PREVIEW: Forge FC vs. Vancouver FC — 2023 Match #21
Canadian Premier League

2023 CPL Regular Season — Match #21
Forge FC vs. Vancouver FC
May 19, 2023 at 7:00 pm ET/4:00 pm PT
Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton, Ontario
Watch Live: & TELUS Ch. 980 // Tickets available here

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In what will perhaps be their biggest challenge to date, expansion side Vancouver FC head to Hamilton on Friday to face three-time CPL champion, and current undefeated table toppers Forge FC.

The match comes less than a week after the worst defeat in the club’s short history, and the first time they have given up multiple goals, a 5-0 loss to Atlético Ottawa.

That match looks to have had a longer-term impact as well, unfortunately, as manager Ghotbi revealed that key player Kadin Chung will miss multiple weeks after a broken collar bone. Gabriel Bitar, meanwhile, who had to be removed in the first half against Atleti did not travel with the club to Hamilton, but should return next week. Defender Rocco Romeo, meanwhile, is serving the final match of his suspension.

“It is a daunting task for us, but it is a great challenge,” said Vancouver FC head coach Afshin Ghotbi. “I mean I welcome these challenges, I love these challenges, these are the challenges that define teams and define us as a club, and we are really looking forward to this challenge.”

Forge, meanwhile, are off to the best start to a CPL season in club history. They have 11 points through their first five games, the first time they have ever won three matches and gone undefeated in that span. In fact, last season Forge had just five points, and a single victory, through their first five matches.

They have already earned an impressive five points from losing positions so far in 2023. That included this past weekend, securing a 3-2 win over Valour FC at home despite allowing the opening goal.

One thing Forge will want to clean up at Tim Hortons Field, however, is their defensive record. Forge only allowed opponents to score multiple goals in a match at Tim Hortons Field twice all of last year, a mark they have already matched in 2023.  They have allowed an uncharacteristic five goals in their three home matches in CPL action so far this season, which is tied with York United for second worst in the league.

The number five has significance for Vancouver FC as well. It is the number of points they have put up so far this season, in a start to the year that was impressive for the expansion side before they allowed five goals at home to Atlético Ottawa, a result that dropped them to fifth in the table.

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  • Can Vancouver FC regain defensive stability against the CPL’s most ruthless side: Prior to this past weekend, Vancouver FC hadn’t conceded more than a single goal in any of their previous five matches in all competitions. That number was doubled in one 5-0 loss to Atlético Ottawa last weekend. With key defender Rocco Romeo out due to suspension, Afshin Ghotbi chose to play converted attacker Mamadou Kane as a centreback in replacement. While Kane had some bright moments, should Ghotbi start him again expect Forge to consistently challenge the 19-year-old. It is what they did last week to converted Valour midfielder to fullback Matteo de Brienne, and pretty much anyone on the opposition who plays a new role. Whether Ghotbi tries Kane again, or another option, getting back to the defensive solidity and organization that has defined this team since the start will be critical to Friday’s performance. Perhaps playing on the road, against a side who will be expected to dominate and create the tempo of the match, and little pressure, could be a recipe for Vancouver’s regroup at the back.
  • A new tactical challenge for both sides: In an eight-team league, truly new challenges can often be rare. While there are unique complexities in trying to best the same club multiple times a season, and over the course of multiple seasons, playing expansion side Vancouver FC for the first time ever will give Bobby Smyrniotis and his side a truly new opponent to test themselves against. “They are a well-structured team, a team that takes their opportunities in the games,” Forge FC head coach Bobby Smyrniotis told media prior to the match. “They’ve been very good in those matches. New players, a lot of new players that maybe we haven’t seen in the league compared to some of the other teams so I think that’s something interesting for us, and I’m looking forward to it”. For Vancouver, this might prove to be their trickiest tactical matchup yet, against perhaps the league’s deepest side who are capable of shifting their tactics multiple times a game in order to exploit perceived weaknesses in the opposition.
  • Forge not planning too far in advance, despite massive CanChamp match midweek: Despite unquestionably the biggest match of their season so far coming up midweek against CF Montréal in the Canadian Championship semi-finals, don’t expect Forge to make any significant changes to their lineup or approach against Vancouver. That is because, according to coach Bobby Smyrniotis, form and fitness are moving targets, and he wants all the information he can get before making his tactical and personnel decisions going into any given match. “It is something that we assess each and every game, we don’t try to put a lot of thought into it before, and plan forwards,” said Smyrniotis. “Because in my experience, you usually hit a few hurdles when you go that way. So it is most important to focus on the one you have in front of you, gain all the information you’ve gotten and then head to the next one.”


Forge FC (4-3-3): Henry; Rama, James, Achinioti-Jönsson, Morgan; Hojabrpour, Sissoko, Bekker; Borges, Pacius, Hamilton

Vancouver FC (4-3-3): Irving; Bakare, Kane, Martinez, Crawford; Zadeh, Simmons, Tahid; Sandoval, Hundal, Kinani


First meeting between the two sides. 


“This is a team that we have been able to watch now over their first six games, with Canadian Championship, and get a very good view on them. But then again it is early in the season they could come out here and be a totally different squad and change things up.” – Forge FC head coach Bobby Smyrniotis

“Every game in this league kind of presents new opportunity, as well as a challenge. Every week we prepare in a specific way for the opposition that we are facing. Vancouver is just another team that we had to get used to through video and whatever analysis we could get and put together a plan that we are going to be able to go out and execute. But it is great to play a new side in this league, great to see the league growing and hopefully there will be plenty more in the future.” – Forge FC midfielder Noah Jensen

“I think every team in this league on any given day can be beaten, including Forge. I believe that we have the tactical solutions, and we have worked on them in the last few days.” – Vancouver FC head coach Afshin Ghotbi 

“We are excited. It is a big club now, Forge. We are hoping to cause an upset in the league.” – Vancouver FC midfielder TJ Tahid