Final Score: Cavalry FC 0-2 Forge FC Goalscorers: Kyle Bekker (13', 35') Game of the 2021 season: 15 CPL match: 150


Match in a minute or less

Despite key injuries and a short bench, Forge FC continued to improve their form on Thursday, winning their second straight game with a confident 2-0 win to break Cavalry FC's three-match unbeaten run. Kyle Bekker was the difference maker for the defending champions, with two superbly-finished goals in the first half that put Forge comfortably ahead, allowing them to absorb pressure and suffocate the Cavs' attack from then on. Though Cavalry had a massive edge in possession, they managed just two shots on target (from 11 attempts) as Forge held them back in the second half.

Three Observations

Give Bekker space, get punished​

Twice, Kyle Bekker found himself with the ball in space near the top of the box to the goalkeeper's left, and twice he made Cavalry pay for it. A minor detail ahead of his first goal: Watch in the clip below how he trails Joe Di Chiara through midfield, drifting left just enough to get his attention before cutting back out to the right. That one movement earned Bekker enough separation from his marker to read the cross perfectly and get into position for his volleyed finish. For Bekker's second goal, Cavalry somehow left him in acres of space near the centre circle, for which he punished them. He continued to drift right, knowing that Awuah's ball up the pitch could either find David Choinière for a flick-on, or bounce into the expansive territory he had come to control. He read the play perfectly again, taking a few touches forward before unleashing an inch-perfect shot to the near side. Credit to Awuah, too; his vision to send in the cross and long ball for those goals was excellent as well, and showed a trust in his teammates that surely stems from two years of success together. Bekker's vision was on full display on Thursday; his pass success rate was unusually low (70.4%), but a look at his pass map for this game shows he was almost exclusively looking to pin long balls out to wingers, hoping to bypass Cavalry with dangerous balls over the top and in-behind. "One person decided it on the day, and that's Kyle Bekker," said Cavalry coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. postmatch. "Until we learn how to stop him better, this could be a repeat pattern, so we've just got to manage that." Cavs' second-half shift helps, but not enough After going down two goals in the first half, Tommy Wheeldon Jr. made a few changes at halftime to try and get back into the contest -- namely, he brought off Di Chiara and José Escalante in favour of Richard Luca and club debutant Ali Musse, while pushing Victor Loturi further back into midfield. With Sergio Camargo and David Norman Jr. out injured, the Cavs had been forced to shift things around in their starting 11, with Loturi opening the game at left wing after prior outings in the centre of midfield, which showed glimpses of promise with the game quite open, but they couldn't quite progress the ball upfield as much as they liked. Cavalry tried to throw something different at their opponent in the second half, with the centre-backs moving a little wider while playing out from the back and Elliot Simmons dropping between them, and it certainly helped them control the ball -- they had nearly 75% of it in the second frame -- but Forge's low block was still difficult to break down. "Before this game we had a plan A, B, and C, and we executed a couple of them," Wheeldon explained. "We were way better in the second half, and had we started like that with the game plan we'd practiced and rehearsed, we wouldn't be having these conversations, but we didn't. "We wanted to test and sample a few things; what Forge do very well is they're not worried about passing the ball, if they have a lead they'll just park the bus and sit behind and see the game out, and credit to them, they manage their energies, they manage the result." Forge gives a clinic in game management The flip side of that same coin is how professional Forge were in seeing the game out on their terms. Despite all of Cavalry's dominance in possession and duels, they had just two shots on target -- plus one excellent chance for Daniel Kaiser that Chris Nanco blocked courageously. With a two-goal lead and some understandably tired legs across the squad, Forge were fully content to slow the tempo and force Cavalry to try and break them down somehow. The same players who showed some incredible expansive football in the first half -- Awuah, Elimane Cissé, Alexander Achinioti-Jonsson, and many others -- looked just as good playing behind the ball in the second, doing what needed to be done to stay locked in position and refuse to give Cavalry the space they were looking for. "You have to be tactically flexible, especially in this time period where today started and it'll be four games in 10 days for Forge," coach Bobby Smyrniotis pointed out. "We've got to be smart about it, and we've given ourselves an excellent first half, an excellent lead, and now we also have to control the tank. We've got seven players on our roster who weren't available to day for various reasons. I think there we really have to manage the game, and I think we did a really good job at it and kept things quite controlled for that 45 minutes." Indeed, Forge came into this game with just five outfield players on the bench, and the likes of Tristan Borges, Daniel Krutzen, and Maxim Tissot all unavailable; the way they were able to pull out in front with a free-flowing first half, then shut things down and conserve as much energy as possible in the second showed incredible composure from a team that's excelled in that area of the game over two years.

CanPL.ca Player of the Match

Kyle Bekker, Forge FC There can hardly be another option after this one; the captain and reigning Player of the Year was tremendous in the first half, scoring with both a side-footed volley and a rocket of a strike at pace. He covered quite a lot of ground and looked to move the ball across the pitch quickly, but also did well off the ball to find space. Honourable mention to Kwame Awuah, whom Bobby Smyrniotis said has been Forge's best player through four games. What’s next? These two clubs look ahead now to weekend action; Forge will have the afternoon game this Sunday, July 11 against Valour FC (1:30 pm ET/12:30 pm CT), and Cavalry will follow later that night against Atlético Ottawa in the ComeOn! Match of the Week. (9:00 pm ET/8:00 pm CT). Watch all games live on OneSoccer.

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