CPL Island Games: Tired Forge FC draw HFX Wanderers

CPL Island Games

Recap — In their third match of the CPL Island Games, a tired Hamilton Forge FC could only manage a draw against an organized HFX Wanderers. Forge FC scored a first half penalty after a contentious call.

HFX goalkeeper Jason Beaulieu collided with Kwame Awuah just inside the eighteen. New signing Paolo Sabak slotted the penalty kick home with confidence, and Forge FC went into the break up by one. It seems penalty kick drama is unavoidable for Forge at the Island Games. A late penalty for Cavalry FC in the first match of the tournament turned three points into one.

Forge Veterans Showing Fatigue

Much is made of Forge FC’s incredible depth up front, with top quality players across the front three. Bobby Smyrniotis rotated his front three, starting Marcel Zajac, Anthony Novak and Kadell Thomas.

However, Smyrniotis has given players farther back on the pitch increased responsibility. David Edgar, Daniel Krutzen, Kyle Bekker, Kwame Awuah and Daniel Krutzen have collectively had one minute of rest so far in the Island Games. The lack of rotation in defensive areas is surely a contributing factor to a tired Forge side only managing a draw with HFX.

Ultimately, it was a lapse in concentration that led to the HFX goal. Stephen Hart’s side started the second half with incredible energy. An incredibly slick pass from Alex Marshall set up a smooth finish and the tying goal.

Island Games Schedule a Factor

Forge FC never seemed to get out of second gear in the final third. HFX Wanderers set up in a well organized low block, which made life difficult for Forge’s creative players. Another part of the cause, according to Smyrniotis, was schedule and fatigue. This match was Forge’s third in six days. Bekker, the captain and chief creator charged with unlocking defenses has yet to have a minute of rest.

“We were there, we just didn’t make enough movement in behind,” Smyrniotis said after the game.

CPL teams are also required to play U21 players a combined 250 minutes at the Island Games. Some teams, including HFX Wanderers and Pacific FC have nearly reached the 250 minute threshold already. Forge FC have given just two appearances to U-21 players — both to Klaidi Cela — for a combined total of two minutes.

Although Forge FC have had remarkable consistency in the squad, they are thin in the young Canadian department. Only Cela and Monti Mohsen fulfill the requirements as outfield players. With another match on Saturday, it will be interesting to see how Smyrniotis rotates the squad.

HFX’s Plan Works to Perfection

Prior to the match Stephen Hart said his plan was to “disrupt” the midfield of Forge FC. Wanderer’s trio of Andre Rampersad, Louis Beland-Goyette, and Aboubacar Sissoko were fantastic at this.

Speaking after the match, Hart praised the trio effusively. “All three contained the central areas of the park very very well. … [the three players] stayed compact and when we did have the ball we moved the ball very well.”

Hart was very proud of his team. “We were behind and we fought hard to get back. That cannot be coached.”

HFX started the second half with real vigor. Hart said his team needed to be calmed at the break. The coach said players had become laser focused on the officiating, lost the context of the match, and were starting to fall apart. Their second half performance clearly showed Hart’s man-management and calming influence is a real asset to the side.

Forge FC Rue Missed Chances

In spite of the organization by HFX, Forge FC did have a few great chances to go ahead. Paolo Sabak had the best of these, skying the ball over the bar from just inside the penalty area.

Forge FC will need to capitalize on chances such as these in order to progress out of the round-robin stages. With another match on Saturday against Pacific FC, Forge need to sort their finishing out quickly in order to get more points on the board.

Although they were bottom of the league last year, HFX Wanderers have shown massive improvements and are a dark horse to secure a top four round robin finish. Wanderers face Cavalry FC on Sunday.