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This article was published 15/5/2019 (375 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
On paper, Hamilton's Forge FC is considered by many to be one of the strongest teams in the Canadian Premier League.
But heading into tonight's 7 p.m. match at IG Field against Valour FC, Forge has a 1-2-1 record. Forge's latest disappointing result came on Sunday, with Calgary’s Cavalry FC scoring in the 95th minute to steal a 2-1 victory.
Regardless of the standings, Valour head coach and general manager Rob Gale knows Forge will be a big challenge for his club.
"They should rightly be considered the front-runners," Gale said before a rainy training session at IG Field on Wednesday. "I think (Forge head coach) Bobby (Smyrniotis) will be sitting there wondering how he's on four points, as well. If you've watched the games, they've done well, they've created chances and had a couple of sucker-punches against them. So, it will be a good test."
Forge is led by forward Kadell Thomas, the only player in the CPL with two goals, 20-year-old midfielder Tristan Borges, who’s quickly making a name for himself in the CPL, and captain Kyle Bekker, who's expected to return to the midfield after missing the last two games due to a suspension. Similar to Valour, they're a team that likes to control the possession and move the ball quickly.
Valour midfielder Louis Beland-Goyette said he's noticed similarities between the two teams on film and he expects Forge to be eager to bounce back from their frustrating result against Cavalry.
"Very hungry team. I know they know they have qualities. They’re not where they want to be in the league," Beland-Goyette said.
"Knowing that we’re maybe a similar team to them, it’s going to be a clash of who wants to be the better team. Right now, we’re being compared a lot. But then tomorrow, we might not be compared after that. Because if we win, we’ll maybe be on top of them and if they win, maybe they’ll be the possession team that can win. I think it’s going to be a clash to prove who’s the best team in that discussion of who’s been the best team in terms of style."
In order to come out on the winning end, Valour will have to be better at converting their scoring chances. Valour, who are coming off of a 1-0 win over HFX Wanderers FC on Saturday to improve to 2-2, has four goals in four games.
Are they due for a breakout performance?
"Let's hope so. I hope we're due for it every home game," Gale said.
"We know we've got talented footballers all over the park. We know we're going to create chances. We've got to become that team that converts them. Otherwise we're Arsenal. We don't want to be the team that finishes just outside the top pack. We want to be the team that's top of the heap. So, you've got to put those chances away. We've got players that are more than capable of it, and they've addressed it individually and some are in little funks or not quite sharp for whatever reasons. But it'll come. The worrying bit would be if you don't create the chances."
Valour will head into the match without some of their key veterans, as 34-year-old Croatian midfielder Josip Golubar will miss a second straight game and is expected to be out of action for a while with a knee injury and defender Adam Mitter is out with a dislocated shoulder, and injury he suffered against the HFX Wanderers.
A veteran that isn't known to be injured, but hasn't been seeing as much playing time lately is English forward Stephen Hoyle. He scored the team's first goal in franchise history and has been a proven goal scorer throughout his career, but he hasn't played in the last two games.
"We had a good chat with Steve," Gale said. "He's a thinker. He's a careful player. It's difficult coming halfway around the world, new team, coming off the back of a season whereas others are coming in fresh. So he's had to adjust to that and life and his girlfriend's here now and he's starting to feel more settled, and you can see little signs in him in training, that he's starting to rebound and getting to what we know he's capable of. He's been a goal scorer. If you look at his last three seasons, I think he's got like 37 goals in 51 games. So when he's ready and he'll get more opportunities, then we hope he's ready to take them. None of us are worried about where he's at."
Tonight's game will be Valour's fifth match in 16 days. They'll have a two-week break afterwards, with their next game June 1 on the road against FC Edmonton. But for now, Valour isn't focused on what they'll be doing during their time off. Instead, they're more concerned with getting a second straight win in front of their home crowd. More than 15,000 fans have come to IG Field to cheer on Winnipeg's newest professional soccer team in their first two home games and the players have taken notice.
"Being in a new league, a new city, I really didn’t know what to expect," said Beland-Goyette, who spent the last three seasons playing in the MLS with the Montreal Impact, on the fan support.
"I came in a bit late in pre-season and I heard a little bit about them. When I stepped on the field for the first game, I was really impressed. I said in an interview I was really surprised with how they’d react to the game. I’ve been in MLS and a lot of cities. Not every stadium has fans that react to every play that goes on the field and every referee decision. I’m proud to play in front of people that know football, know soccer like that. I’m very proud to play for this team."
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.
Updated on Wednesday, May 15, 2019 at 8:37 PM CDT: Adds photo.