Pacific has never beaten Forge across five matches (with four losses) dating back to 2019. A worrying omen, considering a Forge win would eliminate Pacific from Island Games contention. Still, Smyrniotis feels the pressure of a three-game group stage just as much as Pacific coach Pa-Modou Kah.
“You always need to know where your opponent is coming from,” Smyrniotis said. “Pacific is coming off short rest with their last two games, too, so we need to look at that and see where we can take our chances. All four teams are desperate points. We all need three points.
“But we have a lot of confidence in our group, especially in the football we’ve played, our ability to attack, be efficient in attack and we still think we can be better.”
Forge’s attack was on full display the last time they faced the Tridents. Their first-round tilt saw a combined 35 shots taken by the two clubs, but the CPL champs took all three points with a 97th-minute winner courtesy of captain Kyle Bekker.
“We created an abundance of chances. It’s incredible how many high-quality chances we created in the box. That’s something we need to look at and replicate,” Smyrniotis said. “But we’re in a stage where fatigue is kicking in so there are many variables beyond just the football that are important to these games.”
“The first match was probably the most exciting game of the tournament if you like to see teams play with the ball on the deck, moving it around the pitch in the possession style, up-tempo,” the Forge coach offered.
“It was a great advertisement for football all-around.”
Johnny Grant will be available for selection on Saturday, according to Smyrniotis, alleviating a mini-crisis on Forge’s right side. Senegalese stalwart Elimane Cisse featured in Grant’s natural right-back role against HFX.
Cisse has featured in nearly every outfield position for Forge over his two seasons. Smyrniotis jokingly suggested he may put on a goalkeeping kit against Pacific.
“I can tell you in training the loves playing in goal – that’s the only reason I say that,” Smyrniotis said.
“He can play right wing, a number nine, played at right fullback – we knew this before he got here. We studied him as a youth international with Senegal. He played as a centre back in the Under-20 World Cup.
“He can do this very efficiently, too. He was excellent playing in that right-fullback role for us.”