After a couple of disappointing results to start the season, Forge found their flow in Week 3, achieving a comfortable 3-0 win over FC Edmonton’s stern defense. Not only did Forge live up to expectation from a performance perspective, but also from a tactical one. Bobby Smyrniotis changed shape away from the 3-4-1-2 / 3-4-3 formation utilized against Cavalry back to his favoured 4-3-3, only to reconstruct their ideologies in the second half to better take advantage of the wide areas. Here is our analysis of Forge’s commanding 3-0 victory over FC Edmonton.
FORGE FC – 4-3-3
Forge started the match in a 4-3-3, initially using Aboubacar Sissoko as a third member of their circulation out from the back, and then urging him on up the pitch as the match wore on. Kwasi Poku and Sissoko stretched the width to cause chaos to Edmonton’s defensive structures, with Tristan Borges and David Choiniere acting as inverted wingers as they roamed ahead of Edmonton’s defensive line. Many of their best moments of the first half came alongside incisive movement down the line from the likes of Choiniere and Campbell receiving in space, pulling defenders with them, and then reversing the ball to the other as the gaps widened. But the Hammers struggled to adequately progress down the wings as much as they would have liked in the first half, with Warschewski and Kacher doing their part to step on Forge’s midfielders and cut out their diagonal passing attempts. But more positively, Smyrniotis’ side completely dominated the half-spaces, particularly through rotations and positional play that pulled Edmonton’s defensive structures apart.
Kyle Bekker repeatedly sought space to the left of Garven Metusala to widen the left overload with Poku and Borges, even at times advancing beyond the left winger to open space for Choiniere or Borges (who switched sides after the opening goal) to drive inside. On Forge’s brilliant second goal, that’s exactly what the former TFC man did as he sprinted down the line, giving Choiniere a second of space to advance into, before playing a magnificent through ball to the rampaging Terran Campbell. The 23-year-old striker then unselfishly slid the ball across the line for Tristan Borges to tap in, with Edmonton looking completely out of sorts.
In the second half, Smyrniotis recognized the space Koch’s men were giving his team out from the back, and positioned Achinioti-Jönsson as a third centre-back, pulling the strings alongside Dom Samuel to advance the team up the pitch. This allowed Poku and Sissoko to stay firmly in the wide areas, where Borges and Choiniere continued to roam as inverted wingers inside. Hojabrpour and Bekker worked well as a holding duo in front of the back-three as the team adopted a 3+2 build-up, and Samuel had more direct lines to be progressive with his passing straight into the half-spaces for the inverted winger on his side. The change in formation to 3-4-2-1, accompanied by a switch of side for Samuel and Metusala, allowed the 27-year-old defender two key advantages. First, it positioned Forge’s most robust defender closer to Warschewski – Edmonton’s first outlet in transition. Samuel won two fouls off of some fantastic defensive play against the German forward, and the 24-year-old struggled to make his mark on the second half before ultimately finding himself replaced.
But more importantly for Samuel and Forge, it allowed the former Sigma man more room to drive forward and spray progressive passes, knowing Achinioti-Jönsson was well positioned to sweep in behind. Samuel could then adopt not only more advanced positions, but a wider position to receive, allowing Forge to stretch the field against Edmonton’s compactness. As the Hammers amplified their control and boosted their possession toward 70%, Achinioti-Jönsson could then utilize his long passing range (3/3 accurate long passes on the day), and find Sissoko down the right. Chris Nanco played a massive part in the win following his introduction, linking up nicely with Sissoko down the line and using his pace to completely undo Edmonton as they tired.
Nanco’s clever back-heel following Jönsson’s long-pass into space allowed Sissoko and Hojabrpour to play another clever one-two, eventually opening space for Sissoko to play an incisive pass toward the poacher that is Terran Campbell for the third. But Nanco continued to look lively as the match wore on, creating more chances that Woobens Pacius should have buried, as Forge dreamt of a fourth.
Before moving onto Edmonton, Forge also deserve massive credit for what they accomplished from a defensive perspective, particularly after conceding twice in both of their previous matches. Aboubacar Sissoko won the vast majority of his 1v1 duels to completely tame one of Edmonton’s greatest threats in Marcus Simmons. Dom Samuel excellently swept in behind the back-line to clean up any messes. Achinioti-Jönsson again always found himself in the right place to make an interception or perfectly time a tackle (again 100% at 2/2).
Even high up the pitch, Forge limited Edmonton’s attempts to be progressive, pressing the likes of Luke Singh to stop the defender from having time to get his head up and spray diagonals. Moving forward, this has to be the way Forge play every single game. Campbell should start through the middle as a clear focal point to their attack, whilst still utilizing his ability to seek space in the channels and create chances from out to in. If Smyrniotis then sees something worth changing, it’s amazing to know that Achinioti-Jönsson can swap into the back-line so seamlessly, pushing other players ahead to create new mechanisms for magic. All and all, Forge pulled off the most commanding performance we’ve seen from any team so far this season, and could have won the game by a significantly higher score-line than just 3-0.
FC EDMONTON – 4-1-4-1
So now let’s talk about Edmonton. The Eddies struggled to get going in the match due to Forge’s dominance, but weren’t their normally resilient defensive selves. One contributing factor has to be the injury to Shamit Shome picked up on Jordan Wilson’s horror tackle in the previous match against York. Simon Triantafillou had the most difficult time on the pitch than anyone else, failing to adequately cover the holes in between the lines that saw Choiniere and Borges rip apart Edmonton’s left-half-space. Foolishly, he also gave away the penalty for the opening goal, booting Metusala in the face. But from a tactical perspective, Alan Koch also made a change worth discussing. Cale Loughrey, who had been excellent as the libero in the back-three for two matches in a row, played this one as a defensive midfielder, firmly ahead of the centre-backs.
