July 14, 2024
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Vancouver FC Mikael Cantave

Analysis: Eagles Held to Scoreless Draw in Kelowna

By on June 18, 2024 0 412 Views

The inaugural CPL On Tour match was held on Sunday as Vancouver FC faced Cavalry FC in slightly dampened Kelowna, BC.

With over 6,000 spectators present, both sides canceled each other out across 90 minutes as the affair ended 0-0 with the spoils shared between them.

Impressive First Half From The Eagles

Despite Kelowna not being their usual home pitch, Vancouver began this match as if they were back in Langley with an inspired opening 45 minutes. Afshin Ghotbi put a couple of surprise picks in the starting eleven, including 2024 CPL Draft Pick Thomas Powell, while David Norman Jr made his return after a lengthy injury break.

While not dominating in possession, Vancouver FC did dominate in transition against Cavalry. The Eagles found plenty of gaps in behind the Calgary-sides defence, which allowed them to attack with pace down the wings. Mikael Cantave was especially dangerous in the first half, bombing down the left side and causing plenty of problems for Fraser Aird and Daan Klomp.

Renan Garcia and Vasco Fry were massive for Vancouver in those periods as well, as their movement and passing allowed Vancouver to break, as well as their defensive workrates helping the team win back possession to then attack. But perhaps the most impressive performance came from the man making his first start for the club in Powell. While a little sloppy in possession, the Coquitlam, BC native brought plenty of energy and spark to Vancouver’s attack, and helped his side put the pressure on throughout that first half.

“I though he had a very good performance for his first start in our team,” remarked Ghotbi on Powell’s start tonight. “I just want him, when he is in the final third, to be more adventurous, more courageous, and I think that part will come with more confidence.”

It’s a great sight for Ghotbi to have some of the more fringe players be able to perform when called upon, as the season is long and to be able to challenge at the top, you need everyone firing on all cylinders.

Shooting Boots Missing For Both Teams

A 0-0 scoreline isn’t the best scoreline when trying to entertain and convince a large crowd that they should support local Canadian Premier League soccer, but the match was not without its dramatic moments.

The best chances of the night arguably fell to Vancouver FC, and more specifically, the Mexican forward Alejandro Diaz. The striker, whose future is yet unknown with his loan spell due to expire in July, had two gilt-edge opportunities to score just at the end of the first half. A rare mistake from Marco Carducci allowed Vancouver to win back possession in Cavalry’s box, with Cantave dispossessing the ‘keeper. Diaz found himself with the goal at his mercy and plenty of players around him to pass for a tap-in goal, but the 28-year-old fluffed his lines and sailed a shot wide of the mark to spare Carducci’s blushes.

Then, not four minutes later, a superb corner kick delivery from Vasco Fry found Diaz in the middle of the box, not four yards from the goal line, but he still inexplicably managed to head the ball wide of the mark despite it being harder to miss than score. Vancouver FC could have easily been one or two goals to the good by the break, but instead allowed Cavalry the comfort of getting back into this match and threatening to steal the lead.

Cavalry nearly did just that eleven minutes into the second half. Lleyton Brooks latched onto a spectacular cross by Aird to head at point blank towards Callum Irving’s goal. Despite it looking like a certain goal, Irving somehow not only managed to stop it but held onto the effort to fully snuff out the danger. Both sides would push to try to get that coveted opening goal, but neither side was able to in the end, much to the dismay of both coaches

“In my analysis, I think we created enough chances to win the game,” admitted an emotionally-charged Ghotbi after the match. “We just missed the concentration that you need to score goals.”

“I think we got to where we wanted to be [in the second half]”, admitted Tommy Wheeldon Jr. in the post-match. “[Lleyton] Brooksy got his chance, Fraser put a couple of really good balls in, but we just lacked that finish to kill the game.”

Both sides will feel like they dropped some points with the opportunities they had in the game, especially considering that the combined xG on the match was almost 2.5 goals. But at the very least, the teams put on a good show for the new crowd out in Kewlona.

Kelowna For CPL, Test Proven?

Not a week goes by without someone in the CPL sphere asking about the future of the league regarding to expansions. After having only eight teams in the league since 2021 (with Vancouver FC replacing the now-defunct FC Edmonton), many fans are feeling a bit concerned that the league is plateauing before it can fully rise to its potential.

Last night’s game then became a sort of teaser for expansion-hopefuls, as it became a test to see if a city like Kelowna, who has long been rumoured as an expansion site, had the interest and passion to sustain a new professional football club. With a record-breaking crowd of 6,281 spectators, it sure looked like it passed that test. The stands were bouncing and the crowd was cheering, even if there were no goals to celebrate. For Tommy Wheeldon Jr., last night’s little experiment is what this league is all about.

“I’m very, very thankful,” explained Wheeldon Jr. on being part of this CPL on Tour match. “This is part of the important ecosystem that we’re trying to create here. It’s about giving Canadian the opportunity to play, to watch, to spectate, to support, to be medias from other spots. I think it’s brilliant and we’re really honoured to have been able to do this.”

It was, in one sense, crucial that last night was a success. With the drama that unfolded before the beginning of this CPL season, the league needed something tangible to try to ensure its fans that the league was still on the path of growth, despite its recent scares. Last night in Kelowna demonstrated that there can be a pull for domestic professional soccer. Now it’s about building on it so that it can flourish and be sustainable for years to come.

“I think this project, as a whole, was very special”, admitted Ghotbi about the entire endeavour. “There was enormous energy in this city, and there is enormous love for the game.”

Hopefully the league can execute some more tours like this in the future to other potential expansion teams so that many more fans can experience what it is like to have your own budding professional football league in your own backyard. For if this league is to staple itself as a mainstay in Canadian sports, it will need all the passionate eyes it can get across the whole country.

Header Image Photo Credit: Beau Chevalier

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