Two games to go in the regular season. The playoffs seedings aren’t a lock yet, but on current form, it’s looking Forge will be in a good spot. Half of the games are at the Coffee Grounds. Things are looking positive if not perfect.
So let’s take a deeper dive into what lies ahead.
Your Favourite Road Trip
Next up will a trip to the East Coast. The Halifax Wanderers are on the rise. They are playing much better soccer than previous iterations. They have a real identity on the pitch beyond just being the ‘Best-Supported Team” in the CPL.
Despite the hype around this team being built as an exciting , scoring team, it is the defence that has been most impressive when it comes to our battles. Bobby’s Boys have only managed three goals in total over the three previous matches versus HFX (no wins, two ties, and a heartbreaking loss).
They have a very strong candidate for Defender of the Year in Dan Nimick (who’s also their top goalscorer). Solid, if unspectacular, defending from Loughrey. Add a veteran presence in Doniel Henry to the mix and the back line is very strong. They upgraded their ‘keeper this year as well, though for me the jury is out on Yann Fillion. He’s made some big stops for sure, and is better than past keepers for sure, (Sorry Jan-Michael), but he is a little suspect in controlling his box, and his passes. Again, Forge have the edge with Henry.
But the Halifax offense can be scary and may be due. Zach Fernandez made my all-non Forge CPL team, and he showed his offensive value with an amazing late scamper with nutmeg included, to set up the emotional winner versus Atletico last week. He can defend too, adding more stalwart play to the already impressive defensive cast.
Their midfield has depth and high-end talent. Lorenzo Callegari is a level beyond most midfielders in this league. He reads the game and makes some incredible passes. He can pick locks with his feet. One to watch. The leadership of Rampersad and the defensive capabilities of Mo Omar make them tough. Forge’s midfield is no pushover, but I really look forward to seeing who they line up with.
And then there is the offence from the forwards. Forge fans know what Ferrin can do, bags of talent for a young guy. Daniels can hit an occasional wonder ball and Peruzza is rounding into form. I still think the advantage is Forge’s up top, with Woobens back in form, a streaky Campbell always a worry for defenders and the possibility of Poku or Tavernier up top. And with Borges off the bench or starting we Forge adds a dimension of playmaking to the mix.
But of course, it is Beni that gets hearts racing. With every match he gets a little more comfortable in Smyrniotis’ system. From open play his footwork is captivating, and if Forge can force fouls in the attacking end, Beni will be ready. Bobby’s sides are known for rounding into form down the stretch and into the playoffs. I expect that to continue.
Halifax has built a fortress. Forge is bringing Bobby’s battering ram. this will be a good one too.
S. 2 Ep. 21: Canada Doing What Canada Does – FC13 Podcast
The Big Finish
If Forge vs Cavalry is ‘The Rivalry’ than Forge vs Atletico Ottawa has become “The New Rivalry.” Kind of like new Coke. All the bells and whistles, a bit more flash than substance, the kids love it and traditionalists want a return to the real one. But you have to admit is is fun. A doable road trip and growing animosity.
The only thing missing is serious competition, 10 wins, 4 draws and a single loss for the Forge versus the Capital City Squad is hardly the stuff of a balanced rivalry. But that is what makes this one so tense. For Atletico fans, every match is potentially the one that turns it all around. And this game, depending how both teams previous matches pan out, could be one that sees one side heading home, rather than heading on towards the quest for the new North Star Cup. That could be tense.
So how does this game stack up? Despite the all-time series totals these teams play each other tight. They are often only separated by a moment of magic. So as always the big names are ones to watch.
Ollie Bassett is the reigning MVP of the CPL and as such Bobby will have the boys keeping a tight watch on him. Sam Salter has really turned his season around after a slow start. While neither of his goals against his former team HFX Wanderers will have the Puskas Committee up late, he is putting the ball in the net. And a striker’s confidence has a way of growing out of almost nothing, amirite Woobens?
Another one to watch is former Forge player Maxim Tissot. He has hit some stunners this season and will always be up for a game against us.
Atletico had a slow start to the season. They owe a lot regarding the improvement in their play to the signing of Zapater. He has given them some much needed solidity and experience in the middle of the pitch.
I really think this one has all the hallmarks of an absolute ‘cracker of a game! Especially if Forge are still alive for first or second place in the league and all that entails for Champions Cup next year. Or even better if it is an opportunity to send Atleti to their off-season vacations in Majorca a little early. Of course there is the off chance Forge are playing for their playoff lives at that point too. But I’m too deep in denial to deal with that just yet.
So that’s what’s ahead for Forge. Pretty straightforward.
But the league has added a lovely wrinkle with the introduction of the Canadian Premier League Shield and the North Star Cup. The shield looks shiny and lovely, and the cup will make it’s first appearance closer to the playoff finals. I think most fans around the league are pretty happy with them both.
I like them too, even if they are a bit ‘MLS-lite’ for my tastes, I can get over myself.
But I would like to take amoment to raise a glass to the microwave plate. You were our own special love. We shared the romance, wooed you from the arms of others, and we’ve even learned to forgive you for your brief dalliance with Pacific FC. You came back to us in the end, and all was forgiven. Good bye my love, you won’t be forgotten. Forever First.
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