Another one for the scrapbook. Fitting, because it was at times scrappy.
Cavalry played well, as always. Forge kept on pushing, as always. And in the end, a tie. Not quite as always, but pretty familiar nonetheless.
There will be questions asked. Should Cavalry be hanging on to late leads better? Does Forge need to solidify the starting 11 and give a streaky striker time to start a streak? Is this rivalry scripted like a WWE event? (How can it come down to these type of finishes every time, huh?)
But not all questions have answers right now.
The CPL is just over a quarter of the way into their season. So it is hardly gloom and doom time for anyone.
But this season has a different kind of pressure than previous ones. Finishing first is a guarantee of Concacaf Champion’s League Football. And missing that first place finish means you must survive the gauntlet of playoff footy. A place where anything can happen if you have an off day. For Forge fans, those pressure-packed off days are rare. But they happen, see the 2021 Finals for an example.
And I think that’s why Forge fans are a little uneasy right now. This season means so much. And expectations are sky high.
Just rhyming off the names Pacius, Campbell, Borges, Choiniere, Bekker should strike fear in opposition defences and their fanbases. And I’m sure it does. But they have not clicked yet the way they are supposed to. The way Forge fans expect them to. Last year’s +22 goal differential was miles ahead of Atletico Ottawa’s +7 in second. So where is that fearsome attack? Chances are still coming, but they are not being taken with consistency.
In the list of fearsome forward scorers above, there is a name I missed. Jordan Hamilton. He was my pre-season pick for the golden boot. He looked hungry and lean in the pre-season. There was a lot of talk about the type of goals he was scoring in training and friendlies. He seemed ready to make amends.
I had a theory that after coming off championship teams in Toronto and Columbus, then a stint overseas, that he may have underestimated CPL competitiveness a bit. And I thought, as a result, he would come out of this off-season with a new respect for the league, a humbling, and tear it up after learning the system and the league.
So far I am way off.
It is hard not to be concerned about Forge’s glut of potential goal-scorers up top. When Jay Ham arrived last August he was expected to add to an impressive scoring corps that had 37 goals in 16 games (2.3/match). Over the remainder of the season Forge scored just 10 more times. (1.25/match). Top scorer Woobens Pacius would find the net just a single time after Hamilton’s arrival.
That’s not great. And while Campbell is a willing performer in any position up top, his bulldozer of a frame and poacher’s instinct make him a dream CPL number 9. But so is Pacius with his heading ability and his fox-in-the-box talent.
It is a conundrum.
Bobby’s style is “everyone must play multiple positions”, meaning Forge are rarely unprepared for the big occasion because someone can step up when another isn’t available.
But as writer’s are won’t to do, one can’t help but wonder what a fully confident Pacius would do up top if he wasn’t always looking over his shoulder for the hook. Or if Bobby was patient with Campbell up top and let him get back to his streaky best. Or maybe this last gasp goal for Jordan is what bursts the dam.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a long way to go in this comparatively short season. But the spark is missing in attack right now.
The Road To Olympic Gold – FC13 Podcast
Of course this is a Forge fan problem at the moment. Real “First World Problems” vibe. Bobby’s Boys sit top of the table at the time of writing with Forge Fan Forums in a little bit of a tizzy over the team’s “struggles”.
How much would the Wanderer’s fans give for these to be their concerns? Or even Cavalry for that matter.
That reminds me, there were two teams on the pitch on Saturday at ATCO, so I should spare them both some ink.
The Cavs sit seven points behind Forge. But after letting a golden opportunity slip through their fingers to pick up points on the leaders a reality is setting in. Eight games into the season and only a single victory. That is very un-Cavalry.
And letting their biggest rivals off the hook twice this year already is not optimal. That’s six points they could have made up on Forge if they could have closed out just two games.
Don’t get me wrong. the game on Saturday was good fun. It gave the fans what they want. Chippy competition that goes down to the wire and provides excellent entertainment.
But both sides will be ruing missed opportunities.
For Forge some excellent saves by Carducci and a stubborn goalpost ruining a highlight reel goal will stick with them.
For Cavalry a lead into added time that they didn’t hold onto will will burn until their next shot on the pitch.
But, if you had to choose one side’s problems as your own, Forge’s dilemma feels more palatable than not being able to find a way to win when it matters.
Still a long way to go, and no one seems determined to pull away just yet.
(Yes, I see you Pacific)
For all Forge FC’s woes they still managed 15 shots and 5 on target. They had about 60 per cent possession. Carducci came up big a couple of times and the posts in Calgary are resolute. Some of that, especially the possession, will be down to Cavalry having an early lead and falling back a bit into a more defensive mode. But Forge played pretty well for a team on the road without much rest lately (that was four games in ten days with not much rest between matches, making the late heroics even more impressive).
Forge now have a week to rest and prepare for PFC in Hamilton in what will be a huge match this early in the season. A win for either gives a chance for a team to start pulling away from the pack. And with PFC’s game in hand, goal differential and momentum it would be especially big for them. Expecting another good game between the league’s best teams. Man, this stuff is fun!
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