We can only imagine that Koch must have envisioned Forge playing the same formation they utilized last time out, a 3-4-3 with a ‘number ten’ playing in the central role (as sort of a 3-4-1-2, even though that never really took form). In playing Loughrey as a defensive midfielder, he’d have more control over Forge’s attempts to penetrate through the centre (which Forge don’t generally look to do), and a clear man-marker for their supposed attacking midfielder. So quite smartly, Forge completely combatted that by constantly receiving on either side of him (in the half-spaces with their inverted wingers). They then advanced closer toward the penalty area through incisive passing and movement, where a third centre-back desperately would have helped situations like the Hammers’ second goal.
In our Forge FC vs. FC Edmonton – Tactical Preview, we discussed at length how the likes of Campbell and Choiniere needed to take advantage of moments where one of Edmonton’s centre-backs stepped out of position. But Alan Koch solved that riddle for Forge all on his own, positioning one of his key centre-backs out of position. Around the 57th minute, Koch tweaked his team through adding Wesley Timoteo and Azriel Gonzalez, going back to the 5-4-1 formation that served them so well in both of their previous fixtures.
Although the day could be seen as a disaster, Edmonton can still look on the bright side and take away a sprinkling of positives from their performance. Luke Singh had a particularly strong first half against the Hammers, consistently selecting his moments to step out of line and challenge to perfection. Gabriel Bitar also danced his way around one of the best midfield trios in the league, switching play, overloading the left, and wiggling his way out of trouble for fun. Then you have Cale Loughrey, who had a relatively woeful time defending in a new position, but looked much more assured again upon returning to centre-back. At the very least, this showcase why Koch should stick by what he knows best, and persist with a more defensively minded 5-4-1. That said, without Shamit Shome, the gaps in midfield and the balance alongside Bitar need to be sorted out ahead of a clash against Pacific. Knowing Manny Aparicio’s exceptional ability to time his runs forward, in addition to the way of Alejandro Diaz magnificently drops to pick up possession and then switch play on a dime, Edmonton need to find the right balance before Wednesday night.
For Smyrniotis’ team, Forge can celebrate their first win of the season as they move into third, with one of their bitterest rivals in Cavalry rooted to the bottom.
PLAYER RATINGS – FORGE FC
As a result of achieving the most commanding win of the season, every Forge player inside the starting eleven ranks above a 7.0, for only the second time (York achieved the first on Friday night v. Cavalry). Dom Samuel and Aboubacar Sissoko stood out for what they achieved in all phases of the game, but particularly the defensive side where they completely commanded and shepherded their 1v1 duels away. Terran Campbell impressed with a man of the match performance with his two goals, but perfectly stuck to task in exploiting the half-spaces and moving wide to allow others to seek space inside. A brilliant team performance all ends up, and one that Smyrniotis’ side can be immensely proud of.
PLAYER RATINGS – fc EDMONTON
Gabriel Bitar and Luke Singh were the only major bright spots on the day for Edmonton, and even Singh had his susceptible moments from a defensive perspective. Loughrey lurched his way out of position without a clear concept as to how to fulfill his newfound role, while Julian Ulbricht was virtually non-existent. Most traumatically, Simon Triantafillou floundered in midfield, never getting a grip of the half-spaces where Forge took full advantage. Alan Koch will be desperately hoping Shamit Shome is back for the next one, and should resort back to the 5-4-1 to better support his players.
So there it is! A tactical analysis of Forge’s commanding win over Edmonton, with Alan Koch making some crucial tactical missteps along the way and Smyrniotis showcasing his brilliance. Be sure to check out more of our Match Analyses, CANPL related articles, and our Player Rating system. Also be sure to follow on social media @desmondrhys and @mastermindsite to never miss an update. Thanks for reading and see you soon!
MORE INSIDE THE CANADIAN PREMIER LEAGUE…
Still only 21 years of age, Osaze has much to look forward to in an illustrious career surely set to come. So with that, we analyze the rising star, and assess his potential future for greatness in the sport. Here is our analysis.
At the start of the 2022 CANPL season, Woobens Pacius appeared to have lost his place at the top of Forge FC’s attack. The Hammers had brought in Pacific icon Terran Campbell, who had haunted Forge among many other Canadian Premier League teams en route to Pacific’s Playoff victory in 2021. But Forge’s attack didn’t fully click in the opening weeks of the season, and they struggled to find the right chemistry, particularly with Campbell’s desire to engage lower on the pitch and support the play. In came Woobens Pacius to restore faith to Forge’s fervid attack, and the Hammers immediately went on a stunning run of form.
After finishing bottom of the table in 2021, Carlos Gonzalez has come into Atletico Ottawa and completely transformed the team into one of the most resolute, remarkable teams in the Canadian Premier League. In just half the games, they’ve won more matches than they did in the whole of last season, conceding the second least amount of goals in the league. Along the way, they’ve played one of the most tactically fluid and fantastical styles of football in the division, adamantly changing formation and player roles between the phases. Here is our tactical analysis of Atletico Ottawa’s rise under Carlos Gonzalez.