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Vancouver FC Vasco Fry

Four Big Things About Tonight’s Cup Clash Between Cavalry and Vancouver

By on April 23, 2024 0 1125 Views

The 2024 Canadian Championship arrives tonight.

Canadian Premier league sides Cavalry FC and Vancouver FC will open the action at Spruce Meadows in a one-and-done affair that will leave only one team moving on to face the reigning cup champions. It marks both Cavalry’s first game home of the year and Vancouver FC’s first road trip.

Here’s four big talking points that the head coaches from both sides covered in the pre-game:

Cavalry FC Fraser Aird
Photo Credit: Canadian Premier League

Cavalry Has Missed A Home Crowd

It’s been just over six months since Cavalry FC last played at home, a figure made longer by the club’s ‘home’ Concacaf Champions Cup match needing to be held in British Columbia due to a frozen pitch. After opening league play this month with a road trip in Ontario, head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. is happy to kick off at Spruce Meadows again.

“We miss this place, we miss our fans, and it’s the magic of cup, so all of those things are very exciting as we prepare for tomorrow’s match,” says the gaffer.

While he says the league is a marathon, the domestic cup competition is a ‘one-and-done’ sprint. He’s keen to put his club’s name in the hat for the next round – a tantalizing rematch against a Whitecaps side whom they’d sunk in 2019 – so he’s had the squad focused on Vancouver FC immediately following their return from the nation’s capital.

Cavalry FC Mikael Cantave
Photo Credit: Bart Onyszko

A Young Fiesty History Favours The Hosts

Given that Vancouver FC only launched last year, it should come as no surprise that there isn’t a deep history to go off of, though it does reveal some lopsided results: Vancouver has never won a match, suffering three losses and one draw when facing Tommy Wheeldon Jr.’s side. They’ve also had three players ejected from those games.

“In my short time in Canada, I have a lot of memories from playing against Cavalry – and most of the time we were playing a man down,” reflects Ghotbi. “So, we’re hoping that we can at least stay with eleven against eleven, and finish the game, and play up to our full potential.”

Their last bout came in the fall with Mark Village actually taking head coach duties (Ghotbi himself was suspended for the game), with home side Cavalry coming up 2-1 victors on the night. In fact, they won both of their previous home matches against tonight’s opposition.

Vancouver FC Gabriel Bitar
Photo Credit: Beau Chevalier / Vancouver FC

Vancouver FC: So Hot Right Now

The Canadian Premier League’s newest club has opened with a flourish, holding the top position in league standings with the most goals scored, too.

“They’ve really had a good offseason, much like Ottawa in a way where they’ve strengthened and they’ll be competitive,” says Tommy on his opposition. “I think what they’ll do is they’ll certainly bring their best self, I imagine they’ll come in with confidence. A lot of our former players are on that side as well, so there’ll be an edge – it’s certainly a game that we’re taking very, very seriously.”

Don’t be fooled, though: Vancouver FC aren’t coming in cocky, but their head coach assures they’ll be flying in with a positive attitude on what could be their first-ever Canadian Championship win.

“I think the most precise way I can articulate the vibe and the feeling in the team…I think I can use the words humble, hungry, and hopeful. I think those are the three best words that describe how everyone in this team feels.”

Much like last year, the Whitecaps are waiting in the second round, with a tantalizing all-Vancouver match potentially on the menu.

Cavalry FC Callum Montgomery
Photo Credit: John Jacques

The Fit Check

Cavalry has a near-full bill of health, but there are some exceptions: Mael Henry will miss out on a match against his former side, while defender Callum Montgomery is still recovering from a foot injury picked up against Forge. Whether Aussie midfielder Jesse Daley sees action will be a matchday decision.

While Vancouver FC has had the tightest busiest schedule of any CPL side, you’ll see no complaints from Afshin: despite only having four days between his side’s earlier league matches and three days to today’s cup bout, he says his team has a clean bill of health.

“I think the team is fit enough to play every three days,” he says of the tight schedule. “We’re deep enough if necessary to start different members and have a good team on the pitch. Everyone is ready to go.”

Given Elliot Simmons had been sidelined in the start of the campaign, that means his season could potentially open against his former side.

Afshin also revealed that while the team travelled two days before away matches last year, he has adjusted the club’s travel plans for year two: Vancouver will now travel only the day before a match, with some exceptions for early afternoon games.

“I feel that the longer they can stay at home in their own beds, with their own families and their own friends, the more comfortable they are, and we can train on our own pitch. The depth in our team is quite special compared to last season, so we can travel the day before and perform well.”

Tonight we’ll see a first look at the impact of the changes.

Fans can tune into the Canadian Championship match between Cavalry FC and Vancouver FC at 7:00PM MT / 6:00PM PT on OneSoccer, fuboTV, or Telus Optik Channel 980.

Header Image Photo Credit: Beau Chevalier / Vancouver FC

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