Cavalry FC giving fledgling CPL the credibility it needs
Upset win over MLS Whitecaps shows Calgary team is the one to beat
The stampede is getting louder and stronger.
The dust you see in the distance are the hooves charging out of Vancouver, back across the Rockies and straight into Canadian soccer history.
Cavalry FC is doing it what it has done since day one. It is leading by example.
It is writing its own story. The Cavs were the first Spring Season champions in the Canadian Premier League. Less than a month later they have become the first CPL team to beat a Major League Soccer franchise.
It is a major accomplishment for Cavalry and a huge embarrassment for the Vancouver Whitecaps. It is a classic Cup upset — the kind of banana skin that worries players and coaches when the underdog shows up.
The Canadian Championship was made for nights like this. The competition's expansion to embrace all seven CPL clubs has brought a new dimension to the tournament. It is no longer a private squabble between Canada's 3 MLS teams.
Like any startup, the CPL craves credibility. People are curious but wary. They are not going to buy a new product, however novel and shiny, if it hasn't been tested. They want to make sure it works before making a purchase.
The cynics will argue that Cavalry's success was a one-off. Cup competitions the world over are littered with soccer-related tales of how David slew Goliath. It is the nature of the beast.
The CPL has a broader agenda. It needs to demonstrate — by any means necessary — that it is a league worth watching. It must show that it has professional teams populated with players of quality who can compete.
That quality is directly related to money. A strict salary cap binds CPL teams, far less in value than their MLS counterparts. But like any trade, there's a rate for the job and employees are paid in relation to their skill level.
Cavalry's match winner, Dominick Zator, couldn't crack it with the Whitecaps. The Calgary native spent one season with Vancouver's reserves before coming home to rejoin the Foothills. He is plenty good enough for the CPL.
Marco Carducci spent five years in Vancouver. He graduated from the Whitecaps' Academy but was never given an opportunity to prove himself in the first team. Like Zator, Carducci is back home in Calgary, now leading the CPL in clean sheets.
He'll be chasing another one this weekend. The games are coming thick and fast for the Cavs, who have made a perfect start to the Fall Season. Three straight wins is a clear demonstration the team has no intention of easing up even though it is already assured of a place in October's CPL Championship.
The headline-grabbing glory in Vancouver must be quickly forgotten. It's back to business in Winnipeg where Rob Gale's Valour will be ready to pounce on any post-Cup hangover.
Cavalry will start as favourites
Valour has won only once on home soil. It finished last in the spring season and is already lagging behind the pacesetters in the second half of the campaign. Cavalry will start as favourites, but then so did the Whitecaps.
This weekend's games also feature a matchup between two teams that bowed out of the Canadian Championship. York 9 came up short against the Montreal Impact but emerged with plenty of credit over the two legs.
Jim Brennan's team returns home to host the Halifax Wanderers, who are living up to their name. HFX are in the middle of a five-game road trip and arrive from Ottawa where self-inflicted wounds cost them a chance to advance in the Cup.
The action concludes with a rematch between Forge and Edmonton. Many believe Hamilton-based Forge is the one team capable of reigning in Cavalry, but the Eddies desperately want to be part of that conversation.