Atletico Ottawa 0-2 Forge FC – CPL Playoff Final – Match Analysis

The 2022 CPL season has officially come to an end, with a thrilling final between Atletico and Forge ending in another victory for the Hammers – their third CPL Playoff win in four years. Forge bamboozled Atletico Ottawa on the day, completely stunting their quick attacking transitions, while dominating the flow and possession of the match. Here is our tactical analysis of the final, and how Forge came out the other side as victors once more.

ATLETICO OTTAWA – 4-1-4-1

Atletico Ottawa lined up in the exact manner we predicted pre-match, starting Malcolm Shaw up top in place of Brian Wright, and keeping everything else as expected. Shaw tried to make his physical presence felt up against the two big boys at the back for Forge, but lost nearly all of his battles up against the defensively sound Alexander Achinioti-Jönsson and formidable Daniel Krutzen. This isn’t to say that it was the wrong call to start Shaw; and in fact, Brian Wright fared even worse upon entering the frame. But Ottleti simply couldn’t find an adequate route into their striker all evening, and Shaw completed just 9 passes without a single shot on the night.

Ballou Tabla again felt like the key threat for Gonzalez’s team, continuing to be the instant outlet in transition. There was even a period where Atletico were gaining some sense of an upper-hand after both David Choinière and Rezart Rama found themselves booked down the Forge right. This allowed Tabla, Tissot and Bahous to work in close quarters around the pair of them, with Rama afraid to get touch-tight to Tissot. Choinière continued to compact well, going 2v1 up against Tissot as he overlapped around Tabla and Bahous, but he and his teammates failed to create the right moments of magic in the final third. Ollie Bassett also found himself tamed by the Forge midfield, where his seven passes into the final third never found fluidity. Every time someone like Bassett or Tissot crossed the ball into the box, Daniel Krutzen and Achinioti-Jönsson would throw their bodies in the way, and clear the ball out of danger.

Perhaps most interestingly from a tactical perspective, Atletico pressed with force right from the front of their defense, throwing everything they could at the Hammers to stop Smyrniotis’ side from playing out from the back. They lined up with a front three press that involved Ollie Bassett from the right; and Forge immediately reacted by positioning their vic- captain as close as they could to Henry for that safe first pass. Achinioti-Jönsson couldn’t carry the ball up the field as he normally might, but he was excellent in breaking the press by either finding the gaps to play through the front three, or over top of their heads in finding a teammate in between the lines.

As the match wore on, Carlos Gonzalez threw on Keven Aleman to pull the strings from deep and push Ollie Bassett further up ahead. Unfortunately, this only widened the gap as Abdoul Sissoko advanced into the attack, and meant that Forge could then dynamically carry the ball up the pitch immediately upon regains. Hojabrpour had an excellent moment in breaking through the gap of Aleman and Bassett before the CPL Player of the Year took him down; and it was this kind of gap that allowed Garven Metusala to pull Maxim Tissot out of position and then play in David Choinière for the second goal of the game. They were then left with nothing but the deep crossing of Manuel Acosta as Ollie Bassett found himself substituted late on, and then couldn’t stop fouling the Forge through their over-aggressive approach. They wasted their own time with their incessant fouling toward the end of the game, ensuring Forge could run down the clock and continue to hold strong all the way to the final whistle.

FORGE FC – 4-3-3

Forge made just one change from their previous starting eleven – picking Noah Jensen as the man to replace Kyle Bekker in midfield. Jensen looked unbothered by the magnitude of the occasion as he sought space wide left to receive, channeling his inner Kyle Bekker in possession and helping to keep the Hammers on the move. In shifting left, Jensen made himself part of a 2-3-5 attacking trio inside the creation stage for the Forge, with Alessandro Hojabrpour sitting at the base of the midfield to dictate the tempo alongside Rezart Rama – tucking inside. But it was Krutzen and Achinioti-Jonsson who again made a stellar impact in progressing out from the back, and between that central trio of the centre-backs and Hojabrpour, Forge magnificently switched play right to left to catch Atletico’s low-block off-guard. They’ve had plenty of practice coming up against low-blocks all season as the team with the most possession in the league, and their practice paid dividends in taking moments to switch play, and find the likes of David Choiniere and Tristan Borges inside dangerous half-space positions.

Absolutely brilliant from back to front in controlling the tempo of the match, Forge also had a few scary moments of their own, including Rezart Rama picking up a typical Rezart Rama yellow-card. This easily could have ended badly for the Albanian in the final, and he didn’t want to get as touch-tight to Tissot and Tabla from that moment on. We saw how this effected his 1v1 battles against Jose Escalante in the semi-final against Cavalry, and Atletico Ottawa easily could have punished the Forge fullback in creating chances down his side. But to the credit of Bobby Smyrniotis, he stuck to his guns and continued to deploy Rama throughout the ninety, instead taking off Noah Jensen and throwing Garven Metusala into an unfamiliar central midfield role. Metusala’s energy immediately sparked new life in exploiting those Ottleti gaps, and that’s where he took control in finding David Choinière at the vital moment to finish off the chance, and finish off the game in the process.

To Forge’s credit, the 2+3 attacking shape that positioned Rama in close proximity to the initial regain also allowed them complete solidity in handling those defensive transitions. They worked tirelessly to immediately compact the field in numbers, and Smyrniotis’ side had clearly worked on this game-plan in training throughout the week. Ballou Tabla couldn’t find any room to exploit Forge on the break, and this ended up paying dividends on the day in limiting Ottleti to just a select few chances. Particularly key to that process was Alessandro Hojabrpour, who fully deserves a man-of-the-match award for his performance.

We’ve already spoken about Alexander Achinioti-Jönsson’s line-breaking out from the back and Krutzen’s magnificence in spraying passes around in the final third, but we also must give Alessandro Hojabrpour immense credit. He deserves credit not only for becoming the first player to score in back to back CPL finals, with Tristan Borges’ perfect whip finding his noggin for the opening goal. The defensive midfielder had another immaculate performance on the night, and played a pivotal part in Forge’s quick compaction amid Atletico’s attacking transitions. He was excellent in covering wide to help Rama and Choinière handle their defensive responsibilities, and always found himself in the right place to recover possession. The 22-year-old won 3/4 of his tackles on the day, and then made 14 passes into the final third going the other way to ensure Forge stayed in control. Hojabrpour and Choinière have formed something of a telepathic connection in these playoffs, and it paid off once again in helping the Hammers come out on top for the third time in four years.

conclusion

After a hard-fought season from both clubs, the Hamilton-based Forge FC came out as victors once more in the CPL final, over first-place finishers Atletico Ottawa. Carlos Gonzalez’s team never looked up for the big occasion, and Forge completely nullified their greatest asset by getting numbers around the ball in every transition. It was Forge who made the most of their moments in the attack instead, with Hojabrpour and Choinière again coming up clutch when it mattered most. The accomplishment from Forge to win three out of four finals is simply remarkable, and certainly puts all the pressure on every other CPL club heading into 2023.


So that’s it! We close out this wonderful CPL season and now look ahead to 2023, continuing on with our Scouting Database and more recruitment-based articles to help the CPL sides prepare for next season. 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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