2021 CPL regular season (The Kickoff) — Match #30
Forge FC vs. Cavalry FC
July 22, 2021 at 8:00 pm ET/7:00 pm CT
IG Field in Winnipeg, Manitoba
Watch Live: OneSoccer.ca
Forge FC and Cavalry FC will close their stay at The Kickoff in Winnipeg, Man. against one another Thursday night, bringing two CPL heavyweights together before they return to their home markets for the remainder of the 2021 season.
Hamilton and Calgary are in good standing through seven matches sequestered in Winnipeg, sitting in second and fourth respectively and racking up enough points to make an early grouping of playoff contenders alongside Valour FC and Pacific FC.
Looking back, not everything has been so rosy for these teams thus far in 2021. Tommy Wheeldon Jr.’s Cavs side failed to score in four straight matches before breaking the duck against HFX Wanderers this weekend. Forge, who entered 2021 play on a shortened pre-season training regime, was smacked with an unprecedented injury and fitness crisis that sidelined up to nine players at once.
But for many Canadians, things are starting to look up for these teams – just in time for one of CanPL’s most anticipated fixtures and their return home.
Forge got the better of Cavalry in their last meeting thanks to two beautiful finishes from Kyle Bekker – one of four victories in an acceptable Kickoff return, at least to coach Bobby Smyrniotis.
“Considering what the team has endured for injuries, the lack of preparation coming in, we’re happy at this point,” Smyrniotis said. “There’s obviously one thing we want on Thursday and that’s a positive result to come home to.
“I expect a good match and two teams that want to get three points and get on the plane to go home.”
Wheeldon Jr.’s side is in a similar vein with the team finishing what his gaffer called “pre-season with points” Thursday. Ali Musse and Anthony Novak found the net in a front-footed match against Halifax last week.
This tilt with Forge, a competitive rival for nearly three years, serves as a great closer for Wheeldon Jr.
“It’s a great game to finish this start to the season – this lets us know where we’re at in terms of our players, what we’ve got, and what our best XI looks like,” Wheeldon Jr. said. “Like I said before, they’re where we want to be.
“We have got to go into this with a contender mentality – the contender has to battle against the best and they are the best right now so it’s up to us now to knock them off their throne.”
Make your match picks prior to kickoff at canpl.ca/predictor for a chance to win prizes, including the grand prize of a trip to the 2021 CPL Final!
3 THINGS TO WATCH:
- Forge’s ‘false sense of security’: In a pre-match press conference, Wheeldon mentioned Forge’s new style of play, if you can call it that, as Smyrniotis opts for a more direct-minded approach, likely due to personnel over anything else. That style lulls teams expecting Forge’s typical on-the-ball style into a “false sense of security” according to Wheeldon, something his team succumbed to through two goals against the run of play from Kyle Bekker last time out. “They actually don’t care about having the ball. They’re a very direct counter-attacking team, they’ve got quality where it matters in the front unit, and they’re not going to over pass or over play,” Wheeldon Jr. said. “That’s where they lull teams into a false sense of security, they caught us out with those two goals [from Kyle Bekker].
- Rivals lock horns again: Many consider Forge-Cavalry to be the CPL’s marquee fixture… and why wouldn’t it be? The 2019 CPL Finalists are set to lock horns for the 11th time Thursday night – more than any other matchup in CanPL play. Forge has the upper hand by some margin, posting six wins. The last time Cavalry beat Hamilton was back on Oct. 9, 2019, at Spruce Meadows. Dom Malonga scored a brace to outdo current Cavs forward Anthony Novak’s late marker.
- Fitness concerns (and smokey skies) linger: Heavy smoke from western wildfires in Winnipeg moved training to shortened indoor sessions late Tuesday night for the eight CPL clubs. While it may seem like a blessing to overtired players in Winnipeg, training days outside of pre and post-match sessions have been rare in the bubble. Both sides in Thursday’s tilt have some significant fitness concerns, too. Cavalry’s marquee striker Joe Mason is slowly being brought into the side, with Wheeldon Jr. comparing the gradual inclusion of wingers Musse and Richard Luca as a roadmap for the Englishman: “He could potentially be one of the best players in the league – you don’t want to put him in a position that doesn’t favour him.” On the other side, Forge coach Smyrniotis says former Player of the Year Tristan Borges is “coming along well” following an injury – so is midfielder/defender Maxim Tissot.
Forge FC wins: 6 || Cavalry FC wins: 2 || Draws: 2
July 8, 2021 – Forge FC 2-0 Cavalry FC
“We may have to be at a point where we’re managing guys so we’re at our best coming out of here with important matches this August, including Concacaf League.” — Forge FC coach Bobby Smyrniotis.
“Their big players are showing up for them, and it’s up to us to either stop that or allow our big players to take over that mantle. They’re the champions, we’re the contenders and we’ve got to make up that ground until we get the crown.” – Cavalry FC coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr.