2022 CPL Regular Season — Match #18
FC Edmonton vs. Cavalry FC
May 6, 2022 at 8:00 p.m. MT
Clarke Stadium in Edmonton, Alberta
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It’s rivalry night in Alberta this weekend, as FC Edmonton are getting set to host Cavalry FC in the first ‘Al Clasico’ of 2022 on Friday night.
There, both teams will have a lot to play for, as they look to begin their respective climbs out of the CPL basement, where Edmonton currently sits eighth out of eight teams, with Cavalry just barely ahead of them in seventh. Despite what that might suggest about their seasons so far, however, both teams have certainly had their moments, yet have dropped some heartbreaking results, making them both ponder if they could be higher up right now.
Speaking of that heartbreak, Edmonton is looking to recover from a result that very much falls in that realm for them, as they’re fresh off of a tough 3-1 loss to the HFX Wanderers this past weekend. In that game, despite going up 1-0 early on the road, they wouldn’t be able to hold onto their lead as their legs gassed out in what was their third game in eight days, leaving the hosts to celebrate a big victory.
As a result, seeing that they’ve not had the week to regroup and return home for this game, they’ll look to put that behind them. With a strong record at their home ground, Clarke Stadium, where they’ve picked up three draws in three games this year, they’ll want to remain undefeated there, with a victory over their rivals being the main goal.
“We come and we go fight,” Edmonton’s head coach, Alan Koch, said of his team’s mentality ahead of this one. “We work incredibly hard to try to set our group up with success, we believe in our players. And we believe anything is possible in 90-plus minutes in a football match.”
On the theme of those rivals, however, it’s worth noting that this Cavalry side is coming off of a very different result of their own in their last match-up. After picking up just one point through their first three games, which all came on the road, they finally returned home to Spruce Meadows last weekend, where they scored early en route to a commanding 2-0 victory over Pacific FC.
“We felt a fast start was important,” Cavalry’s head coach, Tommy Wheeldon Jr., said of that match. “To score a goal as quickly as we did, that gave us the reward that we felt we’d deserved.”
Because of that, that is expected to give them the confidence to want to build off that result, especially in such an important rivalry match, one that has meant a lot to them over the years.
Given that they’re actually yet to lose to Edmonton in a competitive CPL match, sitting with a tidy record of 8-3-0 (W-D-L) against their rivals in 11 games, they’ll have every reason to believe that success will continue in this match. Sensing that, expect Edmonton to come out strong as a result, knowing their record at home, finally giving their fans something they’ve long waited for – a victory over Cavalry.
So as both sides get set to do battle on Friday, expect a feisty clash, as they look to combine rivalry and history for what is hoped to be another solid battle between two familiar foes.
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3 THINGS TO WATCH
- Edmonton looking for a return to usual defensive solidity: So far through five games this season, when FC Edmonton have been at their best, it’s usually come off the back of some very solid defensive work, which serves as a base for the rest of their game. And considering that their three positive results – draws against Valour FC, York United and Pacific FC – all came in games where they conceded one goal or fewer, that much is apparent. Especially when seeing how well they defended in those matches, managing to keep their opponents to the outside for most of the game, that point is further reflected. Therefore, coming off that 3-1 loss to the HFX Wanderers, their second loss in which they conceded three goals (they lost 3-0 to Forge FC in week three), it’s imperative that Edmonton refind that defensive solidity in this game. A young team, one still finding their feet after a chaotic offseason and haphazard preseason, defence has been the base on which they’ve quickly built their foundation so far this season, and when it’s not there, you can see it. When they sit in their compact 5-4-1, which can sometimes morph into a 5-3-2, they can be very hard to beat, proving to be very organized at the back, and both compact and feisty in the middle, but can become beatable when they stray from those principles. Because of that, as they get set to take on a Cavalry team that likes to run the flanks and get physical in the middle in a back three of their own, Edmonton will want to get back to those basics in this game, because if not, their rivals will not be shy in making them pay by scoring a bunch of goals against them. “So far in the games, the players have responded in a very positive manner,” Koch said when asked if he expects a bounce back from his team in this one. “And we expect and know we’ll get the same sort of effort tomorrow night.”
- Cavalry’s back line aiming for another strong performance: At the same time, Edmonton isn’t the only team focused on trying to shore things up on the back. Of course, Cavalry enters this game fresh off of a very different result, having shut out the defending champions, Pacific, but even despite that, they’ll be eager to improve on picking up such a result. Especially considering that it was just their first clean sheet of the season, too, after giving up five goals in their first three games of the season, including games against Forge and York where they gave up two goals in each match, it was a nice return to what they usually did in 2021, where they gave up two or more goals just eight times in 29 matches. So now that they’ve gotten that first clean sheet in their back pocket, and with goalkeeper, Marco Carducci, back in the fold after his recovery from testicular cancer, they’ll want to make that a regular occurrence once again, much as they have typically made a habit of doing in the past. For whatever reason, that hadn’t been the case this season, with uncharacteristic sloppy goals and cheap yellow cards becoming a surprising staple of their defence, which they did well to avoid against Pacific, and will look to keep that going against Edmonton. “I think that’s us at our best,” Wheeldon Jr. said. “When we get that lead, it’s very hard to take it off us, so hopefully again (we can do the) same thing, we want to go on a bit of a run now and defence is a big part of it, because the goal is to win games but defence wins championships.”
- Wild Rose Cup a looming factor: Sometimes forgotten when these teams play, it’s also worth noting that this match will carry a lot of weight for fans of both teams, as with this being an Al Clasico, that means that this will be the first game in the 2022 edition of the ‘Wild Rose Cup’. For those unfamiliar with the ‘Wild Rose Cup, it’s a supporter’s driven trophy between both sides, awarded at the end of each season to the team that won the most Al Clasico’s (in league play only) between the two sides that year, meaning that this game will be the first game that counts for it. Because of that, it only adds further incentive to this rivalry match. On one side, there’s Edmonton, who having yet to win an Al Clasico match, much less a Wild Rose Cup, wants to change that this year, allowing them to bring back the trophy to their fans. Part of a good rivalry is having a good ‘give and take’ relationship, and right now the relationship with Cavalry has mostly been ‘give’ for Edmonton, something they want to change to ‘take’ this season, starting with a win in front of their home support. “We’re excited to play at home,” Koch said. “I think we’ve shown that we can make it difficult for the teams that we play against. And we’re going to do the exact same thing again, (Friday) night.” On the other side, however, Cavalry won’t want to give up their title as the ‘Kings of Alberta’, especially not without a fight. Having never lost an Al Clasico, and remaining winners of both the 2019 and 2021 editions of this trophy (there was no trophy in 2020 given the bubble season), they want to make it three in a row this time around, and no better way to kick off their quest towards doing that with a big win in 2022’s first Al Clasico, silencing the home fans with what would be a big road result for them. “I’m a proud Calgarian, so (I’m happy) anytime we can go up North and take points back,” Wheeldon Jr said. “And our record speaks for itself. I love going up to Clarke Stadium, and I know our boys do, too.”
Cavalry FC wins: 8 || FC Edmonton wins: 0 || Draws: 3
Oct. 9, 2021 — Cavalry FC 1-1 FC Edmonton
“I think every game (against them) has been a good game. And they’ve not been easy wins or ties, (either). I think my favourite thing is we’ve retained the Al Clasico, the Wild Rose Cup, and I think that anytime we can do that, and celebrate that, it is a big win over our neighbours from the north. So I think I really enjoy these matchups. They’re very tough, hard and games. Alan’s teams are well organized, and he’s a well-experienced coach. So personally, I love going to duel with him.” — Cavalry FC Head Coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr.
“We’ll go game by game. We go game by game all season long. We’ll focus on tomorrow and when we finish tomorrow’s game, at 10 o’clock tomorrow night then we’ll start focusing on Tuesday’s (CanChamp clash).” — FC Edmonton Head Coach Alan Koch