2024 Concacaf Champions Cup — Round 1 (Leg 1) Cavalry FC vs. Orlando City SC February 21, 2024 at 7 p.m. PT / 8 p.m. MT Starlight Stadium in Langford, British Columbia Watch Live: OneSoccer // Tickets available here



For the first time in club history, Cavalry FC will play in continental competition on Wednesday, as they take on Major League Soccer side Orlando City SC in round one of the Concacaf Champions Cup. The two-legged tie will also be the first time that a Canadian Premier League club has faced American MLS opposition in an official competition.

"The date has been circled on our calendar for a couple of months now," said Cavalry captain Marco Carducci. "Really since the end of the season last year, and especially since the draw happened. I think we've been focusing on this and it has built up a lot of excitement."
Despite the heavy challenge, the Cavs step into the matchup full of confidence. They are coming off a fantastic 2023 campaign in which they won the CPL Shield as the league's regular season winner by a full 13 points, which earned them a berth in the Concacaf Champions Cup. While the sting of a defeat in the 2023 CPL Playoff Final in extra time to rivals Forge FC lingers, the club were able to keep turnover at a minimum this off-season, with the entire starting 11 from that match back for 2024.

Orlando, meanwhile, finished second in Major League Soccer's regular season table last season, with an 18-7-9 record, six points behind first-place FC Cincinnati. That position in the table earned them this spot in the Champions Cup. Unfortunately for them, they could not duplicate that success in the playoffs where they were knocked out in the conference semi-finals by eventual MLS Cup winners Columbus Crew.

CONCACAF CHAMPIONS CUP TEAM GUIDES: Who is Cavalry FC? || Who is Orlando City SC?

Ahead of this season, they added some significant quality, especially in attack with the signings of Uruguay international and 2022 Concacaf Champions Cup winner Nicolás Lodeiro from the Seattle Sounders, and Colombian international Luis Muriel from Atalanta in Italy's Serie A. Lodeiro, in particular, has been a fixture throughout preseason and with his experience in this competition could see significant action against Cavalry. Cavalry, however, won't be intimidated. Back in their inaugural season, 2019, they became the first CPL side to defeat Major League Soccer opposition when they stunned the Vancouver Whitecaps 2-1 on aggregate in the 2019 Canadian Championship. They have accrued solid experience in two-legged ties since, winning three and losing three on aggregate in club history between CPL playoffs, the 2019 Final and Canadian Championship action. Despite being founded five years earlier, Orlando have only ever played in one two-legged fixture, the 2023 Concacaf Champions Cup. Orlando City have technically never lost a match in Concacaf Champions Cup action. Their lone appearance, which came last year, saw them draw twice with Tigres in the Round of 16. Unfortunately, after a 0-0 draw at El Volcán, a 1-1 draw at home saw them eliminated on away goals. In the second leg of that matchup, Orlando head coach Óscar Pareja picked up a red card, which also means he will be suspended for Wednesday night's match. Interestingly, it is Tigres that await the winners of this matchup, after they defeated the Whitecaps 4-1 on aggregate in their round 1 matchup.

RELATED: 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup Guide: Who's playing, how does it work and what's on the line?

Wednesday's contest will be the first competitive fixture of the year for both sides. But on Saturday, Orlando return home where they will face CF Montréal in their home opener and first match of the 2024 MLS regular season. They then host Cavalry again in the return leg on Tuesday, Feb. 27. Due to weather concerns with Alberta's late February climate, which could significantly affect pitch conditions at Cavalry's grass surface home, ATCO Field, this 'home' leg for the Cavs will be played at Starlight Stadium in Langford, B.C., home of fellow CPL side Pacific FC. The venue also hosted the first leg of the Vancouver Whitecaps' round one tie with Tigres. Cavalry have done reasonably well on the Island over the years, with a 4-3-4 record in all competitions (though one of those draws over 90 minutes ended in a penalty shootout loss in the Canadian Championship) against Pacific FC at Starlight, including a 2-1 victory in their most recent visit to Langford on July 8, 2023.

