Dynamic midfielder thankful for team’s 2023 run after contemplating retirement

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Nobody has more goals in a Cavalry FC kit than Sergio Camargo.

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He’s on 21 …

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Including six during what’s being hailed by coaches, teammates and even himself as his best Canadian Premier League campaign.

That’s mainly because — knock on wood — the dynamic midfielder will finish with more appearances than in any of his five footie seasons with Cavalry.

“Yes … knock on wood,” said Camargo, whose injuries to his moneymakers — his legs — have often kept him on the sideline.

“I did have some moments last year where I considered retiring just because it’s a stressful thing to always be rehabbing and always be coming back from an injury,” offered the 29-year-old native of Colombia. “You never feel like you’re at the level of other guys around you, because they’ve had a consistent six or seven months of training and of playing and I’m always stop and start. So I’m thankful and I’m proud of myself for betting on myself and for giving myself that one last chance, and it’s paid off and now I can continue my career a bit longer.”

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Hopes are high that career comes with at least one CPL playoff trophy.

This year would be nice to hoist that hardware, and it’s right now in the minds of Camargo & Co., with the post-season fully in view — beginning Saturday for regular-season-champion Cavalry (16W-7D-5L) in the 1-v-2 match against nemesis Forge FC (11-9-8) at ATCO Field (3 p.m., OneSoccer, OneSoccer.ca).

The winner earns a bye through to the championship match, while the loser lands in the CPL’s semifinal contest.

And Camargo — as is usually the case — is likely to be a pivotal player in all games needed to secure the North Star Shield.

He is, after all, right there among what’s become a handful of team MVPs.

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“I think Sergio has quietly gone about having the best season of his career,” praised Cavalry GM/head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. “And he’s done that not just through his own individual statistics but through his leadership and ability to take people with him. He’s our orchestrator of the attacking band, and he’s got such a great personality. But he has great game intelligence. He’s really clever with his pressing, for example.

“He’s got such an infectious personality, and his energy is infectious in such a good way,” the gaffer continued. “But he talks with wisdom. He’s a university graduate, and he knows a bit about the world. He’s just a really good guy, and he’s a great competitor. It doesn’t matter if it’s a board game at the hotel, soccer, tennis or any (other) game, he’s so competitive. And that’s a side of Sergio Camargo that not many people have seen, but I get to see on a daily basis.

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“I’m fortunate as a manager to have worked with him for going on almost six years. As he’s made me a better coach, hopefully — in turn — I’ve helped him be a better player.”

Camargo himself is feeling it, too.

Not just as a quick-strike surgeon, a set-up guy and a man of many moves …

But as a leader in taking his vice-captaincy to heart.

Sergio Camargo
Sergio Camargo (R) is shown in action during CPL soccer action between Cavalry FC and Halifax Wanderers FC at ATCO Stadium at Spruce Meadows in Calgary on Saturday, July 15. Jim Wells/Postmedia

“I try not to compare too much year to year — I just try to take it one game at a time,” Camargo said. “But I do think that, this year, I’ve just been able to say consistently on the field.

“I did have a spell in 2019 where I was healthy and things were going well,” the one-time Toronto FC prospect continued. “But this year, I think I’ve added more to my game than just the individual part. And I think that’s what Tommy is referring to when he says I’m having my best season is that I’m not only helping myself but I’m helping team around me. And this year, I’ve been more thoughtful of that, and I think that’s what is lending itself to me playing more consistent and playing better and being a more creative part of the team.”

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Growing older and gaining experience — even when he wasn’t playing on a regular basis — has also hastened his improvement.

“I think so,” agreed Camargo, joining goalkeeper Marco Carducci as the only two original members remaining on the roster. “I think every year as a footballer, if you’re not picking up a little bit every year that you’ve learned throughout the season, then you’re not progressing. So I think use your experiences and you reflect on those in the off-season and you try to implement the things that you think can improve your game. The following year, sometimes you get those right and sometimes you get those wrong. And this year, it looks like I got some of those right in my reflection in the off-season. So I’m just trying to take those in stride and keep it going.”

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Keep it going — knock on wood — to a clean finish to the season.

It’s no secret that him staying on the field has truly made a difference in him having a career year and contributing like never before to Cavalry’s bottom line.

“One of my main goals this year is just to be available,” added Camargo, who was sidelined for all but two tilts of the 2020 CPL Island Games campaign and was limited last year to just 16 total outings at different times of the calendar. “I knew if I was available, then I’d be in conversation for just obviously always starting and then always being able to help the team. So that was my main goal, and I’ve worked my way back to 100 per cent and just trying to stay there.

“I’m so thankful for this year. I’m thankful that Tommy gave me another opportunity. I’m thankful that I bet on myself to continue.”


X: @ToddSaelhofPM

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