Final Score: Forge FC 3-0 Pacific FC Goalscorers: Morgan 10', Borges 13', Pacius 83' (Pen.) Game of the 2022 season: 37 CPL match: 288​


Match in a minute or less

Forge FC looked comfortable at home on Sunday afternoon as they scored three en route to a clean-sheet victory over Pacific FC. The hosts took full control early, as Ashtone Morgan and Tristan Borges both found the net within the first 15 minutes thanks to an energetic press. From there, Pacific struggled to find a foothold in the game and couldn't get into the attacking third quite enough to get back into the match. Ultimately, Forge added one final blow in the 82nd minute thanks to a penalty kick that Woobens Pacius slotted coolly to make it 3-0 on a very impressive afternoon for the Hamilton side.

Three Observations

Forge press, transition causes major problems for Pacific​

From kickoff in this match, Forge were very intent on pressing Pacific quite aggressively and attempting to win the ball as high up the pitch as possible, particularly in the opening 20 minutes. Forge's midfield of Kyle Bekker, Alessandro Hojabrpour, and Aboubacar Sissoko -- a trio that has been increasingly dominant the past few matches since Bobby Smyrniotis began deploying them together -- formed an effective orange wall to prevent any forward progress through the middle from Pacific, instead forcing them to cycle backwards in possession and, more often than not, give the ball away to a pressing wide player. Both first-half goals came from such pressing situations. The first opportunity came from Sissoko intercepting an errant Jamar Dixon pass and placing it immediately to Woobens Pacius at the top of the box -- a play that exemplifies Forge's ability to win the ball and immediately spring an attack. "We lost the ball, but then the reaction from all the guys that surrounded and hunted it again led to the goal," scorer Ashtone Morgan explained. "We were all on the front foot for a good portion of the game and we got rewarded for the hard work we do off the ball." Just three minutes later, again Forge won the ball once again, this time closer to the right flank, and within the blink of an eye Forge had developed an attack and Tristan Borges had made it 2-0. The hosts did back off their press a little bit in the final 20 minutes of the first half, leading by two and needing to conserve energy, but they killed off the game superbly in the second half with a similarly high press that prevented Pacific from playing out of the back. Still, Forge were intent on winning the ball and playing quickly, typically to the space behind Pacific's wingbacks. With the visitors playing in a 3-4-3 formation, Forge were often able to find Tristan Borges or David Choinière in the wide areas with quick balls. "Just seeing where they were with personnel, (we knew) if either they'd go with a four they'd have to move one of Samake or somebody outside, and if they were in a three maybe there was going to be space in those areas, so we needed to be quick," explained Forge gaffer Bobby Smyrniotis. "They came out with a three and a couple of wingbacks, and we knew either in possession or in the counters we'd be able to find space there." He added: "The guys executed great. Our movement of our three guys on both sides was very good; (Rezart) Rama, Abou (Sissoko), and David (Choinière) on the right side, and then (Tristan) Borges, (Kyle) Bekker, and Ashtone (Morgan) on the left, I thought their triangle movements and stuff, something we work on a lot in training, was very good."

