Final Score: Cavalry FC 2-2 FC Edmonton Goalscorers: Di Chiara 30', Mason 89; Gonzalez 7', Aird 65′ (pen) Game of the 2021 season: 56 CPL match: 191

Match in a minute or less

FC Edmonton and Cavalry FC traded punches in a game largely dictated by the latter as Joe Mason ensured the Cavs attacking efforts weren't all for naught with his late strike salvaging a 2-2 draw Sunday afternoon at ATCO Field. After jumping out to an early lead, the Eddies continued to drop deeper and the hosts took advantage of that as they equalized before the break. Just as it appeared a Fraser Aird PK midway through the second half would see the visitors to victory, Mason sent the Spruce Meadows crowd into a frenzy with an 89th minute finish to ensure the Eddies' failure to pick up an 'Al Classico' would extend at least until Wednesday when these two sides will meet again, this time at Clarke Stadium.

Three Observations

Eddies find some success with change in shape Edmonton has developed a reputation for its defensive discipline and regimented 4-4-2 structure so far in the 2021 season under new head coach Alan Koch. While results have been mixed in this system characterized by its difficulty to break down two blocks of four, Koch opted to change things Sunday in Calgary, perhaps partly due to the personnel available as defensive mainstay Amer Didic and striker Tobias Warschewski were both unavailable in this one. Lining up in something of a 4-5-1 with Easton Ongaro leading the line on his own, Koch felt as though results were mixed in how his team performed away to Cavalry: "I think we did a good job at trying to shrink the pitch as much as possible," Koch said following the game. "And I think we allowed them to play a little bit more than I would've liked to allow them to play." Possession stats support the Eddies manager's assessment of the action as the Cavs enjoyed nearly 70% of the ball, albeit largely limited to the outside with plenty of congestion in the middle of the park. Cavalry head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. gave kudos to the execution of Edmonton's game plan and suggested it was why his team relied on crosses more than they have in several other matches this season: "If you can’t go through them, you’ve got to go 'round them and we ended up going 'round them, putting as many balls as we could as cutbacks into areas we thought we could score from." In the end, Mason (more on him later) found just enough space to crack the Eddies low block late but given this was just the second draw FCE have ever earned against their Alberta adversaries, Koch and Co. can surely take some solace in how they performed in a difficult environment on the road. Value of Mason more evident than ever It was a game in many ways defined by Cavalry’s shortcomings in the final third as they created more than enough to win the match, but the value of having a player like Joe Mason on the pitch was clearly evident as he helped salvage a point for the Cavs at the death. The wingbacks in Mo Farsi and José Escalante were getting into advanced wide positions with regularity and whipped in a combined 14 crosses for their frontline to feast on but time and time again, chances went begging. On an afternoon where others around him didn't have their shooting boots on, Mason demonstrated that 'fox in the box' skillset at the critical moment that many within CanPL circles expected of him ahead of his arrival — it was exactly that which Wheeldon Jr. and his staff recruited the UK native for according to the Cavs head coach: "He’s a sniper and that’s what we brought him in for," Wheeldon Jr. told reporters after the match. "You just need to give Joe Mason that half a yard, that’s how we got it (the goal) and that’s where you show your experience... and he’s done it four games in a row now, so he’s terrific.” While he might not boast the flashiest skillset or immediately stand out to the average viewer until he's beating the keeper, Mason has the movement and killer instinct in the final third that all great centre forwards possess. Operating on just 16 touches all night with much of the play in that area of the pitch coming on the channels, the decisive touch came on from the right boot of Mason as he slowly creeps up the CPL leading scorer list. It's his 'calmness under chaos' which Wheeldon Jr. hopes to instill in the rest of his attacking players. Cavalry live and die with realities of deploying a back three The back three system which Cavalry have leaned on in most matches this season allows them to push the likes of Farsi and Escalante further up the field to provide width for the attack, but in moments of transition, it can also leave gaps of space in wide areas for the opposition to exploit. For proof of this theory, look no further than the opening goal of the game where the Cavs looked to be breaking out of their own half. Farsi and Escalante have rightfully advanced and central defender Daan Klomp steps up to provide an option for the midfield, but when the build breaks down unexpectedly, Edmonton needs just one progressive pass to send Azriel Gonzalez in all alone off of the left flank. Although the influence is far more subtle on the second Edmonton goal, the same argument could be made as to how that move started. With Jeannot Esua getting a step on Escalante, the Cavalry left wing back slides to block an Esua cross as he's back pressing in his own area and the ball is deemed to have struck his arm in the process — leading to Aird scoring from the spot. While fortune plays a huge part in the end, the space behind the wingbacks is again taken advantage of by the visitors. Of course, these two instances were relatively rare on Sunday (albeit costly), but against another side with more pace and directness in wide areas, the cause for concern has the potential to be greater going forward. High paced counter-attacks and high-quality service better define how this three-man backline with two marauding wingbacks looks on an average day, but credit must go to the Eddies who managed to capitalize on two of their very limited chances they did find when they could get in behind the Cavalry defence. Player of the Match

Mo Farsi, Cavalry FC Although he ultimately didn't play a direct role in either Cavs goal, Farsi was a constant threat down the right flank and on another day could have walked away with three or more assists with the final whistle. Putting eight crosses into the box and creating four scoring chances in the process, the Cavalry right wingback provided his attacking teammates with plenty of quality service inside the Eddies box.

What’s next?

These two Albertan outfits face off once again midweek as the scene shifts to Clarke Field in Edmonton on Wednesday evening (7 pm MT). Watch all matches live on OneSoccer.

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