Canadian Premier League: Forge FC lose on East Coast trip

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Halifax, Nova Scotia (May 6, 2019) — It was a cold day in Halifax as Forge FC prepared for their first away game. After last Saturday’s Canadian Premier League inaugural match, head coach Bobby Smyrniotis was looking for a strong performance from his side.

In their last action, they only managed a draw against York 9 FC. HFX Wanderers FC were opening the Wanderers Grounds for the Canadian Premier League season. A loud sellout crowd were on hand to cheer for East Coast soccer.

Bekker Retains his Place

After a poor performance in the first game, Forge FC captain Kyle Bekker retained his place in the starting XI. Forge’s captain was involved in a controversial altercation in the middle stages of the match against York 9 FC, coming in hard and late on Joseph Di Chiara.

Bekker may still face supplemental discipline according to CanPL.ca editor Kurt Larson, but that process was not decided before the match. The Forge FC midfielder was able to take the field with the armband yet again. Through the first half he showed more of the player that Canadian Premier League fans were expecting when he signed.

He created a number of good chances in the first half. Daniel Krutzen had a smart shot saved off a corner and Bekker’s long distribution saw speedy players like Chris Nanco and Kadell Thomas get in behind the Halifax backline. Fortunately for Wanderers, fullback Ndzemdzela Langwa’s pace proved equal to the task. 

Bekker had a gorgeous free kick go off the top of the crossbar early in the second half and his distribution finally proved key in the 57th minute. A smartly weighted pass sent Kwame Awuah in behind the Wanderers defense. The left fullback’s cross found Kadell Thomas, who slid the ball past Jan-Michael Williams for his second goal in as many matches. 

Iida has Definitely “Got Game”

Kodai Iida got his first start for HFX Wanderers in this match. The Japanese midfielder entered the league through the ‘Got Game?’ open trials, catching the eye of former Canada Men’s National Team and current Wanderers head coach Stephen Hart.

Hart took a chance on the tricky attacker, who showed his quality all through the match. He earned and took the free kick that led to the first goal by Akeem Garcia, a ricocheting shot that fell kindly in the box.

After Iida left the field, HFX had a hard time keeping the ball up the pitch for any extended period of time. All through the match, Forge FC were dominant in possession, showing off the quick passing style that they established late in their home opener. The Hamilton club pressed hard to take the lead but defensive lapses again proved their undoing. Bertrand Owundi, former Minnesota United defender, headed a lofted pass down onto a platter for Luis Alberto Perea. The well-traveled Colombian slotted home smartly past Triston Henry and against the run of play Halifax took the lead. 

Forge FC Fail to Capitalize on Chances

Forge FC pressed to equalize but couldn’t make the most of their chances. Alexander Achinioti-Jönsson was in clean after some nice buildup play from Tristan Borges, but lost the ball in his feet. Borges had a great shot saved beautifully by Jan-Michael Williams, and several times the Forge FC buildup play was just lacking a finishing touch to put the ball in the net.

In the end, Stephen Hart’s game plan worked to perfection and his side earned their first three points. The home side sat deep and countered with the speed of Garcia and Mohamed Kourouma, capitalizing on Forge FC’s defensive lapses. 

Hart was quick to praise Forge FC as a “very good team.”

“They do some very polished things,” Hart said to reporters after the match.

With 6,200 fans on hand to witness the first HFX win, Wanderers ground looks to be a tough place to visit in this first Canadian Premier League Season.

Pacific FC in Hamilton Wednesday

For Forge FC, there’s little time to dwell on the loss. Pacific FC are in Hamilton on Wednesday and Smyrniotis’ side need to be better.

Pacific FC have had a similar stuttering start to the CPL season, winning their first match at home against HFX Wanderers before losing to Valour FC on May 1. The Victoria-based club have some good pieces, including former Vancouver Whitecaps academy player Kadin Chung and Canadian international Marcus Haber.

Although Haber has looked a little lackluster in his first two matches, the quality and pedigree are there. With time and service, he will score goals in this league. If Forge FC’s backline continue to look as vulnerable as they did in their first two matches, it should be a hard-fought game in Hamilton on Wednesday.

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