Final Score: Cavalry FC 2-1 Valour FC Goalscorers: Mason 39', Musse 81'; Forbes 47' Game of the 2022 season: 107 CPL match: 357​

Match in a minute or less

Cavalry FC officially clinched a playoff spot on Sunday afternoon, as they beat Valour FC 2-1 at Spruce Meadows, eliminating the Winnipeggers from playoff contention in the process. The home side had a 1-0 lead going into the break, after Joe Mason redirected an Ali Musse header past Rayane Yesli moments before halftime. Valour came out firing after the break, however, as Billy Forbes headed a Sean Rea cross past Marco Carducci less than two minutes after play resumed. Ali Musse secured all three points for Cavalry with a late wondergoal -- a powerful strike from the edge of the penalty area that flew into the top right corner to win the match. Cavalry would have clinched a playoff spot anyway with a draw, but Valour absolutely needed three points to avoid elimination, but unfortunately for them, they would come up just short.

Three Observations

Cavalry FC and Pacific FC secure the final two playoff spots

With Pacific FC beating FC Edmonton on Friday night, and Cavalry's win over Valour on Sunday afternoon, both sides have clinched their spots in the 2022 Canadian Premier League playoffs, and officially eliminated Valour. They join Atlético Ottawa, who qualified last weekend, and Forge FC, who booked their ticket to the postseason on Saturday night with their win over York United. Three of four teams from a season ago are in the playoffs, with Ottawa replacing York as the lone difference from a year ago. Ottawa will make their playoff debut, while Cavalry and Forge are back into the playoffs for the fourth year in a row, the only two teams to accomplish that feat having been the two finalists from the inaugural 2019 CPL season. Valour and FC Edmonton are the only two sides now to have never reached the playoffs, although Valour has come agonizingly close for two years in a row now. "We set out our goals at the start of the season -- we had to get back into the playoffs," said Cavalry head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr after Sunday's match. "No matter how you start the race, it's how you finish it that counts. We've topped the table and not picked up any silverware." "A playoff championship is a lot, we just had to finish above the line. We had three bites at the cherry, it didn't work last week, but we knew that we wanted to take this one and not leave it to the last game of the season. The last game of the season is a bonus, for where we finish in the table." There are several ways Cavalry can approach that final regular season match, next weekend at home against the reigning champions Pacific. They can go all out, pushing to end the season on a high against another playoff squad and potentially earn home-field advantage in the playoffs, or they can rest players in an attempt to get everyone fit and rested ahead of the business end of the season. In an ideal situation, they'll be able to do a bit of both. But first, Tommy Wheeldon Jr wants to celebrate briefly and take in their achievement thus far to get back into the playoffs. "I think I'll have clarity after I've had a nice drink on the patio with my wife tonight," he joked in his press conference. "That's the first port of call, and I won't make any decisions while I'm emotional." Pacific also has to play midweek against Forge FC at Tim Hortons Field before they travel back west to take on Cavalry at Spruce Meadows, a set of matches that will be absolutely crucial in deciding the final seedings ahead, with the playoffs starting not long thereafter.

Valour disappointed to miss playoffs, but keen to win final regular season game​

As mentioned, Valour FC was officially eliminated from playoff contention with Sunday's defeat, narrowly missing out on their first-ever playoff spot with just one match remaining in the regular season. It comes after last season's heartbreak where a draw on the final day of the season meant that they missed the 2021 playoffs by a single point. While Sunday's match was the defeat that officially ended the club's playoff hopes this time around, it certainly wasn't the reason why they didn't. Dropped points against other teams also in and around the playoffs spots are of course a big factor, as well as dropping points from winning positions on occasion. An example of both came at IG Field in late July, as Valour was leading Pacific FC 1-0 at home with 20 minutes to go, but a three-minute brace from since-departed Pacific star Alejandro Diaz saw The Tridents turn a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 victory, and leave Valour with nothing. That's just one example, but there have been a few occasions, according to head coach Phillip Dos Santos, that ultimately sunk them. "I don't think it was this game," Dos Santos said after Sunday's match. "I think when we look at the reason why we're in this situation where we're playing for our lives, it's because there were opportunities for us to maybe secure points that we weren't able to secure previously. I look back at home games that we lost points. "It's not just one game, I think that coming here is already hard enough. Having to come here and fight for your life, you're playing with fire and we've played with fire in the last few games." Captain Daryl Fordyce spoke to the media after the match as well, and offered some insight into what he told his teammates amidst their disappointment. "You've got to learn from every downfall that you have, or every upset," he said. "Get your head back up and assess what you've done this year, you've got to keep going. No game is easy and you have to be prepared every single time. You need to find that consistency within your team, whether it's injury prevention, whether it's to make yourself faster or stronger or better on the ball, or to learn the tactical side. "There's so much that goes into it, each and every player has got to keep growing and keep progressing because there's so many quality players around the world that come in and take your spot, so I said to them you learn from every upset and mistake that you have and keep going." Both Fordyce and Dos Santos made one thing clear as well: just because their final regular season match won't have any impact whatsoever on playoff contention or even what position they finish in the table -- fifth is guaranteed with York United four points back -- they still expect their side to give it everything they've got and to approach it the right way. "I want to see our players approach training at 100 per cent, like we needed to win the game to make the playoffs," said Fordyce. "It's another game, we haven't beat Edmonton this year. "You can't disrespect any team in this league, and you have to show character. You have to turn up no matter what, whether it's a preseason, or a cup final. It's about being a professional day in and day out."

Big players stepped up in big moments for Cavalry​

Cavalry head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr said on Friday that his team will always have a chance to win matches if they don't concede a Goal Of The Season nominee. He's confident, as he should be, in their ability to win matches in a number of ways -- whether it's grinding out victories defensively or outscoring teams to win an offensive duel. Sunday's match required a bit of both, and at this stage in the season with high-intensity playoff games looming, you just need to find ways to win games, they don't have to be particularly pretty -- as his side knows all too well after disappointing playoff exits in 2019, 2020 and 2021. Ali Musse scored one of those Goal Of The Season nominees to secure the win, and Musse combined with Joe Mason and Miki Cantave for the opening goal. Marco Carducci made five saves in the match, including a fantastic one in stoppage time to hang onto the three points, and the midfield did their job as well, as a strong team effort is what earned them the victory. "That's what you want, your big players performing in the big moments," Wheeldon Jr said after the match. "That's why they're called big players, it can't just be because of their name on the back of their jersey, their reputation has to be moments like this. "To see Joe Mason score, to see Cantave's assist, to Alarcon's assist to Musse's bit of magic was terrific, but I love the ugly side of the game. Simmo (Elliot Simmons) and Elijah (Adekugbe) worked their socks off in midfield, getting second balls. It wasn't a pretty game and it didn't need to be, it just had to be a winning performance. "Our backline, I thought they managed the game very well throughout it and that's what pleases me. That was like playoff football." Player of the Match

Ali Musse, Cavalry FC Assisting Cavalry's first goal and scoring a fantastic winner, Ali Musse was involved all afternoon long as his side clinched a playoff spot.

What’s next?

Cavalry has just one CPL regular season match remaining, at Spruce Meadows against Pacific FC next Saturday, October 8 (4 pm MT/3 pm PT). Valour concludes their regular season on the road, again in Alberta, as they head to Edmonton to take on FC Edmonton at Clarke Stadium (2 pm MT/3 pm CT). Watch all matches live on OneSoccer. In addition to its website and app, OneSoccer is now available on TELUS channel 980 and on Fubo TV. Call your local cable provider to ask for OneSoccer today.

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