2022 CPL Regular Season — Match #71
Forge FC vs. HFX Wanderers FC
August 6, 2022 at 4:00 p.m. ET/5:00 p.m AT
Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton, Ontario
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Forge FC will look to make it a club-record sixth straight victory when they host HFX Wanderers at Tim Horton Field on Saturday.
The Hamilton side capped off an incredibly dominant month of July with a 4-0 victory over former league-leaders Atlético Ottawa, taking the top spot for themselves. During the month, they lost just once, to that same Ottawa side, outscoring their opponents by an impressive 15-4.
Things have not been quite so bright for the Wanderers. This past Monday, they allowed York United, the league’s worst offensive team, to score four against them at home in Halifax. Coming into that match York had scored just 10 times all season in their previous 17 matches. That loss has Halifax 11 points out of the playoffs right now.
Halifax is also in the unenviable position of being the only club in the league that hasn’t recorded a win in their last five matches, being shut out three times. They have won just once in their last seven matches, a 3-0 win at Starlight Stadium against Pacific that they had hoped would kickstart their season.
It hasn’t, but perhaps a first-ever victory in Hamilton against the league’s hottest team would do the trick.
“[We are] playing for that slim hope of getting into the playoffs,” said Halifax head coach Stephen Hart, “so no better place to start than to play against arguably the best team in the league.”
They have looked every bit the part in meetings against Halifax this season. After winning just one of their first five matches of 2022 in the league, Forge drubbed HFX 4-0 away on May 20. A month later, they were back in Nova Scotia to pick up another 3-0 victory.
But despite how the match looks on paper, Forge FC isn’t taking it lightly by any means. They know that as far as motivation goes Halifax have a far more tangible reason to get up for this match.
“They need three points more than anyone in the league right now, so we know it’s going to be a tough test,” said Bobby Smyrniotis in his pre-match press conference.
Forge did make major waves ahead of this match with yet another marquee signing, as former Toronto FC and Canadian international Jordan Hamilton officially joined the club. Having only trained with the side a few times, Smyrniotis said that Hamilton is very unlikely to appear on Saturday, but he provides the club with yet another top-quality option going forward. Given that Woobens Pacius scored six goals last month, while Terran Campbell had four, the thought of Forge with even more firepower in attack is surely giving the rest of the league nightmares right now.
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3 THINGS TO WATCH
- Forge FC and Halifax both ready for busy August schedule: Get ready to watch a lot of both of these sides over the month of August, as they are among the busiest in the league with six matches each. Forge get back to regularly scheduled programming, as they have a game nearly every five days over the next month. For a side used to being involved in multiple competitions, they look forward to the busy schedule. “I think it’s good, I think you want that, you want at least that one game a week which for a period there we haven’t had,” said Smyrniotis. “So I think it is good, we’re in a good spot right now, we’re playing some of our best football that we have played. There is a good energy in the group, but we also know that you are only as good as your next one. We have seen every week in this league that results can happen that maybe the fans, or the people who are watching the league from the outside don’t expect.” For Halifax, meanwhile, it could be an opportunity to build the rhythm and consistency that they haven’t been able to all season.
- Forge continues to show incredible balance during their win streak: Everyone has been talking about the goals for Forge FC, lately, and fair enough. As Smyrniotis has said on many occasions, goals are the best part of the game. But the way the Hamilton side has prevented goals over the last stretch has been equally impressive. They have allowed just three in their last five. They have done so largely from the front foot, having a defensive mentality while on the ball. They make sure to keep the ball out of areas where they can be hurt, and the side’s fluidity both allows them to attack and defend seamlessly. “I feel like everyone understands each other,” said defender Garven Metusala. “If a certain player moves in a certain space the other one knows where to go, just the system. For example, the ball is out wide, everyone knows where to be in the box. So everyone understands each other and that just makes it easier for us to score goals.” This understanding has also allowed players like Metusala to get further up the pitch in moments, and create attacks from the back. He has been thriving with the license Smyrniotis gives him and his fellow defenders to get forward. “I enjoy it a lot, and I think [Rezart] Rama on the other side enjoys it a lot, even Alex [Achinioti-Jönsson]. We are all defenders but we can also create offensively. So once we get opportunities to help offensively, we for sure like it, to try to help get assists, or long balls in the back of the defence to create chances.” Below is an example of one such run that Metusala made in a recent match against Edmonton to help Forge open the scoring:
- HFX Wanderers playing for their jobs during the back-half of the season: Smyrniotis called Halifax a side with their “backs against the wall,” and that is a very apt metaphor for a club who just hasn’t been able to put it together yet this season. They have certainly had some bright moments, but those have been few and critically far between, which has them currently closer to the bottom of the table than the playoff line. The club and its players know that they are running out of time if they want to salvage something from this season, and Hart is hoping they embrace that fight down the stretch. “All the players know where they stand at the moment, we are all fighting for contracts, and to prove that we should be part of this organization,” said Hart. “We owe it to our fanbase. We have not delivered the way they have and we need to not at this point give up the fight. It is a massive challenge, but if you are a sportsman, if you are a competitor, it is one that you relish.”
Forge FC wins: 6 || HFX Wanderers wins: 2 || Draws: 6
June 19, 2022 — HFX Wanderers 0-3 Forge FC
“The challenges are always there. Tomorrow, Halifax is here and it is always a big challenge. This is a team who has played some good football this year and has their back against the wall a little bit, and that is sometimes dangerous.” — Forge FC head coach Bobby Smyrniotis
“The biggest thing is that they are a team who is very good with the ball, and in the attacking third they have good movement and a lot of composure. We need to try as best as we can contain that space, take away that space and then when we have the ball be tidier with it.” —HFX Wanderers FC head coach Stephen Hart