Calgary’s Marco Carducci posts shutout in return to Cavalry FC after cancer battle

Marco Carducci speaks to reporters after posting a four save shutout in Cavalry FC's first win of the 2022 season. Devon Simmons/Global News

It was the kind of win that brought laughter and tears to Atco Field — a “where you there when” moment in Calgary’s soccer history.

As Cavalry FC took the pitch for the squad’s 2022 home opener on Sunday afternoon, a familiar face was among their ranks.

Veteran goaltender Marco Carducci made his season debut after fighting testicular cancer in the offseason.

The 25-year-old didn’t miss a beat in his return to the net, making four saves and three clearances in a 2-0 win over defending champion Pacific FC.

It was a statement victory over the team that eliminated the Calgarians in the CPL semifinals in November and Carducci’s 21st clean sheet of his CPL career.

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A pair of first-half goals by Ali Musse and Joe Mason gave the Cavalry some breathing room, but the defining moment of the match came in the 61st minute, when Carducci flung himself to the ground, denying a dangerous strike from Pacific FC attacker Marco Bustos.

As the final whistle rang out, Carducci dropped to the turf before embracing his teammates in celebration.

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“At the end of the game with a couple of minutes left I started to feel a little more emotional than I thought I would,” Carducci said.

“It was incredible just to have the guys around me fighting just to hold on and not only win the game but come away with a clean sheet. It was a special feeling — so hard to put into words.”

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Even his unreserved head coach, Tommy Wheeldon Jr., had to take some deep breaths before talking about Carducci’s journey.

“He’s like another son to me because I’ve known him and I’ve watched him grow since he was eight or nine with his big floppy head of hair playing for McKenzie United,” Wheeldon said through some tears in his post-game remarks.

“The lad’s gone through something and beat something that none of us have ever experienced. We knew with our crowd and the support it was the right time to bring Marco in. He was phenomenal – that save at the end is just why we’re fortunate to have him as our goalkeeper. He’s a tremendous human being.”

While Carducci was medically cleared and prepared to start any game this season, the team said it felt important for the 2019 Golden Glove winner to make his return in front of the Cavalry faithful.

“I felt physically ready and back up to pace, but nothing’s like that feeling of being out there and competing for points” Carducci added. “The experience is definitely putting things put into perspective for me. I’m so lucky to be able to do this. I’m a Calgary boy, I’m playing in front of my hometown fans, my family’s in the crowd. This is an honour.”

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With the win, Cavalry improves to 1-1-2 on the season, passing FC Edmonton for 7th in the CPL standings.

The provincial rivals will face off at Clarke Field on Friday, May 6 in the first Al Classico of the season.

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