Forge FC recently lost their biggest game of this young season. (Sorry for the lack of an article, I was in mourning). They held the toughest team in the league to stalemate for 85 minutes.
And then it was a communication error, and a bobble by Henry, that was their undoing. 1-0 Pacific, game done.
So what to make of all this? Forge is now third in the standings. A very exciting Pacific side now tops the table and has a game in hand over its two nearest competitors. York United has come to life, scoring goals and keeping them out as they get back to fitness. (Though it will be interesting if those opposed to wearing PRIDE jerseys, integrate back in seamlessly). Cavalry and HFX both have wins this week after finding them hard to come by previously.
All of which brings us back to Forge.
So let’s break this down into things not to worry about, and things that are concerns.
Defending – Sure there was a mix up at the back that lead to the game’s only goal. But mistakes happen. Are they fun to watch? Nope. Are they bound to happen? You betcha! So a team that was one gaffe away from a clean sheet against the leagues best scoring team, I’ll chalk that up to a strength of the side, with a momentary lapse. C’est la vie.
Goalkeeping – This one is a no-brainer. Again, Henry was part of the breakdown that lead to the lone goal in a hard-fought game, but he made some key saves against some serious strikers. G is fine. Some of his best work in the CPL over the past few weeks. No worries.
Coaching – Bobby doesn’t worry about what anyone outside the inner sanctum thinks. He has a belief in the system, and he will work it until he finds the magic elixir. A soccer alchemist of sorts. (Hence the wizard-y beard). We’ve seen it in season’s past. Lulls, that get corrected, only for the team to come out stronger. Not really worried here.*
*note: Bobby has taken on a bigger role this year, and without Costa beside him there is room for a slight dip in performance. Still a minor concern, as I have faith in Bobby and his crew. Especially, David Edgar and the newly promoted Jelani Smith. But this does lead us to…
This is new ground for me. In following Forge for the last 4 years, concern was a rarity. Just excited to have a team in Year One. Too far removed during Year Two’s Island Games. Too excited by Concacaf Adventures in Year Three. And too happy with the end result in Year Four.
But here in Year Five Forge followers have become, dare I say it, spoiled.
So complaints have started to grow louder, faster, than in seasons past. Which is cool. The honeymoon is over and the expectations of greatness are entrenched. Is that pressure-packed for the boys? Damn-straight. But it is culture-forming. Pressure and heat forge steel, or something.
That being said, while some of the panic is hyperbolic in the Steeltown, there are some legitimate things to be concerned about as we creep up on the halfway point of Season Five:
Finishing – Forge has an embarrassment of riches up front. Pacius, Campbell, Hamilton, Borges, Choiniere. Plus Bekker, Jensen and Sissoko can spot a pass, and strike a ball. So where are the goals? This one is a bit of a head scratcher.
There are a lot of theories out there. One in particular suggests that no one has really had the opportunity to cement themselves in their preferred position. Campbell, Pacius and Hamilton all like to operate down the middle, leading the line. And all have had opportunities at that spot. But it seems like being a Jack-of-all-trades up front, master-of-none kinda deal. The armchair quarterback in me wants to see a firm starting 11 chosen and stuck with, and those left on the sidelines knowing their impact is coming in a defined role off the bench. The Forge reporter in me knows that Bobby rotates. And as the heat rises, both literally and figuratively this summer, Bobby’s boys should be healthy and fired up, while others may be fading. Still, goals gotta start coming from somewhere.*
*Should probably be noted that 7 goals from the big three up top is not the worst imaginable return.
Confidence – Where has the swagger gone? Players like Pacius and Campbell were scoring in bunches last year. And Big Game David Choiniere has played in some big games already this year. But just the one goal so far. The team just doesn’t seem like the feared gang of past years. And they don’t seem to be grabbing games by the scruff of the neck like in years past. At least not at home…
Home Field Heroism – Some teams used to show up to Tim Horton’s Field half-beaten. They knew they had a huge hill to climb to knock off the champs, and played that way. But this season teams have come and played their game to great aplomb. Forge have just a single win at home this year, against Valour. They are 1-3-2 (W-D-L) at the Coffee Grounds. But they are undefeated on the road. 3-1-0. And maybe this isn’t new. They have three NorthStar Shields, but the one that got away was here, in the Hammer. Maybe I am worrying too much.
The Title Race – Way to early to be panicking about this. Plenty of football left. But this is the first time that the league matters. Like for real. (I know, I know — Spring and Fall and the Paper Cutout.) But Letting a strong team like PFC get out to a fast start isn’t great. Who knows if they are planning on selling their top player this year.
At any rate, the whole idea of a regular season title to play for is exciting, and with it comes nerves. Forge want to be known as a dynasty. Letting someone else pip them to the first ever league title kinda damages that whole “Forever First” slogan. So that is a concern for fans too. Heavy is the crown…
The Road To Olympic Gold – FC13 Podcast
So, Panic or Not?
It is not time to hit the panic button in Hamilton.
Forge have a history of getting on good rolls in the CPL regular season. No reason to doubt that they can do it again. They have a lot of experience. A solid defence that seems to be getting stronger as new players like James mix in with the old guard. Henry seems at his best. The strikers are scoring, just not as much as the fans are used to. And a few players have yet to hit their stride. Like Borges or Choiniere. Oh, and Bobby is still at the helm, so that should help the fanbase exhale when they really think about it.
So hit the panic button? Nah!
But don’t be surprised if a lot of fans accustomed to the high life have their hands hovering above that button for the next few weeks.
And now on to tonight’s match at IG Field. I can’t wait to see if it is back to planning the parade route time, or prematurely burning orange jerseys time.*
*Just kidding, it’ll be hovering time either way.
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