MATCH ANALYSIS: Cavalry return to form in style, shut out Forge for home win

Final Score: Cavalry FC 1-0 Forge FC
Goalscorers: Warschewski 59′
Game of the 2024 season: 33
CPL match: 517

Match in a minute or less

Cavalry FC returned to the win column on Saturday at home, as they defeated Forge FC 1-0 at ATCO Field to extend their unbeaten streak to eight matches.

The hosts were the protagonists of the first half, buzzing around the Forge goal but unable to direct a ball in as they were stymied by a few last-ditch tackles and blocks. Finally though, their moment arrived just before the hour mark.

In a team move that saw almost every Cavalry player involved, Lucas Dias fed Fraser Aird in behind toward the right flank, and Aird cut it across the box where Tobias Warschewski needed just one touch to finish and score the only goal of the game.

Forge were unable to get a foothold, and their chance of a result slipped away late when Khadim Kane was sent off just before stoppage time.

So, Cavalry held on for the clean sheet win, moving (at least for the night) back into the playoff picture.

Three Observations

Cavalry dominate in possession, finally find their goal with superb team play

The last few weeks have seen Cavalry FC play a lot of good possession football, particularly in their second halves against Valour FC and Pacific FC, but they hadn’t been rewarded much, with four consecutive draws in CPL play and five goals in that stretch.

Head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. had mentioned several times that he wasn’t concerned by his side’s performances, but that he’d like to see some better execution in the final third to turn possession dominance into goals that kill off matches.

In the first half against Forge, Wheeldon Jr. saw his team play arguably its best attacking football of the CPL season so far, as they repeatedly pushed their opponents back and found ways to cut through the backline, generating 10 shots in the 45 minutes with 14 touches in the box.

However, the goal continued to elude. Shamit Shome found himself stopped by Malik Owolabi-Belewu twice near the six-yard box, while Eryk Kobza couldn’t quite get a good touch on a ball across goal when he was alone in front. Just after halftime, Tobias Warschewski’s denied bicycle kick felt representative of an afternoon where the ball just refused to go into the net.

At long, long last though, it happened. With their 15th shot of the game, Warschewski finally broke through, getting on the end of a low pass across goal from Fraser Aird.

The goal was a textbook example of what Cavalry had been working toward the whole game in attack. They connected a series of dangerous passes, with Lucas Dias collecting the ball in space and very quickly playing the through ball to Aird making a good run around the outside. Aird’s pass through the box was perfectly-threaded and Warschewski did what a good striker should do, and finished it with one touch.

“We had a reflection; we were seven games unbeaten and we said, ‘What are we missing?'” Wheeldon Jr. said postgame. “We were missing goals and we were missing making blocks. Today we just said, let’s lean into who we are in possession, let’s make them uncomfortable. I thought we did, and the stats show that, but we also had to be brave because they’ve got a terrific side, and they’ll always have a chance or two.

“That was the least they’ve looked like scoring a goal in any of their games this season, so I think that’s credit to our boys on both sides of the ball.”

This was in many ways a textbook Cavalry win, with their aggressive press early in the match and a well-worked team goal, and it’s one they certainly needed after Daan Klomp said last week that the run of draws was starting to cause frustration.

Now though, it’ll be all guns blazing when the Cavs head to Kelowna for next weekend’s clash with Vancouver FC.

Teammates congratulate attacker Tobias Warschewski of CAV FC on his goal which turned out to be the game winner. CFC Media Mike Sturk

Forge defence nearly survives test, but attack not sharp enough in ‘poor’ outing

It’s not often that Forge FC find themselves under pressure for extended periods of time, but they had to absorb a lot from Cavalry on Saturday. The home side were the more aggressive, especially in the first half, which meant Forge spent a lot of time trying to clear the ball and break up their opponents’ quick passing patterns.

For the most part, their defensive efforts were successful. Malik Owolabi-Belewu, in particular, was outstanding at centre-back as he came into the lineup in place of Garven Metusala. It was Owolabi-Belewu’s last-ditch individual defending that prevented three or four clear-cut chances, getting in the way of Shome at just the right moment and clearing Warschewski’s attempted bicycle off the line. He won possession seven times and made five clearances, and had Warschewski not finally scored he may have been seeing the Forge defender in his nightmares, with how Owolabi-Belewu seemed to show up everywhere.

