That’s an ancient proverb, one that historians have pinpointed to a translation from the ancient Arthashastra, an Indian text that dates back 2,500 years.
So, how could those ancient writers have known so much about split seasons in soccer? Because, when it comes to Cavalry FC in the Canadian Premier League fall season, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” could very well be the team motto.
There’s a funny thing about split seasons. We saw this in NASL 2.0, which was also split into spring and fall campaigns; the team that’s the villain of the spring season is the avenging hero of the fall.
How does that work?
The spring season winner is guaranteed a spot in the postseason; so, when Cavalry FC began to run away from the pack, the other six teams hoped for coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr.’s men to drop points. For the other six coaches and their fanbases, their favourite teams were their own and whoever was playing the Cavalry.
But, now that the Cavalry has clinched that spot in the final, the boys from Spruce Meadows are now everyone else in the league’s second favourite team.
No matter how Cavalry does in the fall season, we know that the real derby is the race to see who is going to be the other team in the final. It’s a race between six teams, with the Cavalry, who has already clinched, playing the role of the spoiler. Week in, week out, the other teams will be cheering for the Cavalry to take care of business — because that means one of their rivals for the other spot in the final will be dropping points.
And Cavalry is being a really damn good spoilers, as we’ve seen from nine points claimed out of three fall season matches.
Cavalry has already taken points off of HFX Wanderers, York9 and Pacific FC in the fall — and has done its part to put dents in those teams’ aspirations to be the other team in the CPL final.
And this is where Wheeldon Jr. and his team deserve credit. Not only does the Cavalry already have a spot in the playoff sewn up, the team also is still in the thick of the Canadian Championship, with a massive game coming up midweek in Vancouver. No one would have blinked had the Cavalry bottled a couple of games early in the fall season.
But, nope, the beat rolls on. It doesn’t matter who plays for the Cavalry, the team goes out and wins. Winger and sparkplug Nico Pasquotti started on the bench against York9, defensive standouts Joel Waterman and Jonathan Wheeldon and striker Dominique Malonga got the afternoon off, yet the Cavs still took care of business.
Three for three — not only is the team preserving its own honour, it’s preserving the integrity of the competition.
To be fair, it doesn’t always happen that way in split seasons. Go back to 2013; the Atlanta Silverbacks won the NASL Spring Season, ensuring that they would play in the Soccer Bowl. In the second half of the season, a team that knew that it had already done what it needed to do had a hard time finding the motivation to compete; it finished the fall season seventh out of eight teams, winning just four out of 14 games. But we’re not seeing that so far in CPL, Critics of the split-season format would have asked the question “what does the spring season champion have to play for?” So far, Cavalry has answered that question.
Next Saturday, Cavalry faces Valour FC. And the other five coaches in the league will be pulling for the boys from Calgary to continue their perfect start to the fall season. Because, well, the enemy of my enemy is my friend, right?