2023 CPL Regular Season — Match #94
Halifax Wanderers vs. Cavalry FC
September 12, 2023 at 7 p.m. AT/6 p.m. ET
Wanderers Grounds in Halifax, Nova Scotia
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Top of the table Cavalry FC close out their three-match east coast road swing on Tuesday with a trip to the Wanderers Grounds to take on fourth place Halifax Wanderers.
So far, it has been an impressive trip for the Cavs, who defeated Atlético Ottawa on a stoppage time William Akio winner on September 2 before a 0-0 draw with Forge this past Saturday. In doing so, they have maintained their four-point lead at the top of the league table.
Now, they quickly turn their attention to Halifax, the only other club in the league that has won seven matches at home this season.
“I think we are enjoying the challenges,” said Cavalry FC head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. “We always knew this was going to be a key part of the season when you look at it and you go Ottawa, a place that we hadn’t won at, that was the only ground where hadn’t won yet. Then you look at Forge, Forge are always an exceptional team to play against, and you know they are always in the conversation. Then you look at Halifax who have had a terrific home season this year.”
Halifax will be trying to replicate their performance from the last time the Cavs came to town, in which they handed the Calgary side a 3-1 loss. That is their only victory in their last nine matches against the Cavs, however, as they have largely struggled in the head-to-head matchup. The other two matches this season in Calgary saw them draw 2-2 back in May, before a 1-0 loss courtesy of a late Daniel Nimick own goal back in July. With that being said, Cavalry have not won in Halifax since 2019.
Halifax were also on the road this weekend, on the opposite coast in Langford, BC on Friday night where they drew 1-1 with Pacific FC. That draw put them back above the playoff line, and up into fourth, a point ahead of sixth-place York United, who are currently on the outside of the five-team playoffs, with a game in hand.
This midweek fixture will finally represent that game in hand on both York United and Forge FC, who they trail by three points and could jump into third place with a win on Tuesday. It offers an opportunity to put up some unanswered points on both sides in the playoff race and further cement their position above the line.
But while his side are the ones who are in the midst of the tight playoff race, Halifax head coach Patrice Gheisar said multiple times in his press conference this week that it is the visitors who should be feeling the heat ahead of this match.
“There’s so much pressure on Cavalry, they have to come in and win this game, because everybody is after them,” he said. “It is not easy being at the front of the race. I know Cavalry every time we have played them they have had some bounces their way, they have had several PKs. Hopefully, that will change tomorrow.”
Cavalry will have to make do without key midfielder Jesse Daley over the next two matches as he has been suspended following his second yellow card accumulation offence. Daley has made 21 appearances this year for Cavalry, trailing only Daan Klomp, meaning this will be a big loss for the league leaders.
All CPL matches are available to stream on OneSoccer, FuboTV, or on TELUS Optik TV Channel 980.
3 THINGS TO WATCH
- Cavalry FC looking to continue to build strong defensive foundation: A month ago, Cavalry FC travelled to IG Field in Winnipeg and looked like they were cruising to victory with a 2-0 lead in the 50th minute. A defensive collapse, however, saw Valour score three in a humbling 3-2 loss for the Calgary side. It is a lesson that the Cavs have taken in stride, as they have been the league’s best defensive team of late allowing just two goals in their last four matches. That defensive solidity is a big reason behind their four-point gap at the top of the table. Daan Klomp has led the way, with four straight appearances in the Canadian Premier League’s Team of the Week, but the club’s commitment to defending as a unit, especially in transitional moments, has helped them to see out four straight big results. A new back three setup has benefited the side in terms of defensive coverage, with Daan Klomp allowed to move further forward on the ball and help the team to maintain possession, with midfielder Charlie Trafford moving back to cover. Considering Halifax have been held scoreless at home just once this season, by York United back in May, however, this might be their backline’s bigger test of this road trip so far.
- Expect heavy rotation from both sides after travel/turnaround: Tuesday’s match will be the third in ten days for Cavalry FC, and just eight days for the Halifax Wanderers. As a result, both could see fairly heavy squad rotation for this match. Tommy Wheeldon Jr. chose to go with fairly similar lineups in his away trips to Ottawa and Hamilton. Perhaps this is the match where they switch things up. One player who is worth keeping an eye on who will likely return to the starting lineup for the Cavs is Ali Musse, who has scored four goals against Halifax the most any player has managed in this fixture. Patrice Gheisar, meanwhile, elected to significantly shift his side for their west coast trip to Pacific, making a stunning nine changes to his side, with only Yann Fillion and Doneil Henry starting both that match and their previous one against York United. “We obviously knew the schedule and that this was coming so the moment the Pacific game ended, we already started and had already our prep for Cavalry,” said Gheisar. “A lot of the decisions we made regarding Pacific were regarding Cavalry as well…it is busy, but you love being busy.”
- Halifax looking to be brave in possession in order to tire out road-weary Cavalry: Asked what the best strategy is for nullifying a Cavalry attack that can hurt you in so many different ways, Patrice Gheisar said it was crucial for his side to try to hold onto the ball as much as possible on Tuesday. Take the ball away from the Cavalry attackers and they can’t influence the match in the same way. While that is a sound strategy on paper, it will be an ambitious undertaking on Tuesday, as Cavalry has been the best team in the league in terms of road possession this season at 56.91 per cent in 12 road matches. They showed that this weekend against Forge, holding 61 per cent possession against a Forge team who currently sit first in the league in total possession at 54.91 (Cavalry now have marginally less overall at 54.87 both home and away). Holding onto the ball will really start at the back, as Cavalry will be keen to punish any mistakes in the buildup that Halifax make. “We need to be able to hang onto the ball, survive the press, beat them, tire them out having to chase and eventually if you are tired you are not going to be able to hang onto the ball,” said Gheisar. “I think that’s key. Our best form of defending will be our possession.”
PROJECTED STARTING XIs
Halifax Wanderers (5-3-2): Fillion; Fernandez, Nimick, Henry, Loughrey, Timoteo; Omar, Callegari, Ferrin; Coimbra, Morelli
Cavalry FC (3-4-3): Carducci; Klomp, Montgomery, Kobza; Shome, Trafford, Camargo, Aird; Henry, Akio, Musse
Cavalry FC wins: 9|| Halifax Wanderers wins: 2 || Draws: 6
July 15, 2023 – Cavalry FC 1-0 Halifax Wanderers
“We love to test ourselves against the best team. As a little kid, you grew up wanting to play against the first-place team. So it is a game that our guys are excited about, you don’t get a chance for that every week. ” — Halifax Wanderers head coach Patrice Gheisar
“Halifax is a different beast. It is a really terrific fanbase here, I know that Patrice will have the guys all fired up, he’s rested a lot of guys so we know that we are going to get their best version. But we like that, we don’t want to see watered-down teams. We want to play their best teams. If we want to be the best, we actually have to beat the best.” — Cavalry head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr.