Calgary welcomes Hamilton to 'lion's den' for match to decide Canadian soccer supremacy
'Not going to give them time to breathe,' says head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr.
Calgary's Cavalry FC takes aim at Canadian soccer supremacy on home turf Saturday, and with a stellar home record and a team hungry to make history, head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. is brimming with confidence.
Spruce Meadows hosts the championship match of the first Canadian Premier League (CPL) season on Saturday afternoon, featuring Hamilton's Forge FC versus Calgary's Cavalry FC.
The Cavs have been the best team in the CPL, winning the spring and fall seasons, and even knocking the Vancouver Whitecaps out of the Voyageur's Cup.
They enter the final match of the best of two championship series having lost 1-0 to Hamilton on Oct. 26.
But with a home record of 7-2-0 this fall season at ATCO Field, the Cavalry will be ready to welcome the Forge to the "lion's den" this time around, said Wheeldon.
"Will it be easy? Absolutely not.… But I think we've got nothing to lose and everything to gain, and that's how we're preparing," he said in an interview with the Calgary Eyeopener.
Home field advantage
The roaring crowd, the elevated physicality demanded by Calgary's high altitude and the cool weather forecast all play to Calgary's advantage, said Wheeldon.
"There's something about Calgarians, we seem to be a tougher breed. It's almost T-shirt weather when it's about 10 degrees out here," said Wheeldon.
"We wear teams down anyway with our type of high energy, high attack, high pressure football. And when it gets to the last 15 minutes, I think the other team can only take so much."
Wheeldon, who in the lead up to this match has found himself ruminating on lineups, formations, and plan As, Bs and Cs from the very moment he opens his eyes in the morning, says there's no secret sauce to winning. The path to victory is simple.
"Goals. We've got to score goals, and we've got to score them in bunches. We're prepared to do that," he said.
"We've got to play our best football, and our best football is on the front foot. We're going to get into the spaces, we're going to create chances, and we're also not going to give them time to breathe."
'A hell of a story, regardless'
This is the most momentous match of Wheeldon's career, by his own admission. As it's the ninth meeting this year between the Forge and the Cavs, he expects it to be a heated one.
"What you're getting is two teams that don't want to give each other an inch," Wheeldon said.
So with all the excitement and work yet to do, he hasn't had much time to reflect on the breakthrough season that his team, and the league as a whole, have had this year.
"But my, it's been a hell of a story, regardless of the outcome on Saturday," he said.
Wheeldon mentioned he's found himself overcome with emotion, just previewing video montages that the Spruce Meadows media department has compiled from past matches.
"I tell you, watching it, I'm getting a lump in my throat," he said.
"That's the way you launch a league."
With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.