Cavalry FC disappoints in home opener despite record fan turnout

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They say home is where the heart is.

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For Cavalry FC, that’s especially true, since they are particularly fond of ATCO Field.

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That fondness grew Sunday with the arrival of the home part of the 2023 Canadian Premier League campaign and a record reception from the fans — a strong emphatic slew of 4,566 to top all previous CPL counts to cheer on Cavalry at Spruce Meadows.

“For me, they’re undoubtedly the best fans in the league … by far,” said Cavalry midfielder Fraser Aird. “I mean … they come out of the numbers. Doesn’t matter if we’re winning, losing or it’s raining, pouring, sunny … doesn’t matter. They always come out and support.”

It was sunny and warm — especially so on an April day in Calgary — for the first home game of 14 on the season slate.

So there was an extra boost from the spectators on hand to watch Cavalry take on Valour FC.

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Unfortunately, that didn’t translate into the usual result for the home side at ATCO Field.

A let-down to start the second half and suspect passing throughout the contest left the Cavs soured by a 1-1 draw instead of the win they had on their minds to thank those who turned out.

“We always want to put on a show for the fans,” said Cavalry goalkeeper Marco Carducci. “It was an incredible atmosphere. This is what we love to do, and to have that support drives us forward. But we also want to repay the people that were here. So I think that disappointment is in that fact.

“We’re at home, and we want to put on a good show, and we want to score goals. Being at home, we want to excite the crowd ultimately.”

Cavalry FC’s Myer Bevan celebrates his goal against Valour FC with teammate Ali Musse on ATCO Field at Spruce Meadows on Sunday, April 30, 2023.
Cavalry FC’s Myer Bevan celebrates his goal against Valour FC with teammate Ali Musse on ATCO Field at Spruce Meadows on Sunday, April 30, 2023. Photo by Jim Wells /Postmedia

Cavalry did get on the board first Sunday, knocking home its maiden home goal of 2023 on a 1-0 strike by Myer Bevan, his third in three games. All credit went to Aird on a long, deep throw-in downfield, allowing Ali Musse to run on to before he turned a Valour defender inside out and tapped the ball to the top of the goal box for Bevan, who booted it by ’keeper Rayane-Yuba Yesli.

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But the 38th-minute opener didn’t last, as the visitors came out punching in the second half and were rewarded in the 56th minute. P.J. Williams received a ball that ricocheted off former Cavs attacker Anthony Novak’s shot to his position at the side of the goal box, and the first-year Valour player placed it high over Carducci.

No matter, because support continued to rock ATCO Field, nearly nudging the locals to victory.

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But late attempts by Joe Mason, Sergio Camargo and Bevan went for naught, with Valour — somehow — spoiling the home opener.

“I don’t think they spoiled it,” said Cavalry GM/head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. “I think we could be better. That’s the brutal honesty. We should be better.

“We had chances,” continued Wheeldon. “But we were very average with possession, which was disappointing. Last week, we had to grind it out (in two league draws on the road). And this week, we wanted to enjoy it at home. It was just one of those games where we didn’t do what we’d planned to work on, and that’s what’s disappointing to me as a coach, because I know this group is a very talented group.”

The Cavs’ home record backs that push from the fans.

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It’s a lovely 29-8-11 in four previous seasons. Three, really, since the entire 2020 campaign was played as the Island Games in Prince Edward Island.

Cavalry FC’s Goteh Ntignee battles Valour FC’s Juan Sanchez on ATCO Field at Spruce Meadows on Sunday, April 30, 2023.
Cavalry FC’s Goteh Ntignee battles Valour FC’s Juan Sanchez on ATCO Field at Spruce Meadows on Sunday, April 30, 2023. Photo by Jim Wells /Postmedia

“Our support is up there with the best of them — and it shows with the league record,” agreed Cavalry GM/head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. “We play in one of the nicest — if not the nicest stadium — in the country. We’re gonna leave blood over grass — like our philosophy.”

Unfortunately, the didn’t happen enought on this day, which keeps Cavalry — 0-3-0 — from overtaking over Valour — now 1-2-0 — in the CPL standings.

“I think when you represent a team from Calgary, fans just want to see you’re given everything you’ve got,” added Wheeldon. “And we can say we’ll always be in contention. Sometimes you need a bit of luck along the way, but we’ll certainly be contending, and we’ve got a fantastic home record, which we serve to protect.”

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Cavalry heads back on the road for its first May game and first challenge with expansion Vancouver FC (1-1-1) next Sunday in Langley, B.C. (5 p.m., OneSoccer/


The home crowd also saluted retired Cavalry players Nik Ledgerwood, Mason Trafford, Oliver Minatel and Jay Wheeldon ahead of kickoff. Cavs gaffer Wheeldon and president Ian Allison presented commemorative kits to the four individuals, who — after successful careers as members of the Cavalry roster — are now with the club in other capacities … The Cavs’ Starting XI was: goalie Carducci; defenders Udoka Chima, Daan Klomp and Jose Escalante; midfielders Aird, Jesse Daley and Charlie Trafford; and forwards Bevan, Musse, Mason and Mikael Cantave … The subs were: goalie Sterling Kerr; defender Roberto Alarcón; midfielders Camargo, Eryk Kobza and Nikolas Myroniuk; and forwards Goteh Ntignee and Ethan Beckford … Cavs scratches on the day were: defender Callum Montgomery; midfielders Ben Fisk (sciatica) and Shamit Shome (foot); and attacker Gareth Smith-Doyle.

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