Final Score: Forge FC 0-1 Pacific FC Goalscorers: Brown 60' Game of the 2022 season: 108 CPL match: 358
Match in a minute or lessPacific FC put themselves into the top two on Wednesday night with an impressive 1-0 win in Hamilton over Forge FC, giving the Vancouver Island club a chance at the regular season title heading into the final weekend. After a strong first half from the visitors ended 0-0 largely thanks to some good saves by Triston Henry, Pacific found the moment they needed on the counter-attack in the second half. After Cédric Toussaint won the ball in midfield, he quickly sprung Marco Bustos on the right side. Bustos cut to the top of the box to test Henry with a left-footed strike, which spilled in the six-yard box where Jordan Brown was waiting to bury it.
Pacific step up in big moments, cloud top-four picture for final weekendThe playoff picture, if anything, got slightly cloudier on Wednesday night; anyone who previously thought Atlético Ottawa and Forge would surely head into the postseason as the top two sides now finds themselves reconsidering. Pacific have developed a reputation for stepping up in big moments. They did so in the final last year, and this season they've by and large played their best football when tested: in the Concacaf League, for instance, where they went toe-to-toe with quality opposition from abroad, and now in the last two weeks when they started to see their playoff position become more tenuous. As soon as Valour jumped ahead of them, they seemed to find new life. The Tridents have now gone unbeaten in five, collecting three consecutive clean-sheet victories now. After a stretch of five matches with no goals scored by an attacking player (they had two from defenders and one own goal), they've now had their last four goals from those forwards: Josh Heard, Djenairo Daniels, Marco Bustos, and now Jordan Brown. This is certainly the right time for those attackers to find their form once again; ultimately, a couple dips in form will mean nothing if they ride this momentum into the playoffs and come out of it with a title. "We came into this game wanting to win, wanting to push to see if we can finish top of the table," Pacific boss James Merriman said. "We know Cavalry is a difficult place to go and play; we know this is, and we've done it now. We'll be motivated, we'll feel good coming into the next match. "We know it's not easy, and we still need other things to happen in the other match. But like I said before, we want to finish as high as we can with maximum points." Also worth noting: With 46 points now, Pacific have set a club record for total in one season, surpassing their mark of 45 last season. As for Forge, this weekend becomes perhaps more interesting than expected as they now enter a contest with HFX Wanderers facing some pressure if they want to return to the top two and take home advantage into the postseason. Of course, they'll play on Sunday afternoon after Pacific's game at Cavalry so they'll know what the task is with regard to their final position. A draw or a Cavalry win means that a Forge win would put them back in second (their goal difference of +21 is unlikely to be beaten by Cavalry's +5, and if they both win the two sides will be on 47 points with 14 wins). The Hamilton side are nonetheless unfazed by the moving pieces in the table this weekend; coach Bobby Smyrniotis would have set his side up to win regardless and whether they have home field or not, he'll be expecting his team to win its semi-final and contend for the championship. Now that they're unable to finish top of the table, it might not make much of a difference to Smyrniotis where they land on Sunday.
Forge beaten in transition, can't get in behind to scoreThis was a bit of an uncharacteristic loss for Forge. This wasn't quite like other home defeats this year where the opponent sat deep for 90 minutes, although Pacific did spend a good amount of time defending and ultimately scored their goal in transition. Forge gave up perhaps more counter-attacking chances than is typical of them; Pacific had a heavy advantage in winning duels in the first half, which they used to spring quick forward balls, pinning Forge back at times and drawing good saves out of Triston Henry -- who, as Bobby Smyrniotis quipped postmatch, did his job well. In the second half, Forge actually did a better job taking care of the ball and building out of the back with David Choinière playing almost as a right wingback ahead of Dominic Samuel in a kind of hybrid back three. Still, it was a poor giveaway that led to the goal as Pacific pushed forward with good pace and managed to find the open spaces to increase their tempo. Smyrniotis did point out that most of Pacific's better counter-attacking chances came after the first one from which they scored, which was natural with the hosts pressing forward and Pacific looking to defend a bit more. "A lot of [the giveaways] have come after the goal, so I think it's natural because then they're going to sit back, there's going to be some opportunities," he said. "If we're reversing our situations we'd probably do the same thing." The biggest issue for Smyrniotis, in fact, was that his side didn't offer much in the attacking third when they had the ball. They often like to find runners in behind, with someone like Woobens Pacius (who didn't start this match) getting on the end of balls from David Choinière or Tristan Borges (absent from this one entirely). "Up to [the goal] I thought we're good on the ball, we're good in our movements; they did a good job of shifting and working in certain zones," Smyrniotis said. "What we didn't do enough of was make those incisive runs in behind that we usually do. That's indicative, when you look at our shots and you look at our corners, there's certain metrics that we look at that tell me how deep we got in certain positions. And today we've only got two corners, and that's uncharacteristic of us."
Pacific push high to win ball and break lines, often keen to shootThe opening half of this match saw Forge playing on the back foot for significant periods as Pacific kept their forwards quite high up the pitch to try and hurry defenders playing out of the back. Jordan Brown, mostly playing as a lone number nine through the middle looking to hold up play, would drift up and try to mark at least one of the centre-backs out, with Manny Aparicio stepping out of midfield to try and pick off the horizontal passes and force mistakes. Pacific won just under 64 per cent of the duels in the first half, looking far more dangerous getting to second balls and moving the ball quicker in possession. "We know Forge likes to be in control," James Merriman explained. "Especially in the first half, we wanted to try and take that away, we wanted to put them under pressure. We wanted to be on the front foot and press at the right times and ask questions, and I thought we did. If we'd maybe been a little bit more clinical with some of our chances maybe we go up one or two in the first half. But they're a quality side so they came back into the game, and we were there to finish off with a result." The other thing Pacific did particularly well was ensuring their attacking moments ended in, at the very least, sending the ball toward goal rather than playing too many passes and having their build-up sputter out. They finished with 16 shots to Forge's five, including a few curlers from distance that Bustos has been dangerous from before. Ultimately, this was a fine showing of the attacking talent in this Pacific team when they're on their game, and the workrate they have on and off the ball. The spine of the team through the middle -- a double-pivot of Sean Young and Toussaint -- plus the front two of Brown and Aparicio did very well to take away central options from Forge and step up to ball-movers to try and win it back.
CanPL.ca Player of the MatchKunle Dada-Luke, Pacific FC Dada-Luke created four chances in this game, with 90 per cent pass accuracy and seven duels won (out of nine). He was a threat from the right flank all game long, taking care of his responsibilities both defensively and in attack.
What’s next?Both sides will close out their regular season campaign this weekend before heading into the playoffs. Pacific will be on the road in Calgary to take on Cavalry FC on Saturday, Oct. 8 (4 p.m. MT/6 p.m. ET), while Forge remain at home to host HFX Wanderers FC on Sunday, Oct. 9 (1 p.m. ET). Watch all matches live on OneSoccer. In addition to its website and app, OneSoccer is now available on TELUS channel 980 and on Fubo TV. Call your local cable provider to ask for OneSoccer today.