Pacific FC’s chase towards CPL Fall Title takes devastating blow against high-flying Cavalry FC

Cavalry took care of business against Pacific FC at home on Sunday, flooding the Island-based side with a storm of second-half goals, delivering what may prove to be a fatal blow to Pacific’s fleeting fall title hopes.  

Canadian Premier League leaders Cavalry FC hosted Pacific FC at Spruce Meadows Park on a sunny Sunday afternoon in Calgary. It was a big match for both teams, as Pacific was looking to stay alive in the race for the fall title in order to join Cavalry in the inaugural CPL Championship, while their Western foes were looking to maintain strong habits ahead of that final, as their place is already assured after having won the spring title earlier this year. 

And despite an early second-half push from Pacific, it would be Cavalry who would come out on top, giving their fans plenty to cheer about as they won 4-1 thanks to a strong offensive performance. Cavalry drew first blood early, before Pacific clawed things back in the second half, but from then on in it would be all Cavalry, as they cruised to the finish line in front of a rambunctious crowd. 

Cavalry nearly got things started even earlier than expected, as they quickly got the ball into the channel down the right side of the pitch in the 2nd minute, funnelling the ball to Jose Escalante in the box, but the Cavalry winger was unable to beat goalkeeper Nolan Wirth, who stood strong to stop the low shot. 

That would just be the start of what was to come from the Calgary-based side, as Cavalry would once again attack down that right flank in the 12th minute. Right-winger Nico Pasquotti cut in onto his left foot at the top of the box to shoot, but his strike towards goal was deflected harmlessly towards Pacific defender Ryan McCurdy for an easy block. But what seemed like an easy clearance for McCurdy soon turned into a disaster, as his attempt would blunder into the head of his own midfielder Alessandro Hojabrpour, sending the ball back towards goal as it would loop right over Wirth right to Escalante, who slotted home with ease to open the scoring. 

Pacific would come close soon after the goal, as a dangerous Victor Blasco whipped in a cross off of a corner for which David Norman Jr would rise highest for, but the Canadian headed the ball just wide of the target. Cavalry nearly returned the favour not long after, as Cavalry’s Julien Buscher put in a dangerous second ball after a failed initial cross, but Dominick Zator’s header would sail just wide of the frame. 

Cavalry would finish the half strongly, first through Dominique Malonga, who would come close at the end of the 45 minutes as he volleyed a nice Pasquotti cross just over the bar, then through Buscher, who would cut in and send one just over to mark the end of the half. 

It was a tough half for Pacific, who were unable to impose themselves on the game like they had in their last two outings, and against a dangerous Cavalry side, that can be deadly. But despite that, they surely had to rue their luck on the opening goal, as they were still otherwise hanging in with the league-leaders on the balance of the match. 

Nico Pasquotti played an important role in Cavalry’s opening tally (Photo taken at BC Place on July 24th, 2019 by Keveren Guillou)

The second half started a lot slower, but Pacific found some life in the 60th minute. A long ball from out the back would be met by the hulking target man Marcus Haber, who came on early in the second half for tired midfielder David Norman Jr. Haber did an excellent job with his header, flicking it behind the Cavalry defence, where it would be met by a streaking Zach Verhoven. All alone against Cavalry’s Marco Carducci, Verhoven would find a way around the recent call-up to the Canadian National team, forcing Carducci to claw him down to avoid a free goal. 

It was a huge break for Pacific, as it would grant them a penalty, as well as a yellow card for Carducci, giving them a chance to get back into the game. Terran Campbell, the co-leader in the CPL Golden Boot race, stood up to take it, and he made no mistake, slotting home to the left of Carducci to add his league-leading 11th of the season. 

But as soon as Pacific got back into the game, they would get taken right back out, as Cavalry would win a set-piece in a great position. They would take it well, lofting a floating ball towards the back post, where Cavalry centre back Joel Waterman did an excellent job to meet the cross and send the ball right into the box. It was a great flick, as it would slide across an empty Pacific box, and midfielder Olivier Minatel would be first to meet it, sliding it home into an empty net to get the Calgary-based side back ahead in front of their faithful at Spruce Meadows. It was an unfortunate error for Pacific, who reacted poorly after the first ball on the free-kick, switching off and gifting Cavalry the lead in a must-win game.

“Today you saw a result of what happens when you have time on the training ground together.” Cavalry coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr said after the game. 

Misery would then continue to pile up for Pacific, as Cavalry would not relent on the press after their goal. Zator and Pasquotti would link up well down the right side, allowing to Zator fly into the channel behind Verhoeven, where he would take a nice through ball from Pasquotti and whip a low effort towards the top of the box. It would find Minatel, looking for his second, but his strike was unable to beat a resilient block by McCurdy. But, unluckily for Pacific, it was determined that the defender had used his arm to do so, earning him a sending off as he would receive his second yellow card of the game from the referee, who would also point to the spot to give Cavalry a penalty. 

It would provide a good chance for Cavalry’s leading scorer, striker Dominique Malonga, to add to his tally as he stood up to take it. And he made no mistake with his spot-kick, surprising Wirth by striking the ball right down the middle, leaving the Pacific keeper to dive hopelessly past Malonga’s 7th of the season. 

“I don’t know, I have to look at them again,” Pacific FC coach Michael Silberbauer said of his thoughts on the call. “But no, I have to see it again. Look, he’s diving in to a tackle and the hand is not above is head, is it a natural position? I don’t know, but at the end of the day, you know it’s about us doing what’s necessary.”

And Cavalry wouldn’t be finished there, as Escalante would add his second of the game via a beautifully curled strike in the 87th minute. He wandered over to the right side, where he played a simple give and go with substitute Carlos Patino, opening up some space for him at the top of the box. From there, he would line up a hit towards the goal, and what a strike it would be, as the ball would curl just inside the post to mark the end of a big afternoon for the league-leaders. 

“I thought we should have been up by a couple going into half time,” Wheeldon Jr said. “And that’s what we talked about as a team is: ‘listen, let’s be ruthless, let’s be clinical, let’s put a statement because we put a great body of work, you could see we were finding great pockets and created some great overloads, and that’s us at our best. We just need to finish it off.”

It would be a frustrating result for Pacific, who came into this one with points in 7 of their last 9 games. Chasing a spot in the fall championship, a victory in this one would have made things very interesting ahead of next Saturday, where they face Forge in a game that could have completely opened up the table. Instead, they now find themselves in a position that means no matter how well they do, they will have to hope for a calamitous finish from Forge to have a chance, and given the form of the Hamilton-based club this season, that’s not a very likely scenario. 

As they continue to grow as a young team, they had positive flashes of play, they just need to be more efficient with those moments in the game. Defensively, their only break downs came from mistakes down the left side of their back line, while offensively, they had a few chances to get forward and put shots on target. So while these results hurt today, they will help the team in the future, but until they get to that day, they will continue to build off each game they play in. 

“Cavalry is a physical team, you have to step up if you want to play with them,” Silberbauer mused. “We were in the game for 60, 65 minutes, and then of course with the red card it was over.”

Up Next: Pacific FC vs Forge FC, Saturday, September 28th, 2019, 12:30 PST (Tim Hortons Field, Hamilton)

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