While it wasn’t the most explosive semi-final match inside the CPL Playoffs, Forge and Cavalry met for an intriguing tactical battle of wits inside the semi-final first leg, settling for a 1-1 draw. Here is our match analysis of the first-leg encounter between Cavalry and Forge, and the improvements both teams may look to make ahead of the second-leg.
Cavalry set up in their favoured 4-2-3-1 shape, using Roberto Alarcon as an up-and-down winger in front of Daan Klomp. Jose Escalante meanwhile featured as an up-and-down left-back, nicely adapting his position to accommodate the movement of Mikaël Cantave. As Cantave drifted inside, Escalante found room up the left wing to cross. But he could also invert himself, allowing the Haitian forward to remain wide instead. Rama and Choinière had a difficult time contending with these wide rotations, but the right-side is where Cavalry had even more success.
On the day, Daan Klomp was everything that I would have wanted Rezart Rama to be going the other way. He consistently sought space in the attacking half in combination with Roberto Alarcon and Ali Musse, as the Cavs consistently found third-man runners in space through these overloads.
As expected, Klomp also took part in a 3+1 build, where he hung significantly lower than Escalante on the other side. The Cavs only had 38% of the possession on the day, but they looked dangerous and free-flowing whenever they had the ball.
They could then use their limited possession to spring forward immediately on the break, where they were fantastic in exploiting the space behind Ashtone Morgan in transition, nicely finding a way to take advantage of the left-back’s high position in attack.
Roberto Alarcon’s flamboyant attack down the right was a warning sign for the Hammers before Henry saved the day, and eventually the space was found yet again prior to Cavalry’s opening goal.
Ali Musse’s beautiful pass into space was met by Joe Mason, and Daan Klomp ran back to front in seconds to head the ball into the back of the net. In the second leg, one of two things will need to happen for Forge. Either they need to find a way to cover for Morgan’s high position in attack by adjusting Bekker or Hojabrpour; or they need to change tactics altogether, such as adopting a back-three or restricting the fullback’s movement forward. Keeping Bekker or Hojabrpour in that left-half-space may be the easiest option for the continuity of the team, as they simultaneously work to deliver from deep in possession. But on the day, Cavalry were excellent in exploiting this space, pulling Malik Owolabi-Belewu out of position, and allowing players to run into the space vacated in behind.
Forge built out from the back in their 3+2 shape, using Rezart Rama lower in most phases of the game than Ashtone Morgan. Despite keeping 62% of the possession, the Hammers struggled to find the right ways to advance through the thirds and engage Woobens Pacius. The limited involvement of Pacius is nothing new for the team, and normally the likes of Tristan Borges and David Choinière buzz around looking to exploit the half-spaces and help to create wide overloads. But in the first half in particular, the likes of Bekker and Jönsson were uncharacteristically wasteful with the ball at their feet. They persistently played hopeful passes that not only didn’t come off, but were sent into spaces where not a single Forge player prepared to roam. Jönsson completed just 75% of his passes on the day, in what has to be one of his lowest ever tallies in a Forge FC shirt.
This was partially a byproduct of the way Cavalry sat back in their 4-4-1-1 shape, completely letting the Forge defenders have the ball, and enticing them to play these longer balls over the top with nothing else on. But more movement and variety could have been injected to encourage better passing angles, such as truly taking advantage of Morgan’s high position by shifting Borges inside. Yao, Trafford and Klomp are already going to win the majority of headers up against Pacius, so long passes or even crosses into his path were not always going to be fruitful anyway.
On the other hand, Hojabrpour’s scanning of the field was excellent as he dropped into various spaces to pick up the ball and play forward, and he had an enjoyable evening in dribbling forward and playing long passes into space. He nicely covered the width of the field to combine with David Choinière in particular, playing a beautiful through pass into his right winger for one of the best chances on the night.
Hojabrpour was one of the saving graces in an otherwise disappointing Forge performance, wonderfully operating in his role as the ‘Deep-Lying-Playmaker’. The 22-year-old may just need to be more aware of his surroundings in defensive transitions if he is to be the one required in covering for Morgan. But that’s also up to the instruction of the coach, and perhaps Malik Owolabi-Belewu was supposed to shift across instead.
Nevertheless, when you have Kyle Bekker’s brilliance from a dead-ball, you’re always likely to score. Forge have made a habit of scoring goals from set-pieces lately, thanks to the dedicated work on the training pitch, and Bekker’s perfectly whipped in ball gave Marco Carducci no chance of being able to claim the punch. Pacius finally won the aerial battle within Cavalry’s zonal marking, and levelled the score.
Heading into the second-leg, both teams will seek improvements in possession. Cavalry may want to claim more of the ball in the second leg to take the game to Forge, and create more moments involving those nice wide overloads. If Wheeldon Jr. wants his team to sit back and let Forge have the ball, they will need to continue to exploit Forge in transition, even if the Hammers adapt to Morgan’s high-position.
Forge meanwhile will need to ensure they are making the right passes rather than hopeful ones, reigning in those high-risk passes into no-man’s land. They will also need to change tactics to stop Cavalry from exploiting their left-side in transition, including ensuring one of Bekker or Hojabrpour stays back and covers the area of the field when necessary. I personally wouldn’t change personnel from either side heading into the second leg, but just adapt to how certain players are being used, in the attempt to get the best out of their performance.
This may mean Tristan Borges takes up more of a central role in the second-leg as Morgan truly gallops on the overlap down the left wing, opening up more spaces for the Hammers to play through the centre and into Pacius. It’s still all to play for in the second leg, and both teams will feel like they have the upper-hand heading into next Sunday.
So there it is! A match analysis of Cavalry’s 1-1 draw with Forge in the first semi-final match-up of the 2022 CPL Playoffs. Be sure to check out more of our CANPL content, and follow on social media @mastermindsite and @desmondrhys. Thanks for reading and see you soon! 👊⚽
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