For the final time this year, Forge and Cavalry practiced, as they prepare to do battle in the 2nd leg of the CPL Finals Saturday.
As we reach the end of this first-year CPL marathon, confidence remains high on both sides.
Heading into their final game of the season, both Forge and Cavalry were in high spirits on Friday, as they got set to do battle for the 9th time this season. After a tightly contested 1st leg tie, the series has now shifted to Calgary, where they will take each other on tomorrow at Atco Field.
With some silverware on the line, a good effort in training was imperative, and both coaches feel that their respective teams brought that to the table Friday.
“We just enjoyed our last training session of 2019,” Cavalry head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr said. “The boys put in a great effort, as they always do. They’re ready, there’s been a lot of questions asked for them and they’ve always responded, so they’re ready.”
He added. “I think, it was physically loose and mentally tight, they’re wired, they know what they have to do, and they’re ready for it”
On the other side, Forge felt very much the same way, as their camp was noticeably in high spirits when they opened up a portion to the media. After a dominating 1st leg victory, where a tight 1-0 result probably didn’t do their performance justice, they feel confident that they can repeat the same level of play away from home.
“The atmosphere in the camp has been great, the mood is fantastic, their light about how they’re doing things, they’re focused, and they know exactly what we need to do,” Forge head coach, Bobby Smyrniotis said.
The conditions in Calgary have been a big question mark these past few weeks, and they look to play a factor in this game. While it is unclear if the snow will play a part, it remains still very cold in the city, which made the field hard, making it tough for both teams to play.
With plenty of Cavalry supporters expected to come out in full throttle, as they look to push their team to victory, it should make for a less than ideal atmosphere for Forge. As they trained on Friday, the ball bobbled around a lot when they did ground passing moves, and it’s hard to imagine much changing tomorrow.
Since Cavalry is a noticeably aggressive high-pressing team, it’ll make it tough for Forge to impose their identity on the game, and that should give an advantage for Cavalry. With other factors such as altitude playing a role, it has been the reason for Cavalry being one of the best teams in the league later on in games.
“It’s a different ballgame coming home here, and when the fans are behind us and making it loud, it’s an intimidating atmosphere.” Wheeldon Jr said.
He added: “If you look at the last five home games, we’ve scored 12 or 15 goals in the last 15 minutes, and they come in bunches. So for us, teams can compete with us, as long and as often as possible, but as soon as we score one, we score more. And I think the altitude definitely wears teams down, as does our high-pressure football. We like to play on the front foot like we said and we like to play attacking football, and I think that wears teams down eventually.”
On the other hand, Smyrniotis doesn’t feel that it will impact his team negatively, because as he pointed out, both teams will have to play in the same conditions. After playing at ideal conditions in the 1st leg in Hamilton, where it was a good 10 degrees Celsius, the sun was out and the pitch was consistent, it’ll be a big change to have to play on the bumpy turf in Calgary.
In a one-off final, with nerves and other things now factoring into both team’s performances, he fancies his chances no matter the surface, and having played here already a couple of times, his team will also surely have adjusted to it.
“It’s definitely a different field then what you’d be used to and then what you’d want to play on, especially in the final match,” Smyrniotis said. “Well, that’s nothing that we can control, and that sits for both teams, both teams are gonna have to go out there and deal with the conditions, it’s a bumpy pitch, it’s very hard at the moment, so that’s going to make certain things difficult on the field.”
And with his team in good position, he can afford a bit of time to work out the kinks.
“Yeah, of course, you’d rather be here than somewhere else,” Smyrniotis added. “At this moment, you want to lead going into the second leg of a two-legged series, so we’re in a good position, but at the end of the day, it’s another game right.”
So now the focus shifts to the action on the field, with all the question marks in the lead up to this game now sorted out. Forge’s Tristan Borges is back in after his red card got rescinded, Cavalry’s Joel Waterman was not afforded the same luxury with his red, and a handful of Forge suspensions from the regular season expired to give them a boost. With both teams now at pretty much full-strength, bar a couple of season-ending Cavalry injuries, it’ll make for another edition of best-on-best CPL football.
Which for Smyrniotis, he’s excited to be a part of. With his advantageous position suggesting that a bunkered down Forge looms as a possibility, he threw out that idea on Friday, as he doesn’t want his team to deviate from the nice football they’ve played all year.
At the end of a long season, it’ll be good to see them bring that attacking mentality, and now all that’s left to see is how both teams end up faring over the 90 minutes.
“Yeah, the key priority is to win the game, so if you want to win the game, you have to score a goal,” Smyrniotis said. “That’s the way we look at it, not so much about what a goal means when we’re away goal means and all of this other stuff, you get caught up doing too much math.”
“And what we want our guys to do is sit there and put the ball together, and play some football, so we want to win the game, and to win the game we have to score.”
The CPL also officially announced their individual awards on Friday, after having announced their Finals trophy, the ‘North Star Shield’, last week in Hamilton. Unlike last week’s release, which garnered mixed reviews from fans and media, the response on these trophies were overwhelmingly positive.
There were 5 awards announced in total, which were the Golden Boot, the MVP, the U21 player of the year, the Coach of the year and Goalkeeper of the year. As with the North Star Shield, the winners will receive a replica, while the original trophy will remain with the CPL, only coming out when first presented to each year’s winner.
Part of the reason the awards gained good reviews was the story behind them, as the trophies were made by artists from Nunavut, and all had references to First Nations culture, giving them a uniquely Canadian feel. From a hunter for the Golden Boot, to an Owl for Coach of the year, there was a unique story behind each award.
Here are each of the awards:
Board of Governors meeting:
On a side note, the league’s Board of Governors met on Friday, discussing many things including scheduling, expansion, roster spots and much more. While not much of what happened during the meeting is known, David Clanachan, the commissioner of the CPL, did say last week that those topics would be among those touched upon Friday.
So expect news on many of those things in the coming weeks, especially around expansion, with a timeline of ’30 to 45 days’ being suggested by Clanachan. He says there are over a dozen teams showing interest, but 3 are in strong condition to be considered for next year, with the lone roadblock remaining stadium questions. Those 3 teams in question are reported to be a Quebec-based team, a Kitchener-Waterloo team and a Lower Mainland team, giving them more teams in some big Canadian markets.
Other Pre-Match Reading:
Cover photo graciously provided by Forge FC