Bobby Smyrniotis’ side offered something different in their second game of this round, giving PFC the bulk of possession and focusing on shutting down their exciting wingers – a change from their possession-based, prodding style of play seen through their 2019 CPL Championship season and for most of the 2020 campaign on Prince Edward Island.
Smyrniotis claimed his side was playing the best attacking football in the CPL before Saturday’s tilt, which was their seventh match at The Island Games in which they scored two-or-more goals. The loss eliminated Pacific from contention and kept Forge on pace for a spot in the CPL Finals .
“We’re playing a lot of games here and scouting teams after playing eight games – you want to make sure that you can also do something a little bit different,” Smyrniotis told reporters after the game. “We were able to get Pacific passing the ball a lot in their half and to trap them and we did that successfully on many occasions.
“We thought it would be successful against the Pacific and I’m happy with the guys, and what they did out there, the focus that they had, and how it worked.”
Smyrniotis deployed right fullback Johnny Grant on the left wing and ahead of standout Kwame Awuah, a clear counter to that side of Pacific’s attack featuring Kadin Chung and Marco Bustos. Grant’s marauding attacking nature led to Forge’s breakthrough in the 35th minute when he was hauled down in the box by Chung. Centre back Daniel Krutzen converted the penalty.
“Grant likes to make a lot of high intensity runs out of there,” Smyrniotis said. “This allowed him to make some shorter bursts as opposed to some longer ones which worked since Pacific like give space on their back. Chung likes to get going forward and, for the most part of the game, he was mitigated from going forward. So we were able to lock him in and isolate Bustos – and we’re able to take care of him pretty well.
“We knew that Johnny was going to get in behind and get a to create or get taken down in the penalty box – which he was.”
Pacific responded by applying pressure to close out the first half. In-behind balls played to Victor Blasco and Bustos wreaked havoc for Forge goalkeeper Triston Henry before the halftime whistle.
Substitute striker Anthony Novak would eventually add a second goal, converting on a counter-attack in the 72nd minute following lovely long passes from Paolo Sabak, Alexander Achinioti-Jonsson, and Kadell Thomas. Novak finished the counter with a near-post run.
“Pacific needed to win and we expected ourselves to get a chance to hit them on the break and that’s exactly what we did,” Novak said. “I just happened to be the one that benefited this time.
“Both goals were a bit off the chalkboard, really,” Novak admitted.
Perhaps Forge’s championship pedigree is best shown in both goals; two well-thought-out chances deriving from Smyrniotis’ greater game plan. Forge’s familiarity and chemistry have led them to the CPL Championship doorstep yet again.
“Sometimes the toughest thing is to come back after a championship season and keep that level high and make sure that you have the hunger,” Smyrniotis said of his side’s performance at The Island Games. “Our role for our community, our fans, our club, and the culture of our club is to put our best foot forward in trying to build something that’s very special for the future.”
Forge will close out the second round on Tuesday against Cavalry FC (1pm ET/2pm AT, OneSoccer).