PREVIEW: FC Edmonton vs. Forge FC — 2022 Match #103
Benedict Rhodes, CanPL.ca Contributor (@BTFR17)
2022 CPL Regular Season — Match #103 FC Edmonton vs. Forge FC September 25, 2022 5:00 p.m. ET / 3:00 p.m. MT Clarke Stadium in Edmonton, Alberta Watch Live: OneSoccer.ca & TELUS Ch. 980 // Tickets available here
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Forge FC can secure their spot in the playoffs for the fourth season in a row on Sunday afternoon when they take on FC Edmonton at Clarke Stadium.
If past history is anything to go by, Forge has won all three prior meetings this season and done so in a somewhat convincing fashion. Their first meeting of the year came in April at Tim Hortons Field, and the home side picked up three points with a comfortable 3-0 victory thanks to a brace from Terran Campbell and another goal from Tristan Borges.
The second meeting was the Tristan Borges show, as the former CPL Player of the Year scored a hat trick on the road at Clarke Stadium, accounting for three of his six goals on the season. The Eddies scored three times in that match as well in a wild back-and-forth contest in the Alberta capital, including a late goal from Kairo Coore with just a few minutes left in the 90, but unfortunately for them, Bicou Bissainthe was responsible for an own goal just after the hour mark and Forge would win that contest 4-3.
Most recently, on July 19, Forge welcomed The Eddies back to Hamilton, and dominated them in a match that Edmonton head coach Alan Koch has described as “men against boys”. By halftime, it was already 4-0 after a brace from Woobens Pacius, an Olimpico from Kyle Bekker and another goal from Aboubacar Sissoko, and while the scoring would slow down after the break, it was a comprehensive victory for the red-hot Hammers. Coore again scored against Forge with a 57th-minute tally, but Pacius completed his hat trick in the 74th minute to cap a 5-1 thrashing.
The Eddies, who have been playing some good football lately even if the results haven’t always demonstrated it, will be looking to avoid the season sweep on Sunday. They’re coming off a 1-0 home defeat to provincial rivals last weekend, while Forge head to Alberta following a 1-1 draw last weekend at Starlight Stadium.
Forge will be missing their goalscorer from that match, their impressive young midfielder Alessandro Hojabrpour, who has to serve a one-match suspension after picking up his fourth yellow card of the season last weekend. Captain Kyle Bekker also misses out as he serves the second of a three-game ban for violent conduct in a match against Cavalry FC the weekend prior.
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3 THINGS TO WATCH
Forge missing two key midfielders, but Jensen continues to impress: Forge FC will be without a pair of midfielders on Sunday that would usually be in the starting lineup, as Kyle Bekker and Alessandro Hojabrpour miss out through suspension. Hojabrpour is serving a one-game suspension for yellow card accumulation, while Bekker misses the second of a three-game ban for violent conduct after stampings on the ankle of Cavalry FC’s Roberto Alarcon a few weeks ago. Luckily for Forge, they have some more than capable deputies — including Noah Jensen, who put in a strong 78 minute shift last weekend against Pacific FC, and has been impressive all season long. He’s a similar player to Bekker in that he has an eye for a pass, gets stuck in defensively when he needs to, and isn’t afraid to unleash a shot from distance. While he isn’t yet of Bekker’s quality, the building blocks are there for the Sigma FC product to become one of the Canadian Premier League’s top midfielders. “I think he’s a pretty steady player… we know exactly what we’re going to get from him,” said Forge boss Bobby Smyrniotis on Friday. “He’s a good ball-carrying midfielder that can skip lines both with passing and on the dribble, he’s got three goals for us. We’ve got a crowded midfield and good quality across that line of the field. It’s a matter of taking your moments when they come and he’s got them here, and I thought he had an excellent performance at Pacific and we look forward to him doing that the next few games.”
Bitar still not quite ready, but return is imminent: One of the stars for FC Edmonton this season has been midfielder Gabriel Bitar. The 24-year-old from Ottawa, Ontario was signed by The Eddies out of the Carleton University Ravens, and previously had spent time in the Canadian Premier League with Cavalry FC. He’s been a key figure in the midfield, making 19 appearances in CPL action and contributing four goals and an assist. Bitar has missed the last few matches with a lingering injury, with head coach Alan Koch saying for a few weeks in a row that his midfielder was nearing a return. Koch stressed on Friday that they don’t want to rush him back for the sake of it, especially with Edmonton not in the playoff race, and that Bitar will again miss out. Koch is optimistic, however, that Bitar will be available — at least in some capacity — for Edmonton’s final two matches of the season, away against Pacific FC on Friday, September 30 and at home against Valour on Saturday, August 8. “Gaby’s getting close, and I know I’ve said that a few times, but his injury is an injury that we’ve had to be very careful with,” said Koch. “It’s an injury that if a player gets pushed too hard there could be long-term complications for that player. I don’t think we’re going to risk him this weekend, the plan is to at least get him meaningful minutes at some stage next week, and hopefully have him somewhat fit and ready to go for the last game. I believe Gaby is going to have a long career ahead of him… we want to get him back as soon as possible and he wants to get back, but we want him to not only play the next two or three games, we want him to play the next ten years.”
Forge can qualify for playoffs, but loftier goals have been set: After Valour FC failed to pick up a point on Friday night against York United, Forge FC has been presented with an opportunity to clinch a playoff spot once again. The three-time CPL finalists — and, of course, two-time champions — will confirm a spot in the top four by beating FC Edmonton, a draw wouldn’t be enough to seal it this weekend. Just making the playoffs, as we’ve come to know and expect of The Hammers, isn’t good enough for them according to their own expectations, they want to be the ones lifting the North Star Shield every single season. “Of course, it’s the DNA of this club,” Bobby Smyrniotis said when asked by a reporter on Friday if the goals are higher than simply making the postseason. “Going back to the preseason of 2019 and putting this team together, this team and its DNA is to win, and that’s what we’re set up to do here. We have everything in our infrastructure, we have everything within the staff and the teams that we’ve built to be able to win, and I think we’ve done a pretty good job at that over the first three years. That has to be the DNA of this club going forward in the future, beyond the time I’m here, and the players that are in this dressing room. It has everything it needs to succeed, and that’s how we go about our business every day.”
FC Edmonton wins: 4 || Forge FC wins: 7 || Draws: 1