3 THINGS TO WATCH

  • Can Cavalry use Starlight Stadium to their advantage?: While Cavalry may not get a traditional home-field advantage on Wednesday night, that does not mean that their home leg will be without its potential benefits. Weather is expected to be reasonably temperate at seven degrees Celsius at the time of kickoff, but it is the venue itself that provides a unique opportunity for Cavalry. Starlight Stadium, with dimensions measuring 105 metres by 65, is the smallest field in the CPL, and Cavalry's experience over the years playing on the surface will give them a leg up when it comes to using that to their benefit. Their ability to press opponents from the front, in particular, can be used to great effect on the narrow pitch. Cavalry manager Tommy Wheeldon Jr. said that Cavalry will even be using the away dressing room on Wednesday night so that the match feels as familiar as possible. "It's a home away from home in a sense because there is some familiarity, we have had some great games against Pacific here," said Wheeldon Jr. "It is important that we play Orlando City in Canada, it is a different climate than what they are used to, and we have to have any advantage that we can. It's a marginal one, but it's one we will use to the best of our ability." This will evidently be Orlando City SC's first trip to Starlight Stadium. But it is worth noting perhaps that the Florida club has not won at NYCFC's Yankee Stadium, a pitch that features similar dimensions to Starlight Stadium, since 2017, losing five of their last six at the venue.

  • Which new Cavalry signings can make an impact?: Tommy Wheeldon Jr. and the Cavalry FC front office have been busy over the past few months reinforcing their roster for this Champions Cup run. The club added a few CPL veterans in attacker Tobias Warschewski, formerly of FC Edmonton, as well as Diego Gutiérrez, who was the captain of Valour FC last season. They also brought in further attacking options in winger Lleyton Brooks from Melbourne Victory in the A-League, as well as loan deals for Sporting Lisbon attacking midfielder Lucas Dias and Everton FC goalkeeper Jack Barrett. With preseason roster competition at an all-time high as a result, how many of these new faces step onto the pitch against Orlando remains to be seen, but all have the potential to bring new weapons and attributes to an already dangerous Cavalry side.

  • Can Orlando City SC fix knockout woes?: Orlando City had a pretty solid 2023 MLS campaign, but it would have been a whole lot more memorable if they had fared better in knockout matches. After defeating Nashville in the opening round of the MLS Cup playoffs, Orlando were beaten by eventual champions Columbus Crew in extra time in the Eastern Conference semi-finals. They also lost on aggregate to Tigres in the Concacaf Champions Cup, to Inter Miami in the round of 32 of the Leagues Cup, and Charlotte FC in the U.S. Open Cup round of 32. That will be a trend they are looking to reverse in 2024, with this Champions Cup tie against Cavalry certainly a good place to start. Knockout woes have often been a story of Cavalry's past as well, however. Their last two CPL seasons have ended at Tim Hortons Field after being defeated by rivals Forge FC in the CPL playoffs. The year prior, they lost to eventual champions Pacific FC at home. Like Orlando, changing the club's knockout fixture history will be top of the to-do list this upcoming campaign as they search for a first-ever CPL Final win.

PROJECTED STARTING XIs


Cavalry FC: Carducci; Aird, Kobza, Klomp, Kamdem; Shome, Trafford; Akio, Camargo, Musse; Bevan

Orlando City SC: Gallese; Smith, Schlegel, Jansson, Santos; Cartagena, Araújo; Torres, Lodeiro, Angulo; McGuire

CONCACAF CHAMPIONS CUP HISTORY


Cavalry FC all-time record: 0-0-0 Best finish: First appearance

Orlando City SC all-time record: 0-2-0 Best finish: Round of 16 (2023)

MATCH OFFICIALS


Referee: Juan Gabriel Calderon (CRC) ARs: William Arrieta (CRC), Henri Pupiro (NCA) 4th Official: Keylor Herrera (CRC) VAR Official: Oscar Mejia (MEX) Assistant VAR: Erick Miranda (MEX)​

KEY QUOTES


“We feel a little bit like Rocky IV, to be honest. We're training in the mountains and in the cold and trying to get together sparring partners to play us, they're in Cancun and playing Flamengo down in Orlando. It's a lot different in our preparation, but regardless when that whistle blows we'll be ready to compete." — Cavalry FC head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr.

“This is a fantastic opportunity. It's an opportunity that has been years in the making. It's something that we've collectively earned, so on a personal note it's huge honour to be at this stage. But it's something that we have worked towards, we're excited for, and I think now it's about just continuing to progress the game forward and make the most of that opportunity." — Cavalry FC goalkeeper Marco Carducci

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