Cavalry FC lined up in a lopsided formation that overloaded the right side. Nico Pasquotti was supported by Oliver Minatel, with Nik Ledgerwood, Jordan Brown, and Sergio Camargo all taking turns coming in and creating numerical advantages on Forge FC’s left flank. This made the right side the most dangerous side for both teams, as Cavalry built through their right wing, but left their left side vulnerable with Elijah Adekugbe being the only player to offer any sort of support to the left back, Nathan Mavila.
Still, it was Cavalry who held the impetus for most of the first half. With the numerical superiority on their right side they were able to overwhelm the defending champions both with and without the ball. Forge like to play from the back, but Cavalry were pressing high with numbers. When pressing intensely, you cannot have a numerical disadvantage or else the opposition will simply pass around you. With Cavalry focusing their attacks down the right wing, it meant that if they lost the ball they could immediately press back with all their players already in that area. One such play resulted in the corner that Dominick Zator scored.
Zator may have scored the opener, but he was not an attacking threat in open play. Often deployed as a centre back, Zator was playing as the right back for Cavalry but never really ventured forward to overlap. In fact, he was often in line with his centre backs when the Calgary side had the ball. Playing as a stay at home defender, his positioning allowed Pasquotti and the rest of the Cavalry attackers the freedom to combine high up the pitch.
As alluded to, this set up meant that Forge’s most dangerous attacks were against Cavalry’s left side. Mavila was tasked with holding down the entire flank himself, and while Marcel Zajac was unable to exploit the space his supporting full back, Jonathan Grant, was. Grant made multiple runs from deep, most notably on Forge’s equalizing goal, and was his team’s most dangerous outball.
In the second half, Tommy Wheeldon asked Brown to fortify the left side. When Brown came off it was Minatel who came over, and eventually Cavalry’s asymmetric shape flattened out. While this gave support to Mavila, it meant that Cavalry lost their impetus and Forge grew into the game. Mo Farsi came on, perhaps to provide a more natural wide player, and the key takeaway was that despite the overloads created on the right, Wheeldon felt that Forge’s potential to counter down the other side was too great not address. It makes sense in a vacuum to strengthen your weakest area, but in this case it came at the expense of neutering Wheeldon’s most fruitful avenue of attack.
The Forge right back was his team’s most dangerous attacker. Last season, Giuliano Frano would often tuck inside to add an extra midfielder. Grant is not that type of player, although left back Kwame Awuah can be. If teams press Forge FC high and take away the midfield area, Grant can prove to be a secondary attacking option for the defending champions.
Conversely, Cavalry’s right back was tasked with a very defensive role. His conservative positioning held Wheeldon’s lopsided shape together, and his versatility both in a back four and back three could be key for his team during The Island Games.
Bobby Smyrniotis has created a identity for his team, asking them to build from the back and through the midfield. What happens if teams can effectively press his side, creating turnovers and stifling attacks before they begin? Will he become reactive and direct, bypassing the midfield? Or will he bet on his team and ask his side to play through the press?
Will overloading the right wing be a staple of this team, or was it a specific plan for Forge FC? With Forge likely to be Cavalry’s biggest competition again this season, will Wheeldon be as reactive as he was in the second half against other sides?