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If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.
It’s exactly why two of the Canadian Premier League’s top performers since the circuit kicked off six years ago have found their way to Cavalry FC.
Tired of being kicked around by Cavalry — and the entire league, really — midfielder Diego Gutiérrez and striker Tobias Warschewski have both signed on with Calgary’s professional footie squad, hoping to change the fortunes of their respective careers.
“Winning is very important,” said Gutiérrez, when asked at Cavalry’s pre-season training about making the move to Cavalry. “For my career, for my life, for my health … I want to play playoffs. I have to play in playoffs. I’m ready.”
“Every time, it was hard to play against the Cavs,” agreed Warschewski, when met with the same query. “So it was an easy decision to come here.”
Especially given where they are coming from.
Gutierrez arrives in Calgary after spending four of his last five professional seasons with Valour FC — an ever-changing, ever-struggling franchise without a playoff appearance in the CPL’s five campaigns.
Despite that, the Quebec-born Gutiérrez — who moved with his family to Chile when he was three — drew praise as being one of the league’s best midfielders, scoring a career-high four goals in 2023.
“We feel he was one of the best midfielders in the CPL,” said Cavalry GM/head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. “And how do you make a strong midfielder even stronger? You add one of the best midfielders in the league. I think you need that balance, because if it is a case of sharing energy through the season, then different players have to lead at different times.
“But he’s a player that passes, he can play in all three midfield positions, he’s got a long range of passing, he’s good at set-plays, and he runs for days.”
The days with Valour were challenging during his two different tenures there. The club won just 10 of 37 games in 2019 and ’20. And in Gutiérrez’s second tour of duty in Manitoba after a year playing with Athletic Club Barnechea of Chile’s second-tier league, Valour collected only 16 victories in 58 matches, including a last-place 6-8-14 CPL record last season.
“Three years in a row, new guys come in,” said Gutiérrez, whose contract with Cavalry is for two years with an option for a third. “The whole team in Winnipeg changed three years in a row. It’s very hard to be teammates. You’re only teammates for a very short time.”
But here? He’s already feeling the chemistry, and the warm welcome he’s received has him thinking bigger than was the case with Valour.
“The touch with the ball … I love it,” continued the 26-year-old. “We can touch it 10 times, and the guys keep telling you, keep touching it. That’s my football.
“I can be part of the best midfield in the CPL. I want to play in playoffs and be champion.”
Same goes for Warschewski, a 25-year-old forward from Germany who starred for FC Edmonton before that franchise folded after the 2022 campaign.
Despite the hardship and a losing existence of just 10 wins in 58 contests in its final two years when Warschewski was there, the striker netted 11 goals and proved tough for even Cavalry to contain.
“He had a goal involvement every second game, so whether it was a goal or assist, his stats were very, very good,” Wheeldon said. “So we feel that he’s a good attacking addition, and he’s also versatile.”
Warschewski’s deal is also a two-year-plus-an-option pact, as he comes to Calgary after a year without soccer.
“I had a difficult year last year,” admitted Warschewski. “I was trying to come back into the league, but my old agency had other plans with me — like more in Germany. But I felt like North America is home and where to play in. The environment is for me. I need to be happy to enjoy everything.”
Being on the wrong side of the Battle of Alberta and the Wildrose Cup battles during his years in Edmonton helped him realize Cavalry was the place to be when he came back looking for a job in the CPL.
“I was really happy to begin with in my first year in Edmonton,” Warschewski said. “I think we had a very good squad, but some things went wrong. The quality was there, but we didn’t put it on the pitch. With no ownership and a lot of young kids, I was not really happy anymore. I still want to win games — that’s what it is all about. You enjoy it even more. This was a difficult part of me after a lot of losses in Edmonton.
“Things were kind of different than here — the professionalism and with the training sessions and being with the team. Everybody’s close together — you feel directly welcome. It’s different. You feel it’s much more professional than Edmonton was.
“With this team and this quality, I’m excited to be here. So I’ll try my best to have an impact.”
The other key off-season addition for Cavalry was forward Lleyton Brooks, a 22-year-old from Down Under.
The youngster joined the CPL club as a free agent following a four-year career in Australia’s A-League, in which he made 32 appearances — striking three goals — for Melbourne Victory.
Internationally, Brooks has made three appearances and scored two goals for the Australia’s national under-18 team.
“He’s a very fast, direct skilful winger,” added Wheeldon. “We felt we needed that as another thorn in our side to give us a different type of attack.”
The Cavs announced they’ve activated the 2024 option for defender Tom Field.
The London-born former Brentford FC and Republic of Ireland youth international defender returned to the club in the summer of 2023.
”Tom is a very intelligent and versatile footballer that suits our style of play,” Wheeldon said. “He’s shown great character and resilience in the way he has overcome a rough patch of his career with injury. His quality is clear to see, and let’s not forget his playing background before he came to us. He’s an asset to us day-in and day-out on the training pitch, and I look forward to working more with him in his next chapter of his career.”
Field was a member of the 2021 and ’22 seasons, during which he made a total of 12 appearances for Cavalry FC across all competitions before unfortunately being ruled out due to injury.
In 2023, Field joined League1 Alberta side Calgary Foothills FC, with whom he captained the side and helped in leading them to winning the league’s inaugural exhibition season with an undefeated record as he regained his fitness.
Field was then rewarded with a new contract with Cavalry and went on to make four appearances last season, as he helped contribute to the team’s league-title run.