2021 at a glance

Cavalry FC enter the 2021 season, still in search of an elusive first North Star Shield. After falling in the 2019 CPL Finals, and finishing third at the Island Games after being riddled with injuries, head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr.'s side has filled its armoury with a mixture of returning players and major signings. They look ready to have another go at it this season, starting with The Kickoff, which begins in Winnipeg this weekend. Bringing in Anthony Novak and Joe Di Chiara, from Forge FC and York United respectively, are major pickups and should help the squad massively, but how big the hole from Dominick Zator's departure to York is also remains to be seen. Joe Mason is the other massive signing for Cavalry as the 30-year-old Englishman joins the club after a decade in and around the top of the soccer pyramid in his home country and a brief spell in MLS.

  • 2020 CPL record (W-D-L): 5-1-4 (3rd overall); 1-0-2 in group stage (3rd)
  • Goals scored: 14
  • Goals against: 11
  • Goal difference: +3
  • Top scorer: Jordan Brown and Nathan Mavila (3)

What happened in 2020?

Cavalry FC entered the 2020 season with high expectations. They were the best team in the 2019 regular season, winning the Spring and Fall seasons, and winning the overall table by six points. They fell just short in their push for the ultimate goal, however, falling to Forge in Finals 2019. They got off to a hot start again in 2020 at the Island Games, winning three of their opening four matches. After a 2-2 draw in a 2019 final rematch to open the Island Games, Cavalry won three straight. Sergio Camargo and Marcus Haber scored in a 2-0 win over Valour FC, before a brace from Jordan Brown gave the Cavs a 2-0 victory over local rival FC Edmonton. Three days later, a 93rd minute Akeem Garcia goal was too little too late for HFX Wanderers, after Brown scored moments earlier to earn Cavalry all three points in what turned out to be a 2-1 win. They slipped a little in their next two matches, losing to Atlético Ottawa and Pacific FC before recovering in their final match of the first stage to beat York 1-0. Injuries plagued them in 2020, with Oliver Minatel, Nik Ledgerwood, Sergio Camargo and Nico Pasquotti among the players to miss time with injuries suffered during the tournament, including a few season-ending injuries. In the group stage, Cavalry beat Pacific FC 3-1, but fell to HFX and Forge in their next two matches. The Wanderers drew with Forge, and Forge also beat Pacific, so Cavalry were knocked out of the Island Games, missing the final.

How have they changed?

PLAYERS IN: Tyson Farago, Karifa Yao, Daan Klomp, Tom Field, Joseph Di Chiara, David Norman Jr., Ahinga Selemani, Anthony Novak, Joe Mason, Ali Musse PLAYERS OUT: Niko Giantsopoulos, Aribim Pepple, Nico Pasquotti, Nathan Mavila, Dean Northover, Dominick Zator, Jay Wheeldon, Bruno Zebie, Robert Boskovic, Jordan Brown, Jair Córdova, Marcus Haber, Matias Roskopf Cavalry have made some exciting signings, including a pair of CPL standouts. Anthony Novak and Joe Di Chiara have moved west from Ontario, from Forge FC and York United respectively, and will be key players in 2021. After a year away from the CPL, Tyson Farago is also back, after most recently playing for Valour FC in 2019. Also coming in are a pair of young international defenders, Daan Klomp and Tom Field, as well as central defender Karifa Yao on loan from CF Montreal. 23-year-old midfielder/defender David Norman Jr. is one of Canada's best young prospects at the moment, and should see significant minutes in several positions as well. Ali Musse and Ahinga Selemani will also provide depth up top, and Musse has some CPL experience, scoring twice in 13 league matches for Valour in 2019. Perhaps the biggest signing Cavalry have made is that of English Championship veteran Joe Mason, who joins from MK Dons after more than a decade across England's top three divisions, and who some think may be the biggest signing in CPL history thus far. Leaving are several key players from the first two seasons in club history, including Dominick Zator, Jordan Brown, Nathan Mavila and Nico Pasquotti, among others, all of whom have looked like the best player in the league at their positions for stretches over the past two years.

RELATED READING: Roster Analysis: Examining Cavalry FC’s squad thus far for the 2021 season

Projected Starting XI

Marco Carducci; Karifa Yao, David Norman Jr., Daan Klomp; Tom Field, Sergio Camargo, Nik Ledgerwood, Joseph Di Chiara, Mohamed Farsi; Anthony Novak, Oliver Minatel In goal, Marco Carducci should see the majority of the minutes, although Farago is an experienced backup and should see a few matches as well. If Tommy Wheeldon Jr. decides to go for a back three (which he should, if only because it would be a lot of fun), talented youngsters Daan Klomp and Karifa Yao are likely starters, with Mason Trafford another option in the centre of defense. Despite having mostly played in midfield previously, David Norman Jr could see a lot of minutes at centre-back no matter the formation, as he impressed there with the Canadian U-23s earlier this year, and he has hinted that Cavalry may play him there. The two fullbacks are expected to be former Brentford left-back Tom Field and Island Games breakout star Mo Farsi on the right, but Cavalry have a bit more of a selection dilemma in the central midfield. Captain Nik Ledgerwood is expected to see a lot of the pitch at the base of midfield, with fellow CPL veterans Sergio Camargo and new recruit Joe Di Chiara ahead of him. Wheeldon Jr. can also pick from Elliot Simmons and David Norman Jr. in central midfield, but won't have access to Elijah Adekugbe who is out for the season with an injury. Anthony Novak and Joe Mason are the two favourites to start up top, with Oliver Minatel, Ahinga Selemani, José Hernández and recent signing Ali Musse among the other options at striker. Technical wingers José Escalante and Richard Luca will also be very important to this attack, especially if Cavalry opts for a wider front-line. Marquee signing Mason won't be available for the start of the season, as he's not currently with the team in the bubble, but will join the club soon. In his absence, Minatel -- after recovering from a nasty injury in PEI -- is one of several options who can replace him. This is, on paper, one of the strongest starting lineups ever assembled in the CPL.

Coach’s profile: Tommy Wheeldon Jr.

Tommy Wheeldon Jr. enters his third season as Cavalry FC head coach as one of the more successful coaches the league has seen thus far. While it's Bobby Smyrniotis and Forge who picked up the first two North Star Shield trophies, Cavalry was the dominant team in the 2019 regular season, winning both the Spring and Fall seasons. Cavalry also had a memorable Canadian Championship campaign, knocking out a pair of CPL opponents before becoming the first CPL team to beat an MLS team, downing the Vancouver Whitecaps on their run to the semifinals. At the end of the year, Wheeldon Jr. picked up the inaugural CPL Coach of the Year award for his efforts in 2019.

What they’re saying

“Form and chemistry, that all takes time. We’re going there to start and see what we’re like, with a view to coming back home with as many points as we can in the bank, and then building from that.” -- Tommy Wheeldon Jr, Cavalry FC head coach

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