Smyrniotis: Forge playing ‘best attacking football’ in CPL ahead of crucial Pacific tilt

Match No. 9 of Forge FC’s gauntlet of Island Games matches comes Saturday when they face Pacific FC (12 p.m. ET/1 p.m. AT, OneSoccer/CBC) in a crucial tilt.

Forge collected a point in Wednesday’s draw with HFX Wanderers FC thanks to a dubious penalty decision that helped the defending champions maintain their streak of scoring in every game in PEI.

The Hamiltonians led the first stage with 13 goals scored and have only been limited to a single goal in a match on two occasions (both against HFX).

“We know we need to be good defensively because, if there’s one thing we’ve done well this tournament (it’s) scoring goals,” coach Bobby Smyrniotis said ahead of the showdown with Pacific.

“Sticking to our brand of football… That’s important to our process here. Sticking to it, believing in it.

“It has led us to play the best attacking football at the event. We still think there are more games to show what we can do and we think we have more to prove.”

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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.”

Smyrniotis gushed about the match’s quality at the time, especially as it aired nationally on CBC, as will Saturday’s game.

“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.”

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