Ugh, that sucked. Well, I mean for Forge fans, anyway. For the Cavs faithful it was a new shining moment in the league’s best rivalry. And for neutrals, a window into why Forge and Cavalry hate each other so much.
This one had a little bit of everything. An early goal, a late equalizer, and a winner at the death. It had some rough and tumble tackles, there were tough calls and, of course, there were the requisite “theatrics”.
After a late goal to steal a point in the Hammer, and a comeback victory in the Forge’s first trip to Calgary, Bobby Smyrniotis’s boys had to be brimming with confidence. But credit to the Cavs, they came to play. They brought an energy reflecting a team that needed to put down a marker. And let’s face it, sitting top of the table with games in hand, Forge came out like maybe they didn’t. But don’t let that take anything away from this game. It was another installment in the rivalry.
Exhibit ‘A’ in the case for Jose Escalante as the clutch player for Cavalry, that sweet ball to Joe Mason for the opener. The man has class in his left boot, undoubtedly. The turnover in midfield that sprung the opportunity was from Woobens Pacius. He is undoubtedly a star in the Hamilton side, but still with parts of his game to clean up. And under Smyrniotis, he will. The turnovers from veterans like Ashtone Morgan, were a little harder to understand.
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However, there are two sides to Escalante – Dr. Jose and Mr. Dive as it were. And that was also on exhibit throughout the game. It became obvious throughout the evening that Rezart Rama has not been a part of Forge’s CONCACAF teams, and therefore not privy to the dark arts at CONCACAF level. Escalante was able to get under his skin and take Forge’s stalwart fullback off his game just a bit. This was best exemplified in the second half when Rama made the cardinal sin in the cat-and-mouse of Escalante-marking. He placed a hand on his back. That always conjures an immediate sinkhole beneath the feet of the Honduran. That’s just a universal fact. But how ever you feel about the number 11 on the Cavs (or the “=” as he is known around the league) he is an artist. With his feet or his actor’s soul, he can beat you. And he used both against Forge.
Two lovely moments late in the game, regardless of who you cheer for, brought more history to this fixture. First it was Hamilton’s first for Jordan Hamilton. Not a lot of work to do on his part as Tristan Borges, the playmaker, made the play, but finishers gotta finish, right? Then later, in much the same way, Mikael Cantave scored his first off a wonderfully-directed headed cross he would be at pains to miss. Still worthy of whipping off the jersey when it’s your first, and comes in the 90th minute against your arch-enemies. Yellows be damned!
There was so much more to this game than the 90 minutes on the pitch. Tommy Wheeldon Jr. working the refs in is pregame interview with the Calgary Sun, where he was sure to point out all the stuff Forge get away with from referees. “I think there’s been a lot of favouritism that’s gone to them to date” was the quote. And was that also a little bit of gamesmanship in his delayed appearance at the start of the game, as Smyrniotis and his staff stood waiting for his arrival and the game to start? Maybe a little.
Was Smyrniotis’s post-game interview, pointing out that Calvary gets up for games against the Forge even though they have been pretty lethargic against everyone else, a little dig about how the Hamilton side has a little real estate in the minds of Cavs players and staff. Undoubtedly. But overall, credit the Cavs for getting it done. Fault Forge a little for getting sucked into a master’s game, and being more flat in the midfield than we are used to seeing this season.
Of course I can’t forget to mention the big talking point, “Spitgate!” I would title my book about it Much Ado About Nothing, but I heard it’s taken. Two quick points. First, spitting on someone is the height of disrespect in soccer (if you ignore leg-breaking, career-ending tackles and/or sleeping with teammates partners – this is soccer after all). Second, spitting near someone is not that. Was it intentional? Of course. Was it Henry, Forge’s master showman, showing his disgust for Escalante escalating the exaggeration? Indubitably. But any calls for retroactive punishment, as was overheard on the OneSoccer panel (thank you for trying to be the voice of reason Kristan Jack) is simply silly.
Watching a player dupe officials expertly all over the park, including the dive over ‘keeper that set off spitgate, and asking for it, is just a little hypocritical, and hardly in the spirit of the laws. I watch too much English and Scottish footy to be charmed by chicanery (proof is my use of the word “chicanery”). So let’s just let Escalante keep teaching masterclasses on the Darks Arts like he was the new guy at Hogwarts, and unclutch those pearls, just because Henry’s loogie of disgust was fired in the wizard’s vicinity.
Can’t wait for September 10th in the Hammer. It is bound to be spicy.
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