2021 CPL regular season (The Kickoff) — Match #15 Cavalry FC vs. Forge FC July 8, 2021 at 8:00 pm ET/7:00 pm CT IG Field in Winnipeg, Manitoba Watch Live: OneSoccer.ca

The most-played fixture in the CPL is back for the first time in 2021 on Thursday, as Forge FC and Cavalry FC prepare to do battle for the 12th time across all competitions -- their 10th meeting in CPL play.

Both sides, who already have volumes' worth of history between them from matchups in the 2019 CPL Finals and Canadian Championship, head into this midweek clash with a degree of confidence. The Cavs are undefeated, having won their first two games of the season before fighting out a 0-0 draw with HFX Wanderers FC over the weekend. They've played some of the CPL's most high-octane attacking football at times, including in their midweek 4-1 drubbing of Atlético Ottawa last Wednesday.

Cavalry, who have managed to rotate their squad significantly through three games, are confident in their depth so far.

"We don't have a 23-man squad, we have 23 players that can start," coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. told reporters on Tuesday. "Our job as coaches is to pick the right moments and the right games to start them...

"It's maximizing this opportunity without tiring your group, because you can use the same horses for every race, and then they'll be tired by the end of it, and you return back to your home place -- and ours is Spruce Meadows, and we've got a great winning record there and we intend to keep it -- and in order to do so we've got to manage our rotations."

Forge, on the other hand, stumbled out of the game, losing their first two games of the season 2-0, but they returned in full force on Sunday, as their attack came alive in the second half of a 3-0 win over Pacific FC. After missing the scoresheet in two straight matches, they exploded with contributions from Mo Babouli, Chris Nanco, and Tristan Borges from the penalty spot. They've never been a team to worry, nor one to rest on their laurels, and Forge gaffer Bobby Smyrniotis suggested that has held true for his team at the Kickoff so far.

"I don't know if it's relief," he told reporters on Wednesday. "It's, you've got three points, so you move on. The same way there weren't too many smiles or heads down on my end in the staff after the first few games, it's the same thing; not too many smiles after game three, we just go onto the next one."

Now that they've put their first win on the board, the defending champions have alleviated some of the pressure that may have begun to weigh on them after being shut out twice in a row. With that in the bank, they now move on toward climbing up the table in this young CPL season.

Make your match picks prior to kickoff at canpl.ca/predictor for a chance to win prizes, including the grand prize of a trip to the 2021 CPL Final!


  • Anthony Novak versus Forge: One of the most interesting off-season storylines will finally become manifest this week, as former Forge striker Anthony Novak takes on his old side. He was the first CPL player to cross the divide between these Finals 2019 rivals, and this first meeting after crossing enemy lines is surely a date he's had circled for a while. Wheeldon was full of praise for the centre-forward on Tuesday, comparing him to England's Harry Kane in how he can drop between lines and play through balls just as well as he can score as a target man. As a substitute, he was a big part of Cavalry's late deluge against Atlético Ottawa with his relentless running at the backline, helping absorb defenders' attention to set up Elliot Simmons' goal. "He's a terrific human being first and foremost, he's an absolute warrior," Wheeldon said of Novak. "You can see him with his tattoos and his funky hair, you go to war with Anthony Novak because he likes the big games... He will play a part in Thursday's game, and it will be up to him what part it is, and what headline there is to be written."​
  • Both sides dealing with knocks to key players: Cavalry and Forge will each have to contend with some missing pieces in their attacking ranks on Thursday. For Cavalry, winger Sergio Camargo is "day-to-day" with an ankle injury after coming out around five minutes into their 0-0 draw with HFX Wanderers, and although he went for a scan on Tuesday, he'll be doubtful to play in this game. Meanwhile, Forge star Tristan Borges left his side's 3-0 win over Pacific on Sunday, appearing to suffer a knee injury just minutes after scoring his first goal of the season from the penalty spot, while defender Daniel Krutzen left at halftime. That said, Smyrniotis said both players are also being monitored on a day-to-day basis, and neither has been ruled out or cleared to play in this game yet. If they can't play, the champions will have to lean on their versatility -- which has always been a strength for them: "We need to make sure that not only do we have depth in each position, but we've got a third player in each position that comes from another position," Smyrniotis said. "We don't have an infinite bank account or an infinite amount of spots on the roster... We're down six players from the roster, who are either not able to be selected or questionable, so if you don't have that versatility in the squad, now you start changing a lot of things in the way you play."​
  • Hold on for late theatrics: It's unlikely that this match will be done and dusted by the 75th minute. In six of these sides' 11 meetings in all competitions, at least one team has changed the result with a goal in the final 15 minutes plus stoppage time (in fact, this fixture has seen four goals scored after the 90 minutes). Last year, Cavalry salvaged a point with Nathan Mavila's 94th-minute penalty to open the Island Games. Plus, these two teams have both managed to turn up the heat in the latter stages this season; the Cavs rolled over Ottawa in the final 20 minutes, and Forge's breakout against Pacific began in the 70th minute. Expect the substitutes -- or, as Wheeldon calls them, the "game-changers" -- to feature heavily here: "The five subs, it's the newest position in football," said the Cavalry coach. "Even in the Euros, they're changing the games, and we saw that with great effect against Ottawa... There's going to be knocks, injuries and things that will disrupt our rotations and rhythms."​


Cavalry FC wins: 2 || Forge FC wins: 6 || Draws: 1

Previous match:

September 14, 2020 -- Cavalry FC 0-1 Forge FC


"They're the champions right now, and they've got on their sleeve what we'd like to have on ours. It's a great test for our guys to see where we're at, we feel we've built a really good side. We weren't too high when we beat them early in the 2019 season, all that people remember is they beat us in the final." — Tommy Wheeldon Jr., Cavalry FC head coach

"Rivalries take time to be established. They also need teams that are constant throughout the years, and pieces of this and that... There were some very good matches between the two teams in 2019, but I think things are a lot different now... It's a totally different game and totally different players." — Bobby Smyrniotis, Forge FC head coach

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