It’s very difficult to defend that much for a full 90 minutes though, and this was a game where they never really got enough of a foothold to find that equalizer.

Bobby Smyrniotis was brutally candid in his assessment of his team’s performance.

“It was poor, to be honest, on our end,” the Forge gaffer said. “It wasn’t a very good performance. A lot of easy things for us to do, and a lot of easy mistakes. When that happens in a game like this, that’s what you should expect unless you’ve got a little bit of luck on your side….

“The spaces were there, it showed in the first half in about eight situations where we got into the right areas of the pitch, and we made uncharacteristic mistakes.”

Forge did not look nearly as dangerous in this game as they had the week before against York United, but they didn’t have much opportunity for their attacking players to be involved in dangerous areas. With just eight touches in the box as a team, and only two shots on target (one inside the box), they didn’t have enough sustained pressure to break down a Cavalry defence that was set up well.

Their next game is a road trip to Halifax to play a Wanderers side desperate for a win, but Forge will likewise be keen on responding after a disappointing afternoon in Calgary.

Goalkeeper Christopher Kalongo of FOR FC makes a save as teammate defender Malik Owolabi-Belewu of FOR FC and midfielder Sergio Camargo of CAV FC fly over top of him. CFC Media Mike Sturk

Shome, Aird combo creates numerical advantages up front for Cavalry

Both Wheeldon Jr. and Smyrniotis often speak about the familiarity between these two sides, which drives them to try new tactical ideas and throw curveballs at one another. Wheeldon Jr. made the bigger — and more effective — change in this game, finding a fresh way to get two players he’s used at right-back this season, Shamit Shome and Fraser Aird, involved in the attack.

Aird lined up as the traditional fullback, but Shome was deployed as a sort of inside winger, at times playing in central midfield but also occasionally drifting into the right half-space or the wing. The result was that Cavalry almost always had options for short passes in the attacking half, and typically managed to create numerical overloads, with five attacking players looking for ways to get past Forge’s four defenders.

The passing map below shows how Cavalry essentially played with a five-man front line in possession, using their attackers’ technical ability to keep the ball in the dangerous areas.

Cavalry’s passing network vs. Forge.

“While we’re at home, we might be missing a few bodies but how can we attack them?” Wheeldon Jr. explained postmatch. “In their shape, they get into a 4-1-4-1 or sometimes a 4-5-1, and we knew that they’re very good at counter-pressing — we’ve seen that when they played Montréal, we’ve seen that when they played York, even against us.

“We knew that we had to have players that are sticky in there. Shamit has really great close control; if Shamit was marked by Hojabrpour or Sergio [Camargo] was, then it freed up Tobi to drop in there to overload. All three of them are very sticky and good under pressure. It allowed us then to get Fraser high on the right hand side, and Brooks in a one-on-one situation.”

Wheeldon Jr. did add that his attacking five wouldn’t have been as comfortable or free to get as high up the pitch if it weren’t for the strength of the midfield behind them, too.

“[Diego Gutiérrez] and Charlie [Trafford] were terrific in midfield today,” he said. “Guti, probably one of his best performances in terms of being that point guard that dictated, because it allowed [Daan] Klomp that freedom to come into midfield or play off him.”

Cavalry leave this match very satisfied, having seen their game plan work about as well as they could’ve hoped. Although they hadn’t necessarily been winning much to begin the year, they remain one of the most dangerous and tactically versatile sides in the CPL, and they showed it on Saturday. Player of the Match

Tobias Warschewski, Cavalry FC

The German forward was all over the pitch in this game, scoring the goal and finishing with five shots, while also creating two chances, winning eight duels and also earning three free kicks from fouls.

What’s next?

Both sides will be on the road next weekend, beginning with an east coast trip for Forge FC who take on Halifax Wanderers FC on Saturday, June 15 (5 p.m. AT/4 p.m. ET). Cavalry will make a more unusual road journey, as they’ll be in Kelowna, B.C. for the CPL’s On Tour match against Vancouver FC on Sunday, June 16 (2 p.m. PT/3 p.m. MT).

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