Cavalry FC are headed to the CPL Final, after they defeated Pacific FC 2-1 at ATCO Field on Saturday in the semifinal to eliminate the Tridents and book a date with Forge FC for the North Star Cup.
When the lineup sheets came out, Pacific boss James Merriman had thown a major curveball to his opposite number for this match, deploying a back five in lieu of suspended fullback Kunle Dada-Luke. Zakaria Bahous came in on the right of that backline, as Paul Amedume also joined the defence and Josh Heard lined up in attack. Cavalry’s Tommy Wheeldon Jr., meanwhile, made just one change as Fraser Aird came in at right fullback.
Both sides came out firing in this playoff game, with early chances at both ends, though Cavalry soon began to take control of the game, sending nine shots at the Pacific goal within the first half-hour.
The Tridents held firm for a while, but eventually their steely defence cracked. In the 26th minute, Cavalry won a free kick to the side of the penalty area, and Ali Musse whipped it into the box where it found the head of Daan Klomp, who scored to put the hosts in front.
Cavalry continued to have the majority of the chances in the first half, including one William Akio volley that would’ve been an outstanding goal but trickled wide of the goal. However, they couldn’t bury their opportunities and went into halftime up by just one goal.
Moments after the second half kicked off, Musse nearly doubled Cavalry’s lead as he danced into the box and around Amer Didić with the ball, but Pacific keeper Emil Gazdov did very well to get down and save the attempt.
The match took another unfortunate turn for Pacific about 10 minutes into the second half, as Didić went into a challenge and hit his head on the grass, prompting Merriman to pull his star defender out of the game and push Sean Young back from midfield into defence — which paid off almost immediately when Young made goal-line clearance to stop Cavalry from scoring again.
At last, the dam burst again from yet another Cavalry set-piece. Fraser Aird caught the Pacific defence by surprise with a short pass along the end line to Sergio Camargo, who set it back to Musse higher in the box for a shot that took a deflection before finding its way to the back of the net.
The Tridents found a lifeline not long after, though, as Kekuta Manneh took matters into his own hands. He dribbled toward the box and used his pace to cut to the right and find space for himself, curling a shot from the top of the area and into the top corner with a little help from a deflection.
Although Pacific worked hard in the final 20 minutes to throw all they could at the Cavs’ goal, bringing offensive dynamo Ayman Sellouf into the match in hopes of another clutch contribution from him, Cavalry did not break again. Marco Carducci was called upon several times, and he had to make an outstanding reflex save on Adonijah Reid in the 94th minute to hold onto the lead.
So, the hosts saw out their 2-1 victory — the first postseason knockout win in club history — and they’ll now turn their attention to next Saturday. Cavalry will play Forge in Hamilton in the final on Oct. 28 (6 p.m. ET/4 p.m. MT), hoping to complete the double and lift the North Star Cup.