PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND – The 2020 Canadian Premier League Island Games saw Forge FC and Cavalry FC pick up where they left off. The finals rematch played out to a 2-2 draw, with penalty drama helping Cavalry pick up the draw in the final minutes of this CPL Island Games match.
CPL Island Games Forge and Cavalry: Penalty Drama Again
In stoppage time, Dominic Samuel was judged to have made a block in the box with his arm. Nathan Mavila stepped up to the spot and equalized, though a second look at the play showed the ball hitting Samuel in the side before the arm.
Referee Yusri Rudolph appeared to wave play on, dismissing the early penalty shout before being told to give it by another member of the officiating team. Speaking after the game, Bobby Smyrniotis was firm in his assessment. “Referee called it off right away. Not a penalty, I’m not sure what changed his mind.”
PENALTY 💥 | #CanPL 🍁
Nathan Mavila tucks home from the spot to bring us all square after a late hand-ball in the box.
— OneSoccer (@onesoccer) August 14, 2020
Dominic Zator opened the scoring from a set piece before Anthony Novak equalized with a deft, acrobatic finish in the 26th minute. Kyle Bekker put Forge ahead in the 71st minute with a stooping header. In stoppage time, Forge and Cavalry had penalty drama yet again. The first leg of the Championship featured another penalty incident.
A Physical Affair
The game started with a bang – quite literally. Cavalry’s Elijah Adekugbe had a pair of crunching tackles, the second of which earned him a yellow card. Later in the tournament, perhaps even later in the game, either could have been red. Forge FC also had a lot of hard tackles, with Marcel Zajac and Daniel Krutzen both being booked.
Throughout the match the tackles flew in hard on both sides, as the match wore on Forge started to move the ball more effectively. The early game, though, was all Cavalry. Their early hard pressing unsettled the Hamilton side, with many passes out of the back going astray or quickly being pounced upon by the Cavalry midfield.
Forge turned that around after looking shaky to start out. Speaking to Head Coach Bobby Smyrniotis after the game, he admitted the Cavalry press was something “they knew wasn’t going to be sustainable.”
Roster Shakeups and Debuts
Although the Cavalry press proved effective early on, the legs maybe were not there to maintain the strategy. Both sides used their 5 allotted substitutions with major debuts on both sides.
Cavalry handed debuts to CPL holdovers Bruno Zebie and Elliot Simmons, formerly of FC Edmonton and HFX Wanderers respectively. The big name signing of the offseason for Cavalry was Marcus Haber, formerly of Pacific FC. In his post game presser, Tommy Wheeldon Jr. praised Haber’s contributions.
“When he [Haber] came on he really brought a different dimension. … I thought he’d scored actually with that header.”
Haber had a great chance saved by Triston Henry in the 80th minute when Forge were holding on to the lead.
Forge FC handed a start to midfielder Paolo Sabak. The Belgian arrived as a highly touted former Genk prospect. The 21 year old created 2 chances and showed off some serious foot skills through the course of the match.
MLS Experience on Show
Former Toronto FC attacker Molham Babouli made a serious contribution after he came on the pitch, deftly setting in David Choinière to cross in the second half. Forge FC captain Kyle Bekker came screaming in to finish the ball into the box with a diving header.
Babouli showed his skill in keeping play ticking over and making sure Forge could play their style in the 24 minutes he featured.
Forge FC handed another MLS product their debut, with Maxim Tissot seeing 10 minutes of action to close out the game. Tissot played in deep midfield and didn’t have the strongest showing, not winning any of his duels and making a single clearance.
With Tristan Borges moved on to Belgium, it was Choinière who shone in attack. The former Montreal Impact wide man came on at half time and created the Bekker goal from a cross. He was all over the pitch, putting in an excellent 45 minutes. Expect him to be the first choice going forward.
GOAL 🥊 | #CanPL 🍁
— OneSoccer (@onesoccer) August 14, 2020
With nearly 10 months between competitive matches and fixtures again on Sunday, both teams will lean heavily on their squad depth. Both teams got a little leggy as the game wore on, and we can expect changes from both sides heading into their Sunday fixtures.
Another wrinkle is the mandatory minutes for U-21 Canadians in the Canadian Premier League. The CPL Island Games have prorated the minute requirement to 250 combined across the tournament.
Cavalry saw a pair of players collect minutes in this match — Mohamed Farsi, who earned the late penalty; and Aribim Pepple. Forge FC have only 3 players who meet the U-21 restriction, one of whom is goalkeeper and first-time professional Baj Maan.
Smyrniotis had no concerns when asked about the quota. “We’ve got a plan. We’ve had lots of time to plan” he assured reporters.