Pacific attackers unable to find the ball in dangerous areas​

At their best moments this season, Pacific have been able to get the ball to their front three in space and allow them to go to work in the final third by winning individual battles and looking to make creative passes into the box. On Sunday against Forge, though, all three of Djenairo Daniels, Alejandro Díaz, and in particular Marco Bustos really struggled to get touches at all. Bustos, by all accounts one of the best attacking players in the CPL and the usual talisman of Pacific's attack, ended up with just 35 touches from a full 90-minute shift -- only Daniels, with 31, had fewer among the starters, and he played just 62 minutes. When Pacific did find Bustos, he usually found himself met with an orange wall of pressure that forced him backwards. It's rare for Bustos to go a whole game without a shot, so for that to be the case on Sunday is a mark of Forge's ability to isolate and contain him. As the chart below indicates, so many of Bustos' passes in this game went backwards, with so few of his touches coming in spots from which he could drive forward into the box or cut in on his left foot as he likes to do. He finished with an excellent 92% pass accuracy, but surely he would have preferred to be playing them forward more often. In the middle, Díaz -- the CPL's current golden boot leader -- looked increasingly frustrated with how infrequently Pacific could send balls his way from open play. They had no joy playing through the middle to find him with through balls, nor did they seek him with crosses (they attempted just 10 all game). In an attempt to make an impact on the game and get the ball at his feet, Díaz began dropping deeper and deeper into midfield, which left a gap up top that further limited Pacific's ability to play passes into the box. Just 13 of Díaz's 43 touches came in the final third as he continuously found himself even in his own half looking for the ball. "It's because we're not moving for each other," Pacific boss James Merriman offered postmatch. "We can't build, we can't keep the ball, and then when we give the ball away, we're not defending. In football, you need to run, you need to be able to move, and we didn't do that, so it's impossible to play how you want to play and to get them on the ball higher up the field." He went on to add that, undoubtedly, his side is missing Manny Aparicio as the engine in their midfield, but that's no excuse. "His heart, his engine and workrate, it lifts everybody around him," Merriman said. "Right now we're missing him; especially, I see it a little bit in the games, but today, who's running? Díaz had to come down and get on the ball, as our striker. So it's not good enough."

Differing energy levels produce lopsided start​

James Merriman did not mince his words postmatch when explaining what went wrong for his side in Hamilton. To him, the performance across the board was unacceptable; he pointed out that the energy and workrate within his side was subpar from kickoff, which allowed Forge to take control of proceedings so early and put Pacific on the back foot for the balance of the 90 minutes. "We didn't start right, and it's probably the thing that we spoke about the most coming into the game so it's disappointing," Merriman said. "I don't understand why; we need to talk about it. We need to look at each other, we can't start games like this if we want to compete, if we want to be there. They score in the first 10 minutes, 11 minutes, so it doesn't give us a chance. We start on the back foot and then we concede, and we concede again, and then we're chasing." He went on to add: "We can't play like this on the road. We can't travel and not be ready to start, not be ready to run for each other. If you don't do those, those are the basic essentials. We're not running enough; we're not ready to play and it's not good enough from us today. Nowhere near." On the other hand, Forge's energy was exceptional from start to finish in perhaps one of the most comprehensive victories we've seen from a CPL side this year. After struggling to put the ball in the net and finish their chances earlier in the season, Forge have now scored 11 times in their last three league matches, putting them well ahead of the rest of the league with 18 goals. This match was an important statement from the Hamilton side, who in similar fashion were disappointed with the way they started when they played at Pacific in the first game of the season. "One thing we talked about is how good we were gonna be in the first 15, 20 minutes and set the tempo, and really try and impose ourselves on the game," Smyrniotis told reporters. "By the way the game ended, we did a pretty good job at that. After that it gave the guys a little bit more comfortability in where they needed to be and what they needed to do. Pacific had a little bit of the ball, which I think is normal after you score two goals in that first period, and after that we were very good." Ashtone Morgan echoed his coach's sentiments, adding: "Last time we played Pacific, we didn't start well, and there was emphasis to the start of the match for us. As you could see, 11 guys were on the front foot. The energy was there, we're hunting; on the ball we tried to just kill them with the passes and penetrating runs, and when the energy is there, good things happen for us."

CanPL.ca Player of the Match

Alessandro Hojabrpour, Forge FC Playing his former club on the pitch where he won Pacific a championship, Hojabrpour was a major reason behind Forge's dominance in midfield. His central presence allowed both Kyle Bekker and Aboubacar Sissoko to hunt for the ball in the half-spaces further up the pitch, and his positioning prevented Pacific from playing through midfield. Hojabrpour was accurate with 62 out of 66 passes (94%) and won possession a team-high seven times.

What’s next?

Up next for Pacific is a trip to York Lions Stadium to play York United next Saturday, June 18 (4 p.m. ET). Forge, meanwhile, are back in action on Sunday, June 19 when they travel out east to play HFX Wanderers FC (2 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.

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