Cavalry FC continued with an unbalanced formation, although unlike the first match the roles of their full backs were reversed — the right back, Dean Northover, was attacking while Robert Boskovic, normally a centre back, was quite defensive minded on the left. Cavalry oscillated between a back four and a back three with and without the ball and with Mo Farsi providing the width on the left from a more advanced position in a hybrid wing back/winger role, the source of Cavalry’s attacks were more balanced from a territorial stand point. Their striker, Marcus Haber, continued to try and exploit the right hand channel, but this time Sergio Camargo was more willing to combine on the left hand side with another attacking player in that zone.
The opening goal came as a result of Farsi providing a wide option on the left wing in combination with Cavalry’s striker continuing to exploit the right hand channel. The goal also highlighted what Valour FC were trying to do to stop Tommy Wheeldon’s men, and the shortcomings that came along with such a strategy. Valour initially pressed with a fairly high line of engagement, almost in a man to man style. Dante Campbell was playing as the defensive midfielder in a 4-1-4-1, and he often roamed from his position in order to find a mark higher up the pitch. This meant the space in front of his centre backs was vacated, and it was this area that Bruno Zebie burst into to create the first goal.
Pressing high against a side featuring Haber up top makes sense as he is not much of a threat to run in behind, but to chase players all over the pitch, especially as a defensive midfielder, can lead to dangerous gaps opening up. Julian Dunn and Andrew Jean-Baptiste had to constantly make difficult decisions about whether to stay back and leave the space ahead of them available, or push forward where Campbell was and invite balls in behind. Campbell getting pulled into marking Nico Pasquotti or one of Cavalry’s central midfielders meant that Farsi and Camargo could easily create overloads on Valour’s right hand side.
Offensively, Campbell and the other central midfielders for Rob Gale also caused problems for themselves. Neither Campbell, Daryl Fordyce, nor Dylan Carreiro endeavoured to find space when their centre backs began attacks, and the Winnipeg side resorted to clipping hopeful balls in behind for Shaan Hundal or asking their wingers to create something in isolation.
Gale brought Raphael Ohin on for Fordyce at half and pushed Carreiro forward as his side played with more of a 4-2-3-1 formation. This change tightened the gaps in midfield as Ohin was able to support Campbell on the same axis, and the latter was no longer responsible for an entire area himself. While this allowed Valour to press more effectively higher up the pitch, it didn’t do much to help Valour with the ball. They continued to find it difficult to work through Cavalry’s press and their midfielders were unable to find any space to progress the ball.
A number of substitutions from both teams contributed to the second half being more and more disjointed as it went on. Valour naturally pushed players forward, and Farsi became more and more conservative as the match continued. Aribim Pepple found himself 1v1 against Julian Dunn a number of times in the left hand channel as Cavalry countered, and the on loan Toronto FC defender did well in shepherding the teenage attacker. Unfortunately for Dunn’s team, what they needed were goals rather than just defensive interventions.
The Canadian futsal international had the run of the left wing as he impacted the game in all three phases. He combined well with Camargo in the first half, and showed good positional awareness in adjusting his role as the match went on. With Cavalry FC playing imbalanced formations it is important for Wheeldon to have hybrid wide players like Farsi in order to exploit overloads while providing defensive cover.
Another on loan TFC player for Gale, Campbell was poor in his positioning and decision making in the first half as Valour’s holding midfielder. Without the ball he vacated the space in front of his back four too often, while with the ball he failed to find space to show for his teammates. Playing this position requires an economy of movement that Campbell failed to display in his team’s opener. He looked more comfortable with a partner on his axis, but his exuberance and frustration led to a booking before his substitution.
What formation will Gale choose going forward, and how will he build his attacks with it? The single holding midfielder was ineffective, and their inconsistent pressing was more detrimental than beneficial. If the plan is to have Fraser Aird and Brett Levis play as inverted wingers then getting the full backs forward to combine is logical. To do so effectively the midfield needs to be able to find ways to supply them the ball.
Tommy Wheeldon once again employed an asymmetric formation, hybrid wide players, and a complementary full back pairing to overload areas and put his players in positions to overwhelm the opposition. As their first match against Forge FC showed, it is difficult for the opposition to force their game plan onto Cavalry FC. While Forge were able to exploit Cavalry’s left back zone at times, Valour were not as Farsi added dynamic support on that side. Still, quickly transitioning against Cavalry’s weak side seems to be a potential avenue for success against last year’s finalists.