A fantastic late goal from Ali Musse booked Cavalry FC’s spot in the playoffs on Sunday afternoon, as they defeated Valour FC 2-1 at Spruce Meadows. As a result, the Winnipeggers were officially eliminated, and Pacific FC clinched a playoff spot as well.
The beginning of the first half was end-to-end, with both sides coming strong out of the gates with something to prove, and looking for that opening goal. Cavalry in particular started well, firing three shots off in the first few minutes of the match, but none of them were able to hit the target.
Andy Baquero had the best chance for Valour early on, charging toward Marco Carducci’s goal, but instead of opting for a cross-goal shot, he tried to fire it in at the near post, and ended up missing the target entirely.
With the pace slowing down in the second 15 minutes of the match after a more exciting first 15, both teams picked it up again around the half-hour mark. Diego Gutierrez kept Carducci on his toes with a shot from well outside the penalty area that the Cavalry goalkeeper was able to catch with ease, before Billy Forbes also hit the target from closer range about 30 seconds later.
After Cavalry continued to knock on the door, they would open the scoring in the 39th minute. Cantave floated a cross into the box, which Ali Musse headed down into the ground and toward the goal. Joe Mason was there to redirect it with a header of his own, squeezing it past a diving Rayane Yesli for the first goal of the game, and Mason’s eighth of the season.
The game opened up a little more as a result, with Valour now needing two goals and a victory.
Carducci came up with another big save a few minutes later, diving to his right to catch a curling shot from Forbes. It was one of three saves he made in total in the first 45, as the 2019 CPL Goalkeeper of the Year, and likely frontrunner for the 2022 edition of the award, put in one of his standard good performances.
Valour would take the lead moments after halftime, however, as whatever Phillip Dos Santos said to his team at halftime clearly worked.
After a failed clearance from Jose Escalante was collected by Daryl Fordyce, the Valour captain played it short to Sean Rea. Rea, the CPL’s league leader in assists immediately picked up his ninth of the year, taking a touch and scooping the ball over the Cavalry defenders to Billy Forbes. The experienced attacker made no mistake, heading the ball past Carducci to tie the game at one goal apiece.
Cavalry tried to respond immediately, and nearly did as Miki Cantave headed a cross from Roberto Alarcon toward the top corner of the Valour goal, but Yesli was able to stretch his tall frame to catch the ball and hang onto it.
Walter Ponce nearly gave Valour the lead in the 53rd minute as Valour continued to come out strong after the break. Ponce slid in an attempt to reach a perfect low cross into the box from the Valour left flank, and was able to get his foot on it. He beat both Carducci and a sliding Karifa Yao, but the redirection slipped just wide of the post. Carducci reacted accordingly, seemingly telling his teammates to wake up and match their opponents’ intensity.
Yesli came up with another big save in the 69th minute, diving to his right to push away a fantastic free kick from Ali Musse. From the ensuing corner, Yesli made another save, denying Myer Bevan from close range with a diving stop.
With the clock ticking toward the final whistle, and the match tied at 1-1, Valour still had a chance at completing the comeback and keeping their playoff hopes alive, but Musse had other ideas. After collecting a cross in from Roberto Alarcon, Musse turned and fired a sensational shot from the edge of the penalty area into the top corner of Yesli’s goal — giving the young Valour shotstopper no chance to make a save with the pace behind it.
Cavalry was able to hang on for the final 10 minutes or so of the match, despite Valour putting everything into their final push with their season on the line. Fordyce missed a chance in stoppage time, sliding to meet the ball on the ground but failing to get a strong touch on it, the closest they would come in the closing stages.
That symbolized Valour’s playoff push as a whole in some ways — agonizingly close. With their defeat, Valour was eliminated from playoff contention, and both Cavalry FC and Pacific FC clinched theirs.
39′ — Joe Mason (Cavalry FC)
48′ — Billy Forbes (Valour FC)
81′ — Ali Musse (Cavalry FC)
22′ — Yellow: Nassim Mekideche (Valour FC)
74′ — Yellow: Matteo de Brienne (Valour FC)
77′ — Yellow: Stefan Cebara (Valour FC)