Preview: Forge FC vs. Atlético Ottawa - Match #92
Forge FC and Atlético Ottawa will close their rather one-sided season series on Saturday at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton.
The all-Ontario clash is set to see last vs. could-be first as the CPL rounds to its homestretch and this five-match regular-season series finds its finale.
Ottawa arrives in Hamilton after taking the better half of one of CPL's most entertaining matches in recent memory - a 4-3 thriller at FC Edmonton. Brian Wright, Ben McKendry, and Alberto Soto found the net for a last-place Ottleti side, grabbing their fifth win on the season and drawing within striking distance of the Eddies in the dreaded wooden spoon race. Wednesday saw Mista deploy a new three-at-the-back system that saw his team earn a draw away to York United the following weekend.
"We're a more mature team now and I think everyone has shown that on the field," Mista said before the match in Hamilton.
Forge, meanwhile, also returns home after a western road swing, though their 3-1 loss to Valour FC was not as exciting for Bobby Smyrniotis' group who succumbed to Winnipeg's pacy, vertical attacks. It was the first match this season where Forge's defence coughed up three goals, something attributable to their current road trip (having gone from Halifax at midweek to Manitoba) and a matchload that's set to become even busier, starting with an all-important Concacaf League quarterfinal against Costa Rican side Santos on Tuesday.
"A fourth game on the road - it was a flat game for us and the guys knew that," Smyrniotis said before the Ottawa match. "One thing I know about this league is anyone can beat anyone. We just need to make sure we're doing our best and keep our effort high."
Hamilton could take joint spot in the CPL standings for the first time on the season with a win, leapfrogging Pacific FC and drawing level with Cavalry FC in the process.
Make your match picks prior to kickoff atÂ canpl.ca/predictorÂ for a chance to win prizes, including the grand prize of a trip to the 2021 CPL Final!
All CPL matches are available to stream onÂ OneSoccer, or on TELUS Optik TV Channel 980.
3 THINGS TO WATCH:
Can Ottawa get one past Forge: Ottawa has, uh, not had the best run against Hamilton in CPL play, taking four losses by a combined score of 10-0 this season - most recent being a 3-0 defeat at home two weeks ago. Mista's side has also never scored against Forge, dating back to a 2-0 loss at last Summer's Island Games. Hamilton should be wary, though, as a recent string of CPL upsets - including the one they succumbed to away to Valour - should put every team's tail up. "[The Valour game showed us] the banana peel can be very large sometimes in this league," Smyrniotis added.
Forge thirst for momentum as Concacaf League nears: As mentioned, Forge supporters, and potentially players, will have one eye on their midweek clash with Costa Rican side Santos in Concacaf League. A win would ensure a berth in the 2022 Concacaf Champions League - something Hamilton has come close to doing on several occasions in their short history. Smyrniotis says the club will be heading down to Costa Rica on Monday and while you may consider Forge to take best-vs-worst tilt lightly, the Hamilton gaffer seems to have no plans in doing so: "Momentum and winning games are very important, that does a great deal for our squad," Smyniotis recalled, referring to a strategy of play-your-best executed over the seasons in Concacaf League and, most recently, when they beat top-ranked Pacific FC with a strong lineup only to take down Panama's Independiente days later. "We're gonna have our best foot forward with a lineup we think tactically gets us that match and then we move on to the next one... That's something we've learned to do over the years."Winger Chris Nanco is set to miss Saturday's match due to suspension.
Ottawa finding stride in back-five: Now, it's hard to say defensive tactics were effective in a match where Ottawa gave up three goals on 21 shots, but Mista's new back-five formation was enough to give them a 4-1 advantage before the hour mark and the result Wednesday against FC Edmonton. It was the first time in club history Ottawa managed to score four goals in a match and, according to Centre Circle Data, posted their highest expected goals in club history as well, though two penalties surely helped that. Mista revealed the switch came after his coaching staff analyzed previous matches, saying the goal was simple: Find the best way to attack while being comfortable in defence."We needed to change something - we played well in the past four or five games but we weren't good enough at the back," Mista said. "In this shape, the fullbacks can adjust better because they have more space to incorporate into the attack while our wingers, like Ryan Telfer and Antoine Coupland, tuck into the middle and play well there." This defensive shape, which looks like a 5-4-1 without the ball, could prove valuable on a Forge side likely to play with plenty of the ball on their home ground.
Forge FC wins: 5 || Atlético Ottawa wins:Â 0 || Draws: 0
Oct. 3, 2021 - Atlético Ottawa 0-3 Forge FC
"Everyone except Viti Martinez and Brandon John is available against Hamilton - I'm happy because we can use all of our players and, while we only have four games left, we can show everyone the quality these guys have." -Â Atlético Ottawa head coach Mista
"Ottawa has done things very well recently, they're a compact team and they're going to have no fear tomorrow... But, that being said, we've got maximum points against them and no goals against so we'd like to keep it that way after tomorrow." - Forge FC Bobby Smyrniotis
October 15, 2021
Canadian Premier League
Atlético Ottawa Canadian Premier League Forge FC
2021 CPL regular season - Match #92
Forge FC vs.Â Atlético Ottawa
October 16, 2021 at 3:30 pm ET
Tim Hortons Field, Hamilton, Ont.
Watch Live:Â OneSoccer.caÂ & TELUS Ch. 980
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