The Rivalry – Semis-Edition:     Leg One

The Rivalry – Semis-Edition: Leg One

Sorry it took this one so long to come out, but there was so much for me to break down tactically. Just kidding. I don’t do that, but what I did notice was more of the same. Two teams pretty evenly matched, and another healthy round of the Rivalry.


It could have been very different. Forge came out buzzing and struck the crossbar early. It was reminiscent of the 2019 Finals first leg when Forge hit the bar 3 times and had a pk stopped. Would it be one of those days? This Cavalry squad would say no. They played solidly on defense and didn’t give the Forge too many clear sights of goal.

The best run had to be when Carducci, one of the 3 ‘keeper of the year nominees (no I ain’t bitter) got down to make a sharp stop on Borges after a great switch of play led to a slick pass from Morgan to free Borges up in the box. Immediately Cavalry headed out on the counter, with a wicked shot being stopped by Henry (not one of those 3 nominees – and I already told you I ain’t bitter!) with the rebound falling to the foot of the always dangerous Musse, but Henry recovered to get a toe on the ball and send it over the bar. That pretty much summed up the battle. Even.


But it was the Cavs who would strike first. On the counter they raced up field, and a beautiful cross found the head of Dan Klomp who made no mistake, and at the end of the first half Calgary’s heroes would head to the locker room with a lead.

Cavalry midfielder Elijah Adekugbe and Forge Attacker Tristan Borges strugge for possession. (CFC Media Mike Sturk)

Coming out of the half looked like the start of the game again, Bobby’s boys buzzing. And a wily veteran maneuver from Morgan won Forge a free kick that was nearly a corner. But the difference in angle was beneficial, as captain Kyle Bekker whipped in a near-perfect ball for Woobens Pacius to head home. Game tied. But it was here that I noticed something.

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Woobens celebration could be called…emphatic. It was clear he was excited by the colorful phrasing of his cheers. And it suggested something. Relief. Woobens is Forge’s top scorer and biggest offensive threat (though Borges’ playmaking/scoring combo may provide an argument). So, when that ball finally hit the back of the net, something lifted from that young man’s shoulders. A burden. And not to sound too trite, but that may be the dam bursting. He tends to score in bunches.


But when I was watching the replays later, I noticed something similar. On the Cavalry sidelines after the Klomp header, I saw a similar expression of joy/relief. (I missed it the first time having my head buried in my hands). But it wasn’t Klomp, the goal scorer, he was all smiles and serenity. No, this exuberance emanated from the head coach, the sartorial superstar that is Tommy Wheldon, Jr. He was Kloppian in his celebration. It may just be my natural bias in the Rivalry, hailing from the Hammer as I do, but it seemed like that first one was a relief for Tommy. This series has not been kind to him, just as the tail end of the season has not been kind to Woobens. And that celly by the Cavs coach was telling. He needs this. And in some ways so does the league. Someone to knock the bullies off the block.

Mikaël Cantave of Cavalry battles with Rezart Rama and David Choinière of Forge for possession (CFC Media Mike Sturk)

Now, am I the type of guy to throw gasoline on a fire? Of course I am. So here it goes. With Stephen Hart cut loose on the Halifax pier and set adrift, there are only two original CPL coaches left. And as the Highlander taught me, there can only be one!


But how is it possible that the winningest coach in CPL regular season history could be on the block. Well, it’s like this. Eventually, the fans of Cavalry will want more. And so will the team. They used to always win the regular season (or Spring and Fall if you prefer). But last year when Forge won the regular season it was the first time Cavalry didn’t (Spring, Fall and the Island). They finished second. And this year, they finished third. Maybe that’s not a trend. But maybe it is.


And that recently created, but kind of made-up-afterthought called the regular season trophy (without a corporeal form) will salve the burn for a while, but if this proud franchise doesn’t get to actually take part in a silverware producing match this year, and the resultant celebration at home, then next year becomes a pressure cooker. And this year they still have to beat their biggest rival at the Coffee Grounds. (And should they survive that, likely play the only team they are worse against in the Finals). There is a lot of pressure on Tommy and his charges. Something they have not handled as well as Bobby and his core – Finals One and Two, Concacaf Run to the Champions League, etc.

Again, I am not one to smile at the schadenfreude. But the pressure is on for the second leg, and I know who I’d back.


I recommend the ever-stylish Tommy wear a loose-fitting ascot with Sunday’s suit, over one of those smart ties with the double Windsor knot. I’d hate his fashion to be his undoing, but those can get awfully tight this time of year.*

Like most great rivalries it is all about the second half, and this one is looking like it’ll go down to the wire. I’d expect nothing less. Let’s see which team has more left in the tank.

* For those who may have missed my subtlety, that was definitely a “choke when it counts” reference.

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