Well, Valour got the job done so a tip o’ the cap to them. They only had to hit the net once to win, but what a hit it was. Matteo de Brienne took a Sean Rea cross and absolutely smashed it on the volley. A beautiful goal that came seemingly out of nothing. But when you are scraping forward toward that final playoff spot, you have to take your chances. And that they did.
But there is no way around it now, Forge are in a bona fide slump. The two-time champs are not used to these, especially at the business end of the season. Bobby’s boys played a slower game, and the passing was nowhere near as crisp as it usually is. They played their possession-based game, but Valour took the sting out of it with their shape in defending. Up top Jordan Hamilton’s first start was not what he, or the fans would have hoped for. It shows that he has not had as much time to familiarize himself with this group as Pacius and Campbell have. Little giveaways, abandoned runs and even a missed dummy by Borges showed he is just not up to speed yet. With Pacius’ scoring run coming to a halt recently, fans are left to wonder whether this change in alchemy has turned Forge’s gold to lead.
Hamilton wasn’t the only player who struggled. David Choiniere, still hasn’t quite found the form expected of him either. And although Captain Kyle Bekker had an open look on a Borges’ pass, he skied it high. (Clearly he needs to shoot from farther away – but they don’t always count). He looked understandably frustrated when he was pulled for his understudy, Noah Jensen in the second half. It will be interesting to see how Coach Smyrniotis juggles the starting 11 for game two.
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Oh yes, there is a game two, as a canceled game early in the season, due to a Covid outbreak at Valour, has forced two straight contests at IG Field. And the second affair should be a spicy one. Wednesday’s match was marred by some chippy play, at one point it lead to 4 yellows handed out, two a piece, to players all at the same time. If the hope was that it would settle players down, it didn’t quite work.
At the end of the second half, one that Forge looked marginally better in, a scuffle happened late. While Forge’s under-your-skin goalkeeper Triston Henry picked up a yellow near the end to go along with his teammates’ six other yellows on an uncharacteristically undisciplined night, Forge was not alone. Moses Dyer picked up his second in the skirmish to go along with the three others his team picked up. This is bad news for a team streaking towards the playoffs. While I don’t claim to be a master of the laws of the game, I know Moses will be sitting Sunday out. And with him now sitting on six for the season, he will have to be on his best behavior down the stretch to avoid the possible two-game suspension if he reaches eight
Teams seem to have Forge’s number at the moment. Keep your shape, don’t take too many chances and jump on the mistakes you create, especially loose passes. As the bard wrote, “Discretion is the better part of valour.” He was right. Stay out of danger by not getting into a firefight. Pick your spots.
It will be interesting to see what Smyrniotis comes up with and if he can get the team back on track in time to finish strong. My money is on yes. Let’s see what the Forge have up their sleeve on Sunday.
Let the playoff race begin!
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