Calgary Herald

Selemani makes mark in first start for Cavs


Ahinga Selemani came to Calgary as an unknown entity for most footy fans.

After Wednesday night's Cavalry FC victory, he's become a sudden household soccer name.

Selemani struck for a brace, with his two goals spelling the difference in a 4-1 triumph over Atletico Ottawa in Winnipeg's Canadian Premier League bubble.

“Early days, so we can't say too much,” Selemani told Onesoccer. ca after the team's second game of the third CPL campaign. “Just concentrat­e and work on the principles — and that worked out for us well.

“It's good to pick up three points.”

It was Selemani's first start and, essentiall­y, his debut after playing just the final five minutes of the Cavs first game of the season — a 2-1 edge of York United FC on Sunday.

He scored his first in the 19th minute on the press, knocking the ball off the foot of Ottawa goalkeeper Dylon Powley and hunting down the loose ball in the box for the turnover goal.

“Yeah ... you saw that last game (for a goal) with Jose (Escalante),” Selemani told Onesoccer. ca. “It's the principles of Cavalry — we press hard and play hard, and I was fortunate to be the one picking up the goal.”

His second then came in the 43rd minute with his back to the net, as he hauled in a pass and deftly turned and fired the ball home. It capped a slick passing play from Sergio Camargo to

Tom Field down the left side to Joseph Di Chiara in the penalty area and — finally — to Selemani in tight on Powley.

“We always work on our finishing in training, Selemani told “And Coach (Tommy) Wheeldon (Jr.) always tell us to stay active and award in the box. I was fortunate to finish that one.”

His fortune was all the goals the Cavs would need on the night to advance to a 2-0 record on the young CPL season — the first eight games for each team being played in the Winnipeg safezone.

The Cavs' third goal came off the foot of a Victor Loturi on a play by the club's two CPL-U Sports draft picks in 2021. Dan Kaiser fed a perfect flick in for a breaking Loturi, who got a jump on Ottawa defenders to tap in the easy goal in the 75th minute.

Three minutes later, it was another newcomer helping to do damage when Anthony Novak worked a rush and fed a wideopen Elliot Simmons charging in on the right side to beat Powley to the far side.

But the real story was the fresh face of Selemani.

The New Brunswick-born forward has spent the majority of his career playing in the United States.

The Cavalry addition has represente­d the United States under-17, U18 and U20 national youth teams and is still eligible to represent Canada with his dual nationalit­y. Selemani developed through the NCAA system with the University of Michigan Wolverines (2014), with whom he was named to the Big Ten all-freshman team following his three goals in 18 appearance­s. In 2015-16, Selemani transferre­d to the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos, with whom he had 12 goals in 43 appearance­s.

Selemani signed his first profession­al contract in 2017 with Panetoliko­s, who play in the Greek Super League.

In 2018, he signed with a Czech National Football League team, Vlašim, with whom he scored two goals in his 15 appearance­s. Selemani had a very successful season in 2019 following his signing with Hawke's Bay United, part of the New Zealand Football Championsh­ip. He recorded 10 goals and six assists in 16 appearance­s, took home the Golden Boot and finished second in league MVP voting. In the same season, he was also voted the player of the year by his teammates and his coaches.

“Ahinga is a very exciting prospect — the more we scouted his history, the more we felt he would be a great fit for our team,” said Wheeldon Jr.

“He has incredible pace and dribbling ability, combined with a decent goal-scoring record from his previous season, showing us he's on an upward trend of his career.

“Aside from his ability, Ahinga is a great personalit­y who will add to our club culture. We know he has had a good developmen­t pathway coming through NCAA and the USA national youth teams, coupled with the fact he was born in Canada and counts as a domestic player made his signing a no-brainer for us.”

It sure seemed that way Wednesday in leading the Cavalry charge.

Meanwhile at the other end, steady keeper Marco Carducci turned away five shots to collect the win, allowing only a first-half goal by Ottawa's Miguel Acosta in the 24th minute.

Next up for the Cavs is Saturday's match against Nova Scotia's HFX Wanderers FC (0-2), which lost 2-0 to host Valour FC (2-0) earlier Wednesday in Winnipeg.

 ?? ROBERT REYES, WILLIAM LUDWICK/CANADIAN PREMIER LEAGUE ?? Cavalry FC'S Ahinga Selemani, centre, celebrates with teammates after scoring his second goal of the match in a 4-1 victory over Atlético Ottawa in Winnipeg.
ROBERT REYES, WILLIAM LUDWICK/CANADIAN PREMIER LEAGUE Cavalry FC'S Ahinga Selemani, centre, celebrates with teammates after scoring his second goal of the match in a 4-1 victory over Atlético Ottawa in Winnipeg.
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