2022 CPL Regular Season — Match #21
Forge FC vs. Atlético Ottawa
May 14, 2022 at 4 p.m. ET
Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton, Ontario
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Another all-Ontario clash will open up Matchweek 6 in the CPL on Saturday, as Forge FC welcome Atlético Ottawa to Hamilton for the first time this season, both sides looking to push their way into the top four.
The hosts enter this game looking for just their second win of the league campaign after losing the 905 Derby to York United last Friday night by a narrow 1-0 margin. That said, Forge did win their Canadian Championship preliminary round tie on Wednesday, defeating PLSQ side CS Mont-Royal Outremont 2-0 at Tim Hortons Field to book a date with CF Montréal in the quarterfinals.
Overall, Bobby Smyrniotis’ Forge side have had an up-and-down start to the season, with one win, one draw, and two defeats in CPL play. Their win came back on April 23, when they convincingly beat FC Edmonton 3-0 at home thanks to an outstanding two-goal, one-assist performance from Terran Campbell. So, Forge currently sit seventh in the league table on four points — although they have a game in hand on most other teams, since their match with Valour two weeks ago was postponed.
Ottawa, meanwhile, have fared slightly better overall, with seven points from five games (a 2-1-2 record) which has them currently fifth, though level on points with fourth-place HFX Wanderers. They won the first two matches of the season at home by 1-0 scorelines, but Carlos González’s squad has not won since — going 0-1-2 in their last three matches, including a 6-1 defeat at home to Valour FC.
Atleti found themselves eliminated from the Canadian Championship on Wednesday, dropping a heartbreaking eight-round penalty shootout to York United after the match finished 1-1 through 90 minutes. They’ll be keen on rebounding quickly from what was surely a mentally taxing midweek cup tie.
For this game, Ottawa will be without their gaffer on the sidelines; González was sent off from the technical area last week against Pacific, and thus he’ll serve a one-match suspension on Saturday.
History between these sides has not been kind to Ottawa. They’ve played each other six times, and Forge have won every single time — in fact, Ottawa have yet to score against the Hamilton side. Still, this is not the same Atlético team that struggled last season. Is this the week they finally jump this hurdle? Or will Forge start to build a little momentum in May?
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3 THINGS TO WATCH
- Ottawa look to shake scoring woes vs. Forge: No coach will ever put much stock in his team’s past — especially not a past in which he wasn’t involved — but there’s no denying that Atlético Ottawa’s history against Forge is particularly grim. They’ve lost all six meetings, including five last season, and they haven’t scored a single goal against the Hammers. That is, obviously, a record they’d like to start turning around. Thankfully for Carlos González, this edition of the team is better than any before it. Ballou Tabla has been rounding into form as a free-roaming forward who can hit on the counter-attack — perhaps the best way to strike at Forge — and Malcolm Shaw continues to be one of the CPL’s best poachers in front of goal. González explained on Friday that he’s definitely seeing progress in his team so far, as the attack continues to improve under the new coach: “We are trying to develop the team. We know we have a lot of ways to work on, but the reality is we haven’t been working (long) with the team, about two months now, and little by little we are getting to the point that we want to arrive. I think each game we are nearing the identity of the team that we finally want.”
- Forge still need to click as big games approach: Forge have always been more concerned with how they finish the season than how they start it — Bobby Smyrniotis has quipped in the past that his side seems to have a track record for not winning their opening game or starting slow. However, now that they’ve got a handful of matches in the bank for 2022, they’ll be hoping to start rounding into form. The past two matches (against York and CS Mont-Royal), Forge have had no problem holding the ball and getting into dangerous areas, but their attack hasn’t been as sharp as they’d like, and they’ve left goals on the table in both games. A goal from Woobens Pacius in the Canadian Championship tie may help the young striker find his form, and Forge will hope some of his teammates follow — especially with a couple of massive Canadian Championship games against CF Montréal and Toronto FC in the 2022 quarterfinal and “2020” final approaching rapidly. Smyrniotis, who has preferred to keep his lineup as consistent as possible even on short turnarounds to get his side up to speed, said on Friday: “When you look at early in the year you want to be able to get a rhythm, you want to be able to get going through processes; sometimes you’re forced to do certain things because of knocks or injuries to guys, other times you want to keep on rolling with what’s working.”
- Atleti block could stifle Forge: Smyrniotis was quick on Friday to compliment Atlético Ottawa on their ability to defend in a low block, which they’ve demonstrated to great effect in a number of outings this year. This won’t be the first time Forge have faced off against a stingy defensive foe, having dealt with FC Edmonton’s deep-lying defence in April — in that game, they took some time to figure out how best to play through it, but once they put one goal on the board via a penalty, they managed to draw the Eddies out more and find space. Whether Ottawa line up in a back four or five (the return of Drew Beckie from suspension allows them to do both comfortably), Forge will need some moments of individual quality to unlock the well-organized backline and get dangerous touches in the box. Tristan Borges, likely to be one of those individuals tasked with breaking them down, explained that patience will be the name of the game for his side: “It’s just about patience; trusting each other, trusting my teammates to do the right thing. We haven’t had that many days to prepare for the game, but obviously we put a good game plan in going into the game and we’ve been watching a little bit of how they play. They look good, they have a few additions to the team in terms of players, so we know what we’re looking up against and it’s just about us playing our own game.”
Forge wins: 6 || Atlético Ottawa wins: 0 || Draws: 0
October 16, 2021 — Forge FC 2-0 Atlético Ottawa
“We ask the guys to do a lot. We ask the guys to be very meticulous in how we play, and that’s a challenge for players. Sometimes that takes a bit. I think the football has been very good, I think at the end of the day the biggest difference is scoring more goals, creating more high quality chances, and I’m saying that and we have scored goals in games. We just need to create more.” — Forge FC head coach Bobby Smyrniotis
“We are going to play in one of the more demanding fields of the CPL, this is a reality. We are playing against a historical club with great results in the last seasons, with consistency in how they play, with a clear style. I think it’s going to be a nice game to play because we are facing a good team and the team is performing well, so it’s a good moment to see which stage, which level are we, and compare our performance against one of the better teams of the CPL.” — Atlético Ottawa head coach Carlos González