Final Score: Forge FC 2-1 Cavalry FC Goalscorers: Anthony Novak 12', Ali Musse 33'; Mo Babouli (pen) 86' Game of the 2021 season: 30 CPL match: 165
Match in a minute or lessCavalry FC produced an impressive collective effort to defeat their nemesis by a 2-1 scoreline that sounded a lot closer than it was. Anthony Novak's fantastic finish, including great footwork to deceive his old teammates, in the 12th minute put Tommy Wheeldon Jr's men ahead and they were rewarded for a brilliant first half showing when Ali Musse added to their lead just over 20 minutes later, finishing off a fine move that he and Joseph Di Chiara orchestrated around a struggling Forge defence. Mo Babouli's late penalty showed it is never really comfortable against the champions but there was only one worthy winner on this night and so it proved.
Three ObservationsA tale of two defences & real tactical versatility from Cavalry FC Forge FC have been impressive in their last two wins, switching to a back three with Alexander Achinioti-Jonsson impressing in the middle, something that saw five of their players named in the Gatorade Team of the Week. However, they decided to start with a back four in this match, bringing in Tristan Borges to play further forward, and it backfired as they were exposed defensively on both goals, that came in very different ways. Head Coach Bobby Smyrniotis admitted: "We went with a back four because we wanted a front three to put pressure on them, have players work in the half spaces and get into the outside zones and we did a lot better with that in the second half and if we had another five minutes I think we may have got the next goal." By then it was too late. The absence of Daniel Krutzen and Dejan Jakovic was clearly evident inside a back four and, with his team down 2-0 at half-time for just the third time in their history, Smyrniotis made a triple substitution at half-time with Borges, Paolo Sabak and Josh Navarro replaced by David Choinière, Chris Nanco and Maxim Tissot. The introduction of Tissot, in particular, allowed Bekker to get further forward and escape the pressure of Joseph Di Chiara. Smyrniotis: "We knew they would play a 3-4-1-2 and that means pressure really goes on your number six, who in this case was Bekker in the first half. He was able to open the field really well from deep early and I thought we started really well but in the end we were disjointed a little and we were not good enough in the first 45 minutes and too slow." Tommy Wheeldon Jr's team started in a back three again having played well in that system in their last win over HFX Wanderers and having three of the league's best defenders on the pitch in Daan Klomp, Karifa Yao and Mason Trafford they handled much of what was thrown at them in the first half. The only real concern was the outstanding passing range from deep positions from Kyle Bekker who found Josh Navarro, Elimane Cisse and Borges inside the first 15 minutes that needed real alertness to be prevented, something that Joseph Di Chiara did really well at adjusting to. When up 2-0, Wheeldon Jr moved his team to a back four with Trafford covering at left back before eventually being replaced with a slight injury by Victor Loturi at half-time. He later switched back to a 3-4-1-2 system again and as key goalscorer Anthony Novak said postmatch it was their shape that helped secure the victory: "The effort, we wanted it more tonight and the tactics, our ability to adjust on the fly, is how we won this." Wheeldon Jr added: "I'm very proud of the lads. We didn't have a lot of days to tactically prepare. We allowed them to get drunk on possession, counter them, open them up and then had to change the tactical plan a few times on the fly. Tactics are so good in this league now and its like a chess game against a lot of these teams, adjusting things on the go. A lot of players were positionally fluid, at times we were a 3-4-3, 3-4-1-2, 3-2-5 and 4-4-1-1 and each time it was about moving players just 10 yards." This is where a lot of credit has to go to Wheeldon, his staff and is players who, like Forge and other teams have at times, are carrying this league forward with real intelligence and tactical versatility, splitting the field into different zones and adapting roles and responsibilities in and out of possession during the game. In a midfield full of stars, Joseph Di Chiara shines the brightest Kyle Bekker is the 'Cavalry Killer' scoring five goals in total in his career including two beauties in their last match two weeks ago. He came into this match as arguably the most in-form player in the league, playing alongside Elimane Cisse as a tremendous double pivot, but Joseph Di Chiara did a fantastic job in the first half never letting Bekker out of his sight and eventually forcing Forge to push Bekker further forward. Di Chiara set the tempo with intelligent positioning throughout, finding space between the lines to link the midfield with the attack, while never losing concentration on his defensive responsibilities against the best player in 2020. "Against Forge their best players show up, like Bekker who did it to us last time. Di Chiara is really good on the ball, it sticks to him like glue, his work on the second goal with Ali Musse was fantastic, something I have seen them do in training, and all-around his workrate and style suits the way we want to play. It was a performance that mattered and one that announced him to our fans tonight," said Wheeldon. It was only the third time in club history that Forge went behind by two goals inside the first half, with Di Chiara playing a key role in two of those including the first one for York in 2020. The only other one came in the first match of this season, a 2-0 loss to Valour FC, a game that Smyrniotis admitted postmatch was the only match in 2021 he truly felt his team didn't deserve anything from. Klomp stakes claim as league's finest central defender "It will take some money to sell him," stated Wheeldon afterwards when asked about the imperious display of centre-back Daan Klomp. "He can defend, he can play, he runs for 90 plus minutes and he seems to be getting better and better. Massive upside." The Canadian Premier League lost one of its best central defenders with Valour's Andrew Jean-Baptiste suffering a season-ending injury this past week but newcomer Klomp has already shown through eight games that he looks to be a tremendous signing for Cavalry FC and the league. This was his best performance of a very impressive 2021. Klomp told One Soccer afterwards: "We played an amazing game. This formation with a back three meant we beat the first press better than we did in the last game. We had more stability as a five, then we went to a four to win duels and second balls in the midfield with a 2-0 nil lead. I'm really happy and cannot wait to get back to Calgary."
CanPL.ca Player of the MatchDaan Klomp, Cavalry FC The 22-year-old Dutchman led the game in tackles, clearances and possessions gained while over 50% of his pass attempts were forward and into the opponent's half. What a find this is for Cavalry FC.
What’s next?Having completed their time in the Winnipeg bubble, both teams will now return home to continue their CPL campaigns that coincidentally restart next Friday evening on the road. Forge FC make the trip down the 401 to take on York United in the ComeOn! Match of the Week on Friday, July 30, kicking off at 7pm ET while Cavalry FC travel to Vancouver Island in the second game of a doubleheader that evening against Pacific FC (9:30 pm ET/6:30 pm PT). Both games can be seen live on One Soccer.