5 on pens.)


“We’ve got to see this as the first half of a two-legged game. We’ve got to make it very tight, we’ve got to be well organized, and we’ve got to pay attention for 95 plus minutes.” — Cavalry FC head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. 

“[It will be] a very intense game. They’re a team that they are not shy to put a fight on. They’re a team that they change defensive attitude according to the team that they play against. So they go very aggressive man to man, so we need to be extremely, extremely patient and good on the ball because if we lose the ball they can be very aggressive and they can counter. ” — Vancouver Whitecaps head coach Vanni Sartini