The inaugural match of the Canadian Premier League is now upon us, with Forge FC hosting York9 FC at Tim Hortons Field on a cold, windy day in Hamilton – exactly the sort of blistering conditions that suits a battle on the field for Bobby Smyrniotis’ side.
Jimmy Brennan’s Y9 team won’t just roll over, though – their players will be hungry to play spoilers on the day.
So, with that in mind, here are three key battles you should watch out for on the field in Hamilton:
Manny Aparicio vs. Elimane Oumar Cissé
So much of York9 FC’s attacking movements will flow through the Nine Stripes’ creative attacking midfielder, Manny Aparicio. As such, you have to imagine a battle with Forge defensive enforcer Elimane Cissé will be the one to watch in the middle of the park.
Whether it’s Cissé closing Aparicio down with multiple interceptions and blocks, or Aparicio running circles around his Senegalese opposite, the midfield battle will be won or lost on the back of these juxtaposed footballers.
Expect a (hopefully clean) tackle or two, as well.
Kwame Awuah vs. Kyle Porter
Expected to slot in at left full-back, Kwame Awuah will be tested by York9 FC’s right-side attacker Kyle Porter in a wide battle that features two players with plenty of experience. The two former MLS-ers square off on this flank, but expect to see Porter combine with Aparicio and Ryan Telfer as he attempts to overwhelm Awuah on Forge’s left side.
Awuah brings with him versatility in defence and a penchant for a well-timed standing tackle, which could frustrate Porter, who doesn’t necessarily bring bursts of speed on the wing.
The timing of each run and interception attempt respectively will dictate the winner of this matchup – if Porter can accelerate at the right beat, Awuah could be caught out; conversely, if Awuah can get a string of possession-restoring challenges off of Porter in succession, perhaps his 29-year-old opposite will be forced to turn to plans B, C, or D.
Daniel Gogarty vs. Emery Welshman
This could be a battle of experience vs. lack thereof, as Forge’s Emery Welshman takes on Y9 rookie defender Daniel Gogarty, who will be enjoying his first taste of professional on the biggest possible stage in Canada.
Meanwhile, it’s business as usual for Welshman, who came to Forge on loan from FC Cincinnati and has seen many a major match during his playing career in MLS and the USL.
Should Gogarty start alongside Roger Thompson and Luca Gasparotto in a three-man backline as we saw in pre-season, he’ll need to step up to make sure he can handle a wiley attacker in Welshman.