2024 Concacaf Champions Cup — Round 1 (Leg 2) Orlando City SC vs. Cavalry FC February 27, 2024 at 6 p.m. ET/4 p.m. MT Inter&Co Stadium in Orlando, Florida Watch Live: OneSoccer



It's a whole new world for Cavalry FC, as or the first time, a Canadian Premier League team finds itself on American soil to play a competitive match. The Cavs, gearing up for the second leg of their Concacaf Champions Cup tie this week against Orlando City SC, find themselves down 3-0 on aggregate after last week's first leg in Langford, B.C., but they have not given up hope.

The Calgary, Alta.-based club arrived in Florida on Saturday evening with every intention of putting some pressure on the Major League Soccer opposition. They trained on Sunday to begin adjusting to an almost 30 degree Celsius difference in temperature, ahead of the warm climate expected at kickoff on Tuesday night. The task for Cavalry is really quite simple, heading into one of the most difficult matches in club history. The bare necessity of the situation: they must score at least three goals. Ideally, early -- and without conceding. A 3-0 Cavalry win would send the tie to extra time, and 4-1 (or any other three-goal margin in their favour) would win it for them on away goals. It's a mountain to climb, to be sure, but one advantage for Cavalry is their undivided focus on this game. Tommy Wheeldon Jr. and his coaching staff have spent virtually every second since the fulltime whistle last Wednesday thinking about how to score a few goals this week, knowing there's no magic wand they can wave to make Orlando less difficult to break down. Orlando, on the other hand, had to shift focus to play their MLS home opener on Saturday against CF Montréal -- a 0-0 draw -- which only really gives them one full day to prepare for Cavalry, after likely using Sunday for recovery. They also might have half an eye on this Saturday's league fixture, as they play a huge Florida rivalry match against Lionel Messi's Inter Miami CF More good news for Cavalry? Overturning a three-goal deficit isn't unheard of in the Concacaf Champions Cup. In fact, it's happened in each of the last two tournaments. Of course, both teams to do it recently were Liga MX sides -- last year Atlas beat Olimpia 5-4 on aggregate after losing 4-1 in the away leg, and in 2022 Pumas came back to beat New England Revolution on penalties after a 3-0 defeat in Foxborough. Still, the historical precedent is there. So, it's off to work they go down in Orlando. Unfortunately, the MLS outfit have been extremely tough to beat on home turf recently. They've suffered just one loss at Inter&Co Stadium in their last 16 games there in all competitions, and even that was a draw over 90 minutes, as they fell in extra time of the Eastern Conference semifinal to the Columbus Crew last November. That said, Cavalry FC remain the only Canadian Premier League team ever to win at an MLS stadium. They defeated the Vancouver Whitecaps 2-1 at BC Place in 2019 to win their two-legged Canadian Championship tie. Much has changed since then, but with Wheeldon Jr. still in charge and both Marco Carducci and Sergio Camargo still in the squad, plenty of memories from that day linger around Cavalry. The Cavs have been waiting for Tuesday's match since December. Representing their country internationally for the first time, they're not taking the challenge lightly, but the priority is straightforward: play their football, and score some goals. "I was clear with the boys, this is the opportunity we have to make history, to be the first CPL side to win a game in Concacaf Champions Cup," said Cavalry FC manager Tommy Wheeldon Jr. "Again, we are in the territory of Orlando, we know that they know this, we saw them play on Saturday. But why not us."

3 THINGS TO WATCH

  • Cavs must adjust to technical ability, ruthlessness of Orlando: One thing that was clear in last week's first leg was that the gap in level between Cavalry and Orlando isn't necessarily massive, but there are several key differences that lifted the MLS side over the CPL team. The most significant would be the Lions' ability to punish a mistake by capitalizing on their opportunities. Cavalry's margin for error is incredibly thin, because if they make mistakes -- fail to track a run, lose their shape, or play a ball with the wrong weight, Orlando's top players have the ability to turn that into a chance for themselves in an instant. In leg one, OCSC's designated players Facundo Torres and Martín Ojeda showed how ruthless they can be when given a little too much space, getting into half-spaces and behind fullbacks to cause problems. Striker Duncan McGuire, likewise, demonstrated he doesn't often need many chances with how good he is at scoring a first-time finish. All of these aspects of Orlando's game, however, have been closely studied by the Cavalry staff over the past few days, so they'll have a plan to try and mitigate those threats.

  • Can Cavalry be brave in final third?: Having seen what Orlando City can do in the final third, some of Cavalry's attackers might take some inspiration from their approach in dangerous areas. The likes of Ali Musse, Sergio Camargo, William Akio and others certainly have the ability to create chances, it'll just be a matter of being ambitious and aggressive. The Cavs will be looking to get further up the pitch more consistently; they completed 29 passes into the attacking third in leg one, compared to 49 for Orlando, although they were actually better than their foes at pressing and winning the ball high up the pitch (27 recoveries in the opposing half to Orlando's 24). Ultimately, the Cavs know they have to be bold in pushing themselves up the pitch into areas where they can score.

  • Aggression expected in nothing-to-lose second leg: In a strange way, being down 3-0 on aggregate can be somewhat freeing. Cavalry know they have absolutely nothing to lose, and can be singularly focused on trying to score. They enter the match feeling, at the very least, like they can win this single match, and put some doubt in Orlando's mind. Fans should expect a Cavalry team that, regardless of the scoreline, is motivated to play front-footed attacking football and, if nothing else, create some moments and memories to kick off their 2024 campaign on a high.

PROJECTED STARTING XIs


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

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

CONCACAF CHAMPIONS CUP HISTORY


Cavalry FC all-time record: 0-0-1 Best finish: First appearance

Orlando City SC all-time record: 1-2-0 Best finish: Round of 16 (2023)

MATCH OFFICIALS


Referee: Fernando Guerrero (MEX) ARs: Christian Espinosa (MEX), Michel Espinoza (MEX) 4th Official: Cesar Ramos (MEX) VAR Official: Adonai Escobedo (MEX) Assistant VAR: Benjamin Whitty (CAY)

KEY QUOTES


“We've got to go in with a belief that we're here to win a game of football. We're not here to just be a sparring partner for Orlando for their game against Miami, or the next round, we've got to make sure we come in here with the mindset we can win a football match." — Cavalry FC head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr.

“That [first leg] showed us a lot, but it also showed us that we do belong if we play our best game and show what we can do." — Cavalry FC midfielder Sergio Camargo

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