Forge FC became the first Canadian Premier League side at the Island Games to clinch a spot in the second round when Atlético Ottawa beat Pacific FC earlier this week.
Perhaps that gave coach Bobby Smyrniotis some time to finally reflect on how hectic his team’s schedule has been in PEI, and just how close the standings are going into the final weekend of the first stage, which sees Forge play Valour FC on Saturday (12pm ET/1pm AT, OneSoccer/CBC).
“For fans, onlookers, this has been a fantastic event,” Smyrniotis told team’s official website.
“It shows how competitive level and the uniqueness of a tournament-style even where one or two results can give a lot of positive energy to those teams.”
Regardless of how far Forge goes at The Island Games, the six-day break between their 2-0 win over Atlético Ottawa last Sunday and this weekend’s tilt with Valour is the longest they’ll enjoy. It’s a welcome respite from the 18-day, six-match sprint Forge endured, starting with an exhausting draw with Cavalry FC on August 13.
“It’s big just for the guys to relax, decompress, get away from the game for a day or so which we did earlier in the week,” Smyrniotis stated.
“Re-energized, get back focused, and be ready for that game against Valour.”
Rob Gale’s Winnipeg outfit is hungry to make good on positive results in PEI, and will need a win over Forge to give them a slight chance at second-round glory.
Forge could be an interesting test for Valour’s impressive defensive outfit which, despite a series of unfortunate injuries to defenders, is in a five-way tie for second-fewest goals conceded (seven) in the CPL. Whether standout defenders Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Stefan Cebara, and Chakib Hocine return to injury against Forge after their Wednesday defeat remains to be seen.
“We have to look at who they are and what they’ve been over the event. We can guess who’s injured or who might be available in the lineup,” Smyrniotis said.
“A team that I think has been very good – defensively very sound but works to keep the ball so that’s the team we’re expecting to see on the pitch (Saturday).”
Whether Smyrniotis decides to give a rest to players nursing niggling injuries also remains to be seen. Chris Nanco went down with an injury last weekend, while ongoing fitness rumours with Baj Maan remain.
“You always have to look at that risk component and hopefully putting a player into a situation doesn’t make things get worse – that’s the most important thing,” Smyrniotis said.
“There’s no difference between first and fourth. There’s no trophy for anything in this round or next.”