Match Analysis: Forge FC 2-2 Cavalry FC — CPL Match #7

Final Score: Forge FC 2-2 Cavalry FC
Goalscorers: Hojabrpour 3′, Choinière 90′; Mason 31′, Musse 40′
Game of the 2022 season: 7
CPL match: 258

Match in a minute or less

David Choinière saved a point for Forge in their home opener against Cavalry on Saturday, as his gorgeous strike from distance just on the edge of fulltime levelled the score at 2-2 as the sides settled for a draw. The hosts opened the scoring very quickly, with Alessandro Hojabrpour finding the net from outside the box in just the third minute, but goals from Joe Mason and Ali Musse not long before halftime put the visitors in the lead for most of the second half.

The Cavs couldn’t quite hang on for their first win of the year, though, as it was Choinière stepping up in a substitute role to send the Hamilton fans home with something to smile about.

RELATED: HIGHLIGHTS: Late Choinière stunner bags draw in thrilling Forge-Cavalry showdown || Sights & Sounds: Forge FC 2-2 Cavalry FC

Three Observations

Competing back threes, wingbacks produce high-quality, fast-moving football

The two sides deployed similar structures for this game, with Forge opting for a 3-5-2 formation and the Cavs countering with a 3-4-3. Cavalry have often used that same back-three system, with Daan Klomp, Karifa Yao, and David Norman Jr. clicking very well together in 2021, and it’s become key to the way they play. Forge, too, have plenty of experience in a back three, but their line of Garven Metusala, Alexander Achinioti-Jönsson, and Dominic Samuel is a product of necessity, with Daniel Krutzen still out.

Both sides are dealing with a slate of injuries in the fullback department — Tom Field, Ashtone Morgan, and Jonathan Grant are all key losses — so the two managers made similar decisions to deploy attack-minded players as wingbacks to try and push the ball upfield. Forge’s Chris Nanco managed to get very involved along the left touchline, and while his opposite-sided partner Aboubacar Sissoko had more defensive responsibilities he, too, was able to stretch the pitch, with a team-high seven final third entries, and 10 passes into the final third (joint-highest along with Nanco).

Just as they did last week against Atlético Ottawa, Cavalry’s wingbacks Fraser Aird and Ben Fisk brought elements of directness and creativity to the flanks.

“If you look at (Fisk) and Fraser, by trade they were wingers anyway so they could seamlessly get into it. They had some really good moments, I thought when Fisk came inside and combined he looked dangerous. Right at the end, Joe (Mason)’s about half a yard offside, but he would’ve had another assist. And I liked Ali Musse and Jean-Aniel (Assi) too, it obviously allowed Joe Mason to kind of roam a little bit which I think suits him.”

Smyrniotis, meanwhile, conceded that his formation shift in the starting XI was partially due to necessity because of how many defenders are currently injured for his side, but he revealed he expected Cavalry might play in that sort of system, having seen them do so the previous week.

“I thought that was a natural thing for them to go with, and it would create those interesting relationships in the final third — them playing with more of a point of a nine, and us playing with a false player in the pocket. It was a little bit different but I thought the strategy worked very well for us.”

Forge and Cavalry are two of the most tactically complex sides in the CPL, and the chess match between the two of them is always top-notch. Saturday’s clash, of course, did not disappoint.

(Photo: Forge FC Hamilton/Brandon Taylor)
(Photo: Forge FC Hamilton/Brandon Taylor)

Forge rewarded for patience, late tactical shift

There never seemed to be much sense of panic in Forge in the second half, despite trailing all the way to the edge of injury time. They continued their methodical build-up play, generating eight shots in the latter 45 — including six inside the box — and they seemed confident that a second goal would, eventually, fall for them.

As he’s done often before, Bobby Smyrniotis made a few key tactical tweaks to try and put pressure on Cavalry in a different way. With Tristan Borges coming into the game at halftime, he spent a good deal of time playing as a false nine, trying to create opportunities for Woobens Pacius and Terran Campbell.

Then, just after the hour mark, Smyrniotis added David Choinière to the mix in place of Woobens Pacius, which prompted a greater formation shift from Forge, who began playing with a traditional back four to get Choinière and Borges into the wide areas of the pitch.

“In the second half we shifted,” Smyrniotis explained postmatch. “We went to a natural 4-3-3 to get a different look out there and move some players around with David Choinière coming in. And that also created opportunities, Marcus Caldeira who went on in his first game and I thought had some very good moments. We’ve got a look at where we can use the strengths of the players we have, and it’s a good thing.”

This wasn’t exactly a kitchen-sink kind of late push, though; Forge certainly did through a lot of attacking players onto the pitch, but they’ve proven over the years that they can remain level-headed while chasing a late goal.

Smyrniotis added: “In the Forge team you have to have a lot of patience, as the coach and as players. Something I’ve learned over time is that if you want to play a certain way, you need patience. You can’t have everything clicking all the time; although I’m adamant on a certain way of doing things and a certain way of playing, because I believe in the long term in the team…

“And I think the players understand that as well, follow the processes, follow what we need to do and the opportunities will come. In that second half, the opportunity did come; the goal comes right at the end but the whistle blows in the first minute and it goes in the 94th or 95th, so whenever the goal comes, it comes.”

Forge-Cavalry matchup physical, unforgiving as usual

It seems that every time Forge and Cavalry meet, they’re guaranteed to produce an entertaining, emotional contest. Saturday’s game was no different; the Cavs are an aggressive and physical team against any opponent, but they often have a little extra bite when they take on the club from Hamilton.

This match had 27 fouls and five bookings, as well as 102 total duels. The shoulder-to-shoulder battles, along the touchline especially, were very intense as each side fought for inches of space.

Plus, the defensive workrate from both teams to pressure the ball and win it back was excellent. Each side attempted 27 tackles, and Cavalry won the interceptions battle 15-10 — indeed, it was an interception that led to their second goal. Their quick one-touch passing upon winning possession was quite punishing, getting the ball into a dangerous position before Forge even had time to set themselves.

“They’re a good opponent,” Choinière told reporters postmatch. “They’re physical; they grind hard, they go for every challenge, they foul a lot. It’s a really physical game and if we make it hard for ourselves sometimes it can go in their favour. So we’ve got to be clean technically, tactically, and execute our game plan.”

Tim Hortons Field and Spruce Meadows are both very difficult places to play as an away team, and the Cavs will be quite content with their ability to put the hosts under pressure at home, but they’ll still feel as though they let two points slip away at the end.

“I have a lot of respect for Bobby and his coaching staff, he always puts out a good team, and they’re never down and out,” Wheeldon added. “You always know they’re going to have moments in the game… But they’re a winning team, right? They’ve gone into Concacaf, they’ve had these tough games, and I’m pleased to come here and get something out of it — but disappointed it’s not all three.” Player of the Match

Ali Musse, Cavalry FC

The Cavs’ dynamic attacker was heavily involved for the visitors, setting up their first goal with his volleyed shot and then scoring the second. He was also excellent otherwise in Cavalry’s pressing and direct play, showcasing his speed and footwork to create chances all afternoon.

What’s next?

Forge will remain at home after this one, with their next matchup coming next Saturday, April 23 against FC Edmonton (4 p.m. ET). Cavalry, meanwhile, will also be in Ontario again next week, as they head to take on York United at York Lions Stadium on Friday, April 22 (7:30 p.m. ET).

Watch all matches live on OneSoccerIn addition to its website and app, OneSoccer is now available on TELUS channel 980 and on Fubo TV. Call your local cable provider to ask for OneSoccer today.