Just two weeks into the Canadian Premier League’s fourth season, one thing is clear. The talent on the football pitch, from both a playing, and tactical perspective is extraordinarily high. So much so, that much of the punditry and commentary surrounding second-place Atletico Ottawa has continuously failed to truly nail down Gonzalez’s complex team shape in and out of possession. So much so, that Pacific FC are pulling off attacking rotations that most teams wouldn’t dare to try. As the league now heads into its third set of matches, optimism and attention over the league has never been higher. So with that, we take a tactical glance at each and every match in week three. Next up it’s two more teams that are yet to achieve their first win of the season, with Forge FC taking on FC Edmonton. Here is our analysis!
FORGE FC VS. FC EDMONTON
Forge FC started off the season with a difficult schedule, facing off against two teams with top reputations for what they’ve accomplished in the league over the past few years – Cavalry and Pacific. But let’s face it. With Edmonton putting up powerful defensive displays in both of their matches, this one is not going to be any easier for Smyrniotis’ side. In fact, Saturday’s match promises to be an exhilarating encounter, with the team accumulating the most possession in the league so far (62%), going up against the team with the least amount of possession so far (38%). Is it fate that those numbers balance each other out perfectly? Perhaps.
Forge can be expected to dominate the lion’s share of the possession, as Edmonton sit back and defend in a 5-4-1. The key will then be about how they break down central areas closer to goal, and optimizing the right moments to strike from distance as opposed to keeping the ball and working a different angle. On opening day, Valour couldn’t find a way through central areas against the Eddies, striking from distance rather than risking the biscuit and advancing closer to goal. York on the other hand found mechanisms for disrupting Edmonton’s defensive approach, through positional rotations that pulled centre-backs out of line. Either way, both goals scored against Alan Koch’s team so far have come from outside of the box. Fortunately for Forge, they scored two worldies last Saturday, and certainly have the talent to find the target from range. We all know the long range exuberance Kyle Bekker and Tristan Borges possess, and both David Choiniere and Alessandro Hojabrpour have already proven themselves capable this season. They just need to be intentional and intelligent with when they take those moments on.
Simultaneously, Forge should look to break down the wide areas, and will benefit massively from playing the same 4-3-3 formation they operated in on opening day. Not only will this shape help the Hammers overload central areas, but it will excellently establish overloads that can be created out wide. With a winger and fullback bombing down the wing together, Edmonton won’t be able to cope with the pace and power out wide, and Forge will be able to generate chances into the box for the likes of Campbell, Pacius and Hojabrpour to finish. Persisting with the narrow 3-4-1-2 formation they operated in against Cavalry could only stunt their ability to progress out wide. This becomes even more so the case when they will likely be unable to use much of the same tactical concoctions they created against Cavalry.
For example, Cavalry play with a much higher line than Edmonton, and practically make it their identity to leave space in behind Daan Klomp for Karifa Yao to sweep up (seemingly so at least). Edmonton’s ability to soak up the pressure and easily tame vertical long-balls will mean that the Hammers won’t be able to use Terran Campbell’s bruising and bullying channel running to the same extent. They’ll need to find alternative approaches, and returning to an emphasis on width should be a top priority. If they want to find mechanisms for progressing through the middle, taking on the York approach of interchanges and intentional movement patterns will be one such way – especially with Edmonton’s incessant desire to step out of line to track runners moving in deep. In a 3-4-1-2 formation, the one massive advantage would be their ability to rotate between attacking midfielder and two strikers, as they seek space in behind Edmonton’s sturdy midfield line. Having that versatility in personnel, shape and playing style gives Smyrniotis a range of options going into the match, which should prove to be a positive as Forge tweak their team based on the evolution of the match.
Edmonton meanwhile can go into the match knowing that the pressure will be on Forge to bring the match to the Eddies, rather than vice versa. Edmonton are perfectly happy to sit back in their 5-4-1, which can even become a 5-5-0 as Julian Ulbricht lowers himself in the team’s low-block. Within that defensive structure, Forge loanee Cale Loughrey is integral to the organization. The 20-year-old defender has enjoyed a fantastic start to the season, and will be doing everything in his power to ensure the likes of Campbell and Woobens Pacius remain quiet. If he’s careful in choosing his moments to step out of line and track runners, Edmonton’s defensive solidity will remain in-tact.
But potentially without Shamit Shome, the Eddies could be missing an integral piece to their puzzle. York’s goal last Friday only arrived after the captain came off injured, and this could be a bad omen for Alan Koch’s team without the defensive solidity of the 23-year-old. If Forge’s left full-back or left-wing-back frequently venture high up the pitch, Tobias Warschewski will need to be diligent in tracking back, particularly given Timoteo’s slightly lower defensive ability than Simmons on the other side. The York loanee possesses a tireless work ethic off the ball, but he couldn’t get a grip of Diyaeddine Abzi’s movement up the pitch last time out, causing Edmonton problems all evening.
Crucially, the Eddies should continue to search for Warschewski and Ulbricht in transitional moments, utilizing their physicality and strength to hold up the play and bring their silky dribblers like Gabriel Bitar and Azriel Gonzalez to the party later on. Forge’s back-line can hold their own when it comes to physicality and a defensive duel, but Warschewski and Ulbricht are different animals and could cause a threat to Smyrniotis’ side if Alan Koch plays his cards correctly.
Out from the back, Edmonton also need to find moments where they can get a grip on the game and take back some level of control. Luke Singh’s composure and presence should help to fasten those seat belts and provide solidity, even despite the over-arching ideologies of progressing quickly through the thirds. Singh has already showcased excellent passing range, and if he correctly picks out moments to be progressive, or even carry the ball forward, Edmonton will have a far greater chance of scoring goals. In fact, Singh played an instrumental role in both of Edmonton’s goals this season. On Warschewski’s crazy bicycle kick, the Toronto FC loanee pumped the ball into the corner for Timoteo to hunt down prior to the assist. On Kacher’s goal last week, he spread the ball progressively into the wide area for Terique Mohammed to cross. The 20-year-old understands how and when to surprise with his passing choices, often taking his touch in the opposite direction from where he’s about to pass.
This is something simple on paper, but incredibly effective in fooling the opposition every single time without fail. If Edmonton’s progressive players like Luke Singh, Azriel Gonzalez, Gabriel Bitar and Tobias Warschewski can find themselves on the ball and take control, they’ll have every chance of achieving another 1-1 draw, or perhaps, even better.
But even if the Eddies sit back and defend for nearly 70% of the match, there is every chance that they can hold strong, force shots from less than ideal positions, and achieve another positive result. It’s all about timing.
So there it is! Our quick-take tactical analysis of the upcoming match between Edmonton and Forge in the Canadian Premier League. Be sure to check out more of our CPL articles, and don’t forget to check back in a few days time for the remaining previews. Also be sure to follow on social media to never miss an update @mastermindsite! Thanks for reading and see you soon!
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