Sergio Camargo set to celebrate 100th appearance for Cavalry FC

Cavalry FC's Sergio Camargo traps the ball during first half soccer action against Pacific FC in the Canadian Championship quarterfinal in Calgary, Alta., Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Sergio Camargo, one of 10 original signings for the Canadian Premier League in November 2018, marks his 100th appearance for Cavalry FC on Saturday when the Calgary-based team kicks off its sixth season at Forge FC in a rematch of last year’s championship game.

His Cavalry CV currently stands as 88 league games plus nine outings in the Canadian Championship and two in the CONCACAF Champions Cup.

“It’s a very humbling experience. Especially because there were lots of moments when I wasn’t sure I was ever going to get to this milestone,” said the 29-year-old midfielder.

“It’s a huge sense of pride that I was able to get here … Saturday will be special.”

He becomes the 10th CPL player to reach the milestone with the same club (nine others have reached the 100-game mark while playing for more than one team).

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Camargo, who came to Canada with his family from Colombia when he was four, has enjoyed “every second” of his time in Calgary.

“I’ve definitely found a home,” he said. “As a soccer player, especially as a Canadian soccer player growing up in my time, you had to make a lot of sacrifices on where you’re going to live … There wasn’t a pathway in Canada when I was growing up.”

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Camargo has experienced the highs and lows of pro soccer, collecting a championship ring with Toronto FC and having to get a day job when the MLS club let him go after the 2107 treble-winning season.

He appreciated his time with TFC, learning under the likes of Sebastian Giovinco, Victor Vazquez, Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley. But his release was a dose of reality.

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“I don’t want to say I was in a dark place but I was starting to realize that my (soccer) career might be over,” he said.

He was two weeks into a job that saw him go door to door soliciting contributions for a Toronto hospital when he got an opportunity to get back into soccer with Calgary Foothills under Tommy Wheeldon Jr., now Cavalry’s coach.

Camargo joined goalkeeper Nathan Ingham, a friend who is now with Atletico Ottawa, there as well as Nik Ledgerwood, who became Cavalry’s first signing and captain. He and Ingham packed both of their apartments in one truck. Ingham drove it to Calgary with Camargo joining him several weeks later.

“The rest is history. I’ve been here ever since,” said Camargo.

At the time, he thought the move was just “another temporary home for a while longer to let me play soccer a bit more.”

“And it’s turned into a wonderful thing that has changed my entire life,” he said.

He met fiancee Avery there, with a wedding planned for New Year’s Eve. And his younger brother Juan David, after graduating from Humber College, is moving to Calgary in two weeks to live with him.

“The Camargos are trying to build roots in Calgary,” said Sergio.

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Camargo, who was raised in Newmarket, Ont., went to Portugal in 2009 to go on trial with Vitoria de Guimaraes. They wanted him to stay but because he was only 15, FIFA rules mandated that his parents move to Portugal.

That wasn’t in the cards so he returned home and joined Toronto’s academy.

In 2010, he debuted for the Canadian youth program at the age of 15 and went on to represent Canada at the under-17 and under-20 levels.

In 2012, as a TFC academy player, he saw action off the bench for the first team against England’s Liverpool in a friendly before 33,087 at Rogers Centre.

He went on to play collegiate soccer for Coastal Carolina University and Syracuse University. In three seasons with Carolina, he had 19 goals and 15 assists in 58 matches. At Syracuse, he had four goals and three assists in 2016.

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In January 2017, Toronto signed him to a homegrown player contract, making him the 13th player in club history to sign for the first team from the academy.

“A homegrown but not really feeling at home there because my parents had moved away (back to Colombia) already at that time and I was living downtown by myself,” he recalled.

Cavalry has finished runner-up to Forge in the championship game twice, in 2019 and 2023. Finishing first in the regular-season standings last year earned Cavalry a berth in the revamped CONCACAF Champions Cup.

Cavalry lost 6-1 on aggregate to Orlando City in the first round in February, beaten 3-0 in the ‘home leg’ in Langford, B.C., and 3-1 in Orlando. Camargo started both matches.

“It was amazing,” he said. “Just to see the speed that these guys play at, the quality, the ruthlessness they bring to every moment in the game. I just hope that we take those lessons and smash teams in the CPL with those lessons.

“If we try to live up to the way that we played the way that we handled ourselves against Orlando, teams in the CPL will have a very difficult time staying with us.”

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