2022 CPL Regular Season — Match #68
Atlético Ottawa vs. Forge FC
July 31, 2022 at 7:00 pm ET
TD Place in Ottawa, Ontario
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It’s heating up at the top of the table in the Canadian Premier League.
After a week of big results, just one point is all that currently separates first from fourth in the league, demonstrating the strong level of competition that has been on display this summer.
As a result, it makes Sunday’s clash at TD Place between first-place Forge FC and second-place Atlético Ottawa one to watch, as they enter the match tied on points, eager to carve out an advantage over their fellow top four foes.
Currently, Forge is just ahead by virtue of wins (they hold nine to Ottawa’s eight), while also holding a superior goal difference as well as a game in hand, but given that Ottawa can quickly nullify that game in hand with a victory, that advantage is currently in peril ahead of Sunday.
At the same time, a Forge victory could create some important separation for them at the top of the table, helping them build on a run that has seen them ring off four straight victories heading into this game.
If they’re to do that, however, Ottawa is no easy team to beat, as they remain in similarly strong form. Undefeated in five games (three wins, two draws), they too have been a tough team to beat, something that Forge is well aware of after they suffered a heartbreaking 1-0 win at home before launching onto their current streak.
As seen in Ottawa’s last game, a 3-0 win over York United, when they’re on their game, they’re a formidable unit to crack, as they’ll combine solid defence with good flashes offensively, but are especially strong at the back, having conceded just 15 goals in 14 games.
“We’re feeling good,” Ottawa’s head coach, Carlos González said this week. “We’re filled with a huge confidence, we’re conscious that this is an important moment for us to get points as a team, so we’re looking looking forward to the game.”
For Forge, that’s something that they’ll have to be careful of. Of course, their strong offensive form across this four-game winning streak will give them plenty to be happy about, as they’ve scored an impressive 12 goals over that span, but they’ve also conceded goals in three of the games, something that they’ll need to avoid against Ottawa given their strong defensive record.
“They’re a team that looks to defend at all costs,” Forge’s head coach, Bobby Smyrniotis, said of Ottawa. “They secure their backline more than anything before going forward and taking their opportunities.”
Therefore, expect this one to be cagey. If the first two meetings between these two teams are anything to go off of, a 1-1 draw and Ottawa’s 1-0 result, it’s going to be a battle of fine margins, margins of which one of these teams could use to vault ahead in the fun race that’s brewing at the top of the league right now.
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3 THINGS TO WATCH
- Will Ottawa’s strong Forge form hold up against recent Orange crush? It’s no secret that Forge has been a team to fear this season in the CPL. Sitting in first place with 29 points, despite playing a league-low 15 games, they’ve run rampant over a lot of teams in the league, scoring the most goals in the league (33), all while conceding the fewest (14). Plus, they’ve done so while generating some excellent underlying numbers, too, as prior to their midweek road win over Cavalry, they had the best Expected Goals (xG) for in the league with 26.06, and the fewest xG against with 11.1, giving them an expected goal difference of +15. That’s not bad at all. At the same time, there’s one team that has given them some trouble this year – Ottawa. In fact, after their victory over Cavalry midweek, Ottawa is the only team that Forge is yet to beat, and that’s despite having played them twice at home in those previous matchups. So as Ottawa welcomes them home this weekend, they’ll look to keep that form going, continuing to get the better of their fellow Ontarian rivals.
- Forge’s Woobens Pacius looks to continue red-hot form: If Forge are to reverse any of their 2022 misfortune against Ottawa, however, they’ve got one name who can help them in that quest – striker, Woobens Pacius, who has been on fire as of late, scoring six goals in his last four games to vault up to nine for the season, just two off Pacific’s Alejandro Díaz in the Golden Boot race. Be it audacious volleys, simple headers, clean finishes in the box – when the ball is finding Pacius in the box right now, he’s scoring goals, pushing Forge to where they are in the table. Because of that, as they get set to face a strong Ottawa defence, one that hasn’t conceded more than one goal in a game since April 29th, he’s going to need to keep that sort of form going. A true #9, one that can hold up play before trying to make runs in behind as well as get on the end of crosses, Forge is going to need to try and feed Pacius as much as possible, as he provides the sort of game-breaking ability that is required to topple a defence of Ottawa’s calibre. Knowing that time and space will be at a premium in Ottawa’s defensive third, him remaining on the top of his game will be one of Forge’s best hopes at winning, making him a key piece to watch as his teammates Kyle Bekker, Tristan Borges and David Choiniere try to provide chances for him. “He is a box type of striker, if he has the ball and half a chance in and around there he is not looking for the perfect situation,” Smyrniotis recently said of Pacius. “That is one thing we have been working on with him, as a young striker sometimes you look for a perfect shot, a perfect dribble. You have to learn how to score quickly, you have to learn how to release quickly.”
- Can Ottawa build off recent surprise offensive burst? Meanwhile, for all of Ottawa’s defensive prowess, their attack has remained a work-in-progress, as they sit tied for third-last in the league in goals for despite their spot in the standings. If anything, that shows how good their defence has been, to be fair, but it also shows that a little offensive improvement could go a long way over the back-half of the season, helping them carve out some breathing room in games. So as they look to do that, building off their most recent game, that 3-0 win over York, would be a great place to start. Considering that it was the first time all season they scored more than two in a game, that’s a big milestone, one that they’d be wise to build off of. To be fair, two of those three goals were penalties, so it’s not as if there was some big breakthrough, but it’s a good first step, one that can push them onwards and upwards. Because of that, look for them to do just that on Sunday, as they try and catch Forge’s strong defence by surprise, trying to get the goals that many believe are in this talented Ottawa attack, but just haven’t been there this season, despite the best efforts of Ballou Tabla, Malcolm Shaw, Brian Wright, Ollie Bassett and co, to generate chances on a weekly basis. “I think there is a very healthy competitiveness between the between the players,”González said. “We have plenty of solutions in the attack. And all of the four attacking players are working so well in creating that the level is getting higher, so now we are looking to create chances in many types of situations, not only in certain moments, too.”
Forge FC wins: 6 || Atlético Ottawa wins: 1 || Draws: 1
July 3, 2022 — Forge FC 0-1 Atlético Ottawa
“We’re a team that believes in what we’re capable of. We believe in our principles of football, we believe that we’re guiding lights on how we’re going to get to success, and we think one thing that this group has done is to keep believing in that. It doesn’t matter how a game goes, that’s the confidence that this group brings into the game.” — Forge head coach, Bobby Smyrniotis.
“Our expectations are the same to the day that we arrived here. I think that our challenge, our goal, was to compete against any team on the CPL, and to be a solid team, one that is difficult to beat. So I think that we are we are getting there, the results are arriving because of that. So we cannot go off of our path” — Atlético Ottawa head coach, Carlos González.