With three games in six days, the CPL champions have had a taxing start to their Island Games campaign.
So, perhaps it shouldn’t have been surprising to see Forge FC look a little sluggish in the second half of Wednesday’s game, which they ultimately drew 1-1 with perennial bogey team HFX Wanderers FC.
Five of Forge’s players — Triston Henry, Kyle Bekker, David Edgar, Daniel Krutzen, and Kwame Awuah — have been on the pitch for all 270 minutes of action through the first week.
Still, coach Bobby Smyrniotis isn’t willing to pin dropped points on fatigue.
“Yeah, there obviously is some fatigue, but to be honest I think the guys handled it quite well,” he told reporters.
“There was good pace to the game. I think our lapse moment came in that 45th minute when we’re fresh, and we get scored on. After that, there’s general fatigue in the game, but I think in general the guys are feeling alright.”
It’s true that Forge’s only real breakdown against the Wanderers came right after halftime, when Alex Marshall’s long pass sliced through the Forge defenders and found Akeem Garcia for the finish (his fourth all-time against the club).
That play was HFX’s only shot on target in the match, although it was a costly one. Forge, on the other hand, stung the palms of Jason Beaulieu four times, but only managed to beat him from the penalty spot in the 16th minute, courtesy of Paolo Sabak.
On several occasions, in the first half especially, Forge’s squandered clear-cut chances left attackers frustrated. Kadell Thomas had a good look at the goal early on that he couldn’t finish, and Sabak sent a shot well over the bar of an open net.
“We were there constantly. We were there on top of the box, we just didn’t make enough movement in behind,” Smyrniotis said. “I think if we did, we would create another five chances, like we had overall in the game. So maybe, yeah, in the second half we didn’t create those chances, but if you look throughout the game we’ve got four glaring opportunities to score goals.”
Smyrniotis certainly disagreed that his side struggled in the attack.
“We’ve moved the ball around very well, we’ve created opportunities, we’ve created overloads,” he pointed out. “We’ve had five shots on goal and the opponent had one. Sometimes that’s football.”
The Wanderers continue to be a tough opponent for Forge, with the champions beating them just once in four outings last season. HFX, the only CPL side with a .500 record against the Hamiltonians, must be doing something to frustrate the Forge attack.
“They’re a good team,” Forge defender David Edgar stated.
“I know (coach Stephen Hart), Steve likes to play football. He gave me my debut for the national team, so it’s fantastic seeing him here. His teams get the ball down and play it quick, they’re sharp and they’re dynamic in behind. So that’s pretty much what Halifax are, and they did that. They exposed that today on us.”
The first CPL side to play three games, Forge rests atop the standings on Wednesday night, with a one-point lead over Cavalry FC. With the Calgary side in action on Thursday against FC Edmonton, though, the champs won’t be particularly comfortable with that.
“But we go on,” Smyrniotis concluded. “We haven’t lost a match.”