HAMILTON, ONT – Forge FC only scores bangers — the club might just want to print on t-shirts after their match on Saturday, a 2-2 draw with Cavalry FC headlined by top-notch goals in the first and last 10 minutes.
An early goal from Forge’s Alessandro Hojabrpour, two quick goals from Cavalry from Joe Mason and Ali Musse, and a late world-class strike from David Choiniere drove the match to a thrilling finish in Hamilton and a point for both sides.
How it happened:
As they’ve become known for, the Hamilton side started the game with a burst of energy and exuberance. Former Pacific FC midfielder, Hojabrpour, who scored the championship-clinching goal for the Tridents against Forge, opened the scoring in Forge’s home opener.
From the first kick, until the 20th minute, Forge looked to be re-born since their lacklustre performance against Pacific. Controlling play, the Hamiltonians were stellar through the first 10 minutes, linking passes through captain Kyle Becker in the middle.
Noah Jensen started the match for Forge in a front two alongside Terran Campbell, who played a much more central role than he did against Pacific. Jensen, 22, debuted for Forge at the Estadio Azteca against Cruz Azul, did not play in Week 1, and made his first CPL appearance on Saturday.
Playing a 3-5-2 that shifted to a 4-3-3, Forge utilized their fullbacks throughout the match, including their early goal with Dominic Samuel playing a ball up to Woobens Pacius, whose cross bounced off a Cavalry defender, before Hojabrapur’s strike rippled the net from outside of the box.
However, Cavalry took over the run of play after the 20th minute, scoring a pair to cancel out Hojabrpour’s opening goal.
The visitors levelled the match at the half-hour mark when Triston Henry bobbled Musse’s scissor kick, allowing Mason to drive the shot in. Musse got his goal seven minutes later, cashing in on a giveaway from Forge’s Samuel and finishing a shot past Henry.
For a Forge side that started with many positives, it had all evaporated before halftime, before they found their tying goal in the 90th minute of the second half.
“I thought it was great character from the boys; it’s a wind tunnel, you often have to play the conditions of the opponent of the home team, and the weather. It was a howling wind there; it sat up for Hojabrpour,” said Cavalry manager Tommy Wheeldon Jr.
Forge’s Tristan Borges entered the game for Jensen at the start of the second half, playing a false nine role, and showed that his quality is still stellar in the CPL. The 2019 league MVP found and created pockets of space in the midfield and orchestrated several chances, including a 60th-minute two-on-none, where Pacius opted for a shot rather than a pass to Campbell, only to be stopped by Calvary’s Roloff.
Despite the missed chance, the tempers in the game heated up with challenges flying on both sides, and the play went end-to-end until Forge found the tying goal from Choiniere late in the match to steal a point in the home opener.
“They’ve scored two unbelievable goals — goal of the season contenders. You can’t complain about that; I thought our tactics were spot on,” added Wheeldon Jr. “We bent, but we didn’t break, we’ve got some resilience, and if we want to contend again, we have to come into these matches on the road and come out with points.
While the match didn’t end the way Forge hoped, they showed a more intense fight at the end to level the game and had more purpose on the ball throughout the game than they did last week. Hamilton’s style includes a lot of possession, and they made their 60% count on Saturday, unlike a week ago on Vancouver Island.
Terran Campbell put in a position to thrive:
Terran Campbell looked like he belonged in the CPL for the first time in a Forge FC kit. However, playing out wide against his former club in the season opener, Campbell appeared lost and could not impact the game; it was different against Cavalry.
Against Cavalry, Forge manager Bobby Smyrniotis shifted the striker into his traditional target man, number nine role. It appeared to work, as he consistently found spaces in the attack, despite only getting a single shot. While he played mainly central off the ball, he shifted wide on occasion to draw defenders out, creating spaces in the middle.
Playing in a striker tandem with Jensen and then Borges, Campbell drew defenders away and created space for his partner to take advantage.
“I thought he was excellent; he’s getting into the spaces, his holdup play is very good. He was a constant danger in behind, dragging Cavalry’s [Kairifa] Yao and others into different areas where they weren’t comfortable in defending,” Smyrniotis said. “He’s been good in the attack; he’s been good in creating, and the goals will come.”
There is a clear pathway for him to succeed in a more central role, especially as a striker who can win 50/50 duels, which he did 10 of 14 times on Saturday, while also drawing five fouls in the opponent’s half.
Overall, disappointing for both sides:
The draw was a tough pill to swallow for two clubs who have only known success throughout the CPL’s first three seasons, giving them just one of a possible six points after two weeks. However, both sides still have a strong outlook. Forge lost their two opening games of “The Kickoff” in 2021 before making the final, and Cavalry gained a valuable point away from home amid their road-heavy start to the season.
The Calgarians return to the Toronto area again next week for a match against York United, while Forge looks for their first win when they host the confusing puzzle known as FC Edmonton on April 23.
Cover photo: Canadian Premier League