Calgary club ousts Vancouver FC in first round of Canadian Championship

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The rubber match is on for Cavalry FC with the big, bad Vancouver Whitecaps.

That after Cavalry willed itself — down a man for the final 30 minutes — through to the second round of the 2024 Canadian Championship with a Tuesday 1-0 home win over Vancouver FC.

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So it’s from one Vancouver squad to another for Calgary’s professional footie side in pursuit of the Voyageurs Cup — the hardware handed out for winning this domestic tournament.

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“It’s a tough one,” said Cavalry gaffer Tommy Wheeldon Jr., obviously relieved at advancing given how the game seemed to be unfolding — against them — on ATCO Field at Spruce Meadows.

“I thought we showed great resolve,” continued the GM/head coach. “What I loved was the way the guys dug in.”

And how.

With not much happening for the first 60 minutes — save for a missed opportunity by Ali Musse on a Cavs breakaway — it looked like the tide turned against the home side when midfielder Shamit Shome was shown a red card.

With Shome sent off, indeed, it seemed Cavalry would be on the back foot.

But instead, they went on the front foot, attacking almost immediately and catching Vancouver off-guard.

And suddenly, the short-handed Cavs had a higher gear and — eventually — a goal to show for their spark.

“Like it’s so special about the team that everybody is on one page,” said goal-scorer Toby Warschewski. “I felt like we got even closer together (after the red card) and wanted it even more — the win. Every single one of us gave everything in every tackle, every situation and every battle.

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“We got lucky, but I think we deserve it, too.”

Cavalry FC vs. Vancouver FC
Cavalry FC forward Ali Musse goes around Vancouver FC forward Gabriel Bitar during ther Canadian Championship match on ATCO Field at Spruce Meadows on Tuesday, April 23, 2024. Photo by Jim Wells /Postmedia

Warschewski’s winner came when he headed in a ball in the 66th minute to finish a flurry of activity put on by Cavalry.

“We lost our concentration,” said Vancouver FC head coach Afshin Ghotbi. “We took a bad goal. It seemed to be a mistake between players.”

On the goal, the Cavs kept a lengthy attack alive, with the ball eventually finding Diego Gutiérrez, who made a top-of-the-box pass across to Fraser Aird, and Aird chipped the ball into danger, where a Vancouver defender couldn’t quite head it away, and Warschewski was there at the back post to knock it in over goalkeeper Callum Irving.

“I’m excited to score my first goal,” Warschewski said. “The first look Fraser that he had, it was a cross-in, and I knew it. He wanted to chip it in on the second (chance) — I think he saw me before.

“I knew the ball wasn’t going out, so I thought maybe I go there (to the far post). Just lucky … I don’t know. It just happened, and I’m happy to score.”

It’s been coming for a while for the big German, who was a prized acquisition by the Cavs in the off-season.

“He’s just a very deadly player,” said Wheeldon of Warschewski. “He’s a strange one. You think because he’s a big lad, he’s just very basic, but he’s not. He’s got soft, silky movement. He can dribble out. He can chest it off. He can spin. He can shoot. And it was great to see him score his first goal.”

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Great for the Cavs and their cup ambitions, for sure.

A year ago, they fell to Pacific FC after a 1-1 draw and a 5-3 loss on penalty kicks.

“Yeah, and these are the reps you need for playoff-type football cup competitions — one and done,” Wheeldon said. “We we wanted to make sure we put our best selves forward.

“I thought we just showed great resolve and some good ideas there that I think we can still play better,” Wheeldon said. “And that’s the good thing about it is we’ve got a clean sheet, we’ve scored a really good goal, and then I think there’s improvements there that we want to make moving forward.”

Cavalry FC vs. Vancouver FC
Cavalry FC keeper Marco Carducci punches the ball away in front of Vancouver FC midfielder David Norman during their Canadian Championship match on ATCO Field at Spruce Meadows on Tuesday, April 23, 2024. Photo by Jim Wells /Postmedia

In moving forward to play the other Vancouver team in this tourney, they draw the two-time defending Voyageurs Cup-champion Whitecaps of Major League Soccer fame.

It’s a crew the Cavs have met twice before in the Canadian Championship — when they shocked them during their run to the semifinals back in 2019, and when they lost to them in penalty kicks in 2022.

“For us, we knew if we win this game, we go against an MLS side again,” Warschewski said. “And I think we had the experience in Concacaf with Orlando City, and I think it’s just excitement to play against good opposition. And for us, it’s a big challenge, but we take the challenge.”

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Just as they did Tuesday night after going down a man.

“When things go against you, the players need the extra man, and that extra man has to be me and the coaching staff,” Wheeldon said. “As soon as we’d gone into that, we said, ‘Let’s go 4-4-1.’ Don’t give up any extra plays. And when we get the ball, look for the wide areas. Just stay in tact and make them beat ya. Try and block the crosses … and stay tight. And Marco Carducci be big when you can.

“I thought Marco made some big blocks,” added Wheeldon of his superstar goalie, who made a slide-tackle save on Moses Dyer in the first half and tipped a José Navarro shot out of harm late in the game. “The back-line? Fraser, (Eryk) Kobza, Daan Klomp and Brad (Kamdem Fewo) are blocking and cheering each other on. That’s the guts you need to be successful in this league and in this competition.”

Next up for the Cavs (0-1-1) is Sunday’s host of Pacific FC (2-0-0) in Canadian Premier League action at ATCO Field (3 p.m., OneSoccer,

Bradley Kamdem Fewo
Cavalry FC midfielder Bradley Kamdem Fewo intercepts the ball from Vancouver FC during their Canadian Championship match on ATCO Field at Spruce Meadows on Tuesday, April 23. Photo by Brent Calver /Postmedia


The Cavalry Starting XI was: keeper Carducci; defenders Aird, Kobza, Klomp and Kamdem Fewo; midfielders Shome, Lucas Dias, and Charlie Trafford; and forwards Willy Akio, Musse and Warschewski … The club’s subs were: goalie Jack Barrett; defenders Tom Field and Michael Harms; midfielders Sergio Camargo and Gutiérrez; and forwards Malcolm Shaw and Lleyton Brooks … The Cavs scratches were: goalie Mitchell Barrett; defenders Callum Montgomery (foot) and Caden Rogozinski; and midfielders Jesse Daley (leg), Maël Henry (hamstring), Niko Myroniuk and Max Piepgrass.

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