2021 CPL regular season — Match #53 Forge FC vs. Atlético Ottawa August 25, 2021 at 8:00 pm ET Tim Hortons Field, Hamilton, Ontario Watch Live: OneSoccer.ca // Tickets available here


For the second time in just over two weeks, Atlético Ottawa are making the westward trip from the capital down to Hamilton for a date with the CPL champions. After a challenging weekend for both sides, Forge FC and Atleti will meet at Tim Hortons Field on Wednesday, each looking to get back into the win column. Forge, who sit fourth in the league table as it stands with a 6-1-5 record and 19 points, will be looking to leapfrog Valour FC into third -- the two clubs have the same number of points, but Forge will make up a game in hand this week. The Hammers are playing their second of a three-game league homestand this week, which began on Sunday afternoon with a 1-1 draw against HFX Wanderers FC. In that clash, Forge went down 1-0 to the Nova Scotians in the first half, but they managed to steal a point at the end thanks to Kwame Awuah's deep cross that somehow drifted into the net with almost the last kick of the match. Bobby Smyrniotis' side may need to lean on their depth in this game, with it falling in the middle of this run of three in six days. With fatigue definitely setting in for all CPL teams, depth is key; thankfully for Forge, a few familiar faces have started to return. Chris Nanco started against HFX after dealing with injuries for a few weeks, and defender Daniel Krutzen was able to play half an hour of that match -- certainly a very welcome sight to the Hamilton faithful. "It's massive," Smyrniotis said on Tuesday. "When you're playing these games, if you lose one or two guys and you're down already you start having to change things up a bit in the lineup, how you're looking at things, and then you're stretching other guys with a lot of minutes, and we've had to do that in this time period. So we're getting there with the guys, we're probably a week away from getting most of the guys back into a very good condition." Meanwhile, Ottawa will turn their attention back to league play after going out of the Canadian Championship on Saturday, falling 3-2 at home to Valour in a match they led in the first half before the Winnipeggers took control. Last time out in CPL action, Atlético drew 1-1 with York United thanks to Alberto Soto's dramatic equalizer on the brink of 90 minutes. With a win and a draw in their last two CPL matches, coach Mista's side are hoping desperately to continue building some momentum in league play. They still sit in last place on 11 points, but stringing a few results together would go a long way toward closing the eight-point gap between them and the CPL's final playoff spot in fourth -- occupied, of course, by Forge. Mista was able to get a few players into the lineup against Valour that haven't played too many minutes so far this year, and he explained that with a difficult schedule coming up, he too is looking to get more out of his full squad. In terms of fitness, the only injury concern (other than Brandon John, out for the season) is Chris Mannella, who is still dealing with a knock. "We are not only 11 or 12 guys, we need to add as many guys as possible," Mista told reporters on Monday. "This is exactly what happened after the (Valour) game; okay, we lose the game, but I think we had three, four, five, six guys new for the team, and this is perfect for me because we have more options for the next game and especially because we have a tough schedule in the next two weeks." These two sides have met just once so far this season, but it was quite recent: Forge hosted Ottawa on August 8, on an afternoon where the champions finally celebrated their two consecutive CPL titles with their fans before proceeding to win 2-0 thanks to goals from Mo Babouli and Garven-Michée Metusala. That was actually just two league games ago for Forge, who travelled to El Salvador after that for their Concacaf League tie with CD FAS. The Ontario clubs are all locked in a battle for playoff spots; can either of these two claim all three valuable points?

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  • Set pieces the key again? Both of Forge's goals against Ottawa in the last encounter came from set-pieces: Babouli scored with a penalty kick, and Metusala headed one in just after from a wide free kick. Ottawa have conceded quite a few times from dead-ball situations in recent weeks -- they gave up a penalty to both York and HFX in their first two home games (in fact, they've conceded six times from the spot so far), and on top of the Metusala header, Pacific and FC Edmonton (twice) have scored from set-piece scenarios against Atleti. Forge, meanwhile, are a very dangerous team from those opportunities. Ottawa certainly need to be careful in and around the box to avoid giving anything away cheaply. For Atleti coach Mista, though, the issue against Forge wasn't in their set-piece defence strategy, but in their mentality after conceding a penalty: "The real problem, especially in that game, is we lost the mentality inside when we were scored on," he said this week. "The team, we lost the mindset for five minutes, and we started to play long, and we were not Atlético Ottawa in this moment when we were disorganized."​
  • Forge testing depth in tight stretch: This is quite a difficult section of the season for Forge, who will have played three games in six days by Saturday -- after being in El Salvador just last week. They're thankful to start seeing some key players work back from injury, as well as those like Tristan Borges perhaps starting to get more comfortable, but this is definitely a period where Smyrniotis will need to use the full extent of his squad. Younger players like Woobens Pacius will be given opportunities -- like he was on Sunday against HFX -- as will players like Maxim Tissot and Elimane Cisse who have been in and out of the starting XI at times this year. It's unclear just how much Forge might choose to rotate for this midweek fixture, but they'll likely need at least some fresh legs in on Wednedsay night. "We use a lot of rotation, I think we showed that the first two years as well, and I think this year our team has more depth than the previous two years," winger Chris Nanco said on Tuesday. "It's good knowing that even if we take off some of the starters, the guys that are on the bench coming in are just as good and ready to play as well, so it doesn't really bring down the level."​
  • Ottawa finally has options up front: The very positive news for Atlético Ottawa is surely the emergence of striker Brian Wright. Due to match-fitness and injury issues in the early going, his minutes were limited in the Winnipeg bubble, but he's recently become more involved in the attack -- even as a substitute -- and he's got something to show for it. Wright has two goals in his last three games (a match-winner against HFX, and the opening goal in Saturday's Canadian Championship tie), which is a very positive sign for Mista's men. With Malcolm Shaw already having an excellent season up front (four goals so far), plus the likes of Ryan Telfer and Raul Uche perhaps still yet to play their best football, Ottawa will be happy to now have a little more diversity and depth in the attack -- and multiple options to start any given match. "This is a great problem for me," Mista said. "I need the strikers to score goals; we know Brian's a good player who knows perfectly our game, he just needs more minutes because he has a problem in his shoulder. Now he's back to 90, 95%, and last game he showed everyone what he had, and with Uche, Brian and Malcolm they give me a lot of possibilities up top."​


Forge FC wins: 2 || Atlético Ottawa: 0 || Draws: 0

Previous match:

August 8, 2021 — Forge FC 2-0 Atlético Ottawa


"(Atlético Ottawa are) a team that knows what they want on the field, and they have a clear identity of how they go about the game, how they play, and I think that's important for a team in the long run." — Forge FC head coach Bobby Smyrniotis

"It's everything, the mentality... We need to keep the mentality for 90, 95 minutes because it doesn't matter in the game you can lose, you can draw, you can win, but we need to be Atlético Ottawa for 95 minutes." — Atlético Ottawa coach Mista

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