Forge FC returns to Tim Hortons Field to host Cavalry FC on Saturday, looking to avoid a second straight loss to start the 2022 CPL season after dropping points to Pacific FC.
TORONTO, ON – Once the heavyweights of the Canadian Premier League, the 2022 seasons have not started ideally for Forge FC and Cavalry FC. Dropping their opening matches, both clubs face a critical match in week two.
It may not be a must-win by the standings in just the second week of the season, but it would be far from ideal for two clubs used to success. However, for Forge, it could be worse.
For a club that has dominated the CPL over three seasons, Hamilton hasn’t proved anything in 2022 after falling out of the Concacaf Champions League to Cruz Azul in February. It’s a fresh start, despite some familiar faces, and the titans of the north have to prove themselves once again.
Not all is lost in Pacific defeat
Forge comes off a 2-1 loss to Pacific in Victoria last weekend and a match where they primarily looked listless in every aspect of the game. Despite handling the game in those categories with 13 shots and 65 percent possession, they weren’t able to play with a purpose.
While the Hamiltonians held the ball well, their possession was lateral, unable to advance the ball into the final attacking third. Playing with a 4-3-3 that shifted to a 3-5-2 when attacking, the two-time CPL Champions could not create threatening chances and played the ball backwards, maintaining threatless possession.
Pacific’s second and eventual winning goal came from Amer Didic heading in an exquisite cross from a re-invigorated Marco Bustos. Still, Forge’s transition to attacking play continued to slide.
“You look at the game, and we did a lot of good things.” head coach Bobby Smyrnytiotis said, “They scored on a set-piece, which is a big part of the game.”
With new-signing and former Pacific forward Terran Campbell playing on the wing, Hamilton did not have a dynamic winger to be able to cut inside. Considering Campbell’s 22 goals in 54 matches with Pacific, he thrives in a more central role as a pseudo-target man. However, playing on the wing doesn’t suit his style, which showed in his lacklustre showing against his former club.
A positive from the match was the play of rookie goalkeeper Cristopher Kalongo, who, although playing his first game as a professional, looked calm and kept his side within striking distance with six critical saves.
What can change?
Simply, not much is needed. The opening match didn’t go to plan, but there is a base level that Forge can find success with– they’ve done it in the past. Playing with a similar formation, promising factors can aid their play against another formidable opponent.
With Tristan Borges’ return and the potential addition of Emery Welshman, there is more promise from the start for Forge. At the same time, although goalkeeper Triston Henry could come back from his injury ahead of this game, riding Kalongo’s solid form could prove savvy.
While much of Forge’s first match was forgettable, there were significant moments from Alexander Achinioti Jonsson and new signing Alessandro Hojabrpour, who looked threatening throughout the game, with the former scoring a consolation goal in the final minutes.
Hojabrpour missed Forge’s best two chances in the match, finishing with 0.68 expected goals, showing he is getting into scoring areas despite his lack of finishing. Keeping him in the lineup would be the wise move meanwhile shifting the player around him to allow his passing ability to shine through. He’s getting into the right spaces and could create more if he has the personnel.
Aboubacar Sissoko, Kyle Bekker, and Dominic Samuel helped hold the ball in the opening loss, and keeping them on the pitch would be idyllic. However, if Bekker moves up the pitch and can play off Borges, Forge should be able to link passes together more consistently and advance the ball into attacking areas.
It was no disaster against Pacific, and with more focus in front of goal and playing in front of a favourable crowd, Forge will have every chance to take down Cavalry without many adjustments.
Losing a CPL opener isn’t new for Forge, and for Smyrniotis, there’s little reason to change anything. “I thought we were very good, and somehow we’re keeping up our tradition of not winning on day one of the CPL.”
Forge welcomes Cavalry to Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton for the second match of the season on Saturday at 4:00 p.m. ET, live on OneSoccer.ca
Cover Photo via: CPL