Step 3. Be aware of your environment — but no excuses
It’s not too often that Forge has had the luxury of playing a significant match on a beautiful day in a gleaming stadium with a pristine pitch.
There was the unheard-of experience of the Island Games and six weeks in a bubble. There has been trips to Guatemala and Honduras that come with their own quirks.
“It’s something different,” Smyrniotis said of playing in Central America.
“The refereeing won’t be good,” Edgar added. “The tackles won’t be good. They’ll be doing anything to get you off your game.”
Smyrniotis will account for daily highs of 28°C, 90% humidity, a bumpy pitch, and a lack of sympathy from the officials when preparing his game plan this week.
But among the players, those factors will not be allowed to become a talking point.
“There are never any excuses before or after our games when it comes to our coaching staff, and that transcends into the players and our mentality,” Edgar said.
Step 4. Make them break you down
Olimpia, a two-time Concacaf champion with over 100 years of history, had too much for Forge in Honduras last year.
But that 4-1 loss aside, Smyrniotis’ team has been near impenetrable in the other nine playoff and knockout games, conceding just two goals.
One was a spectacular half-volley from 25 yards and the other a result of a glaring individual error.
Forge’s ability to maintain its shape and control and avoid being dragged into a more open, back-and-forth transition game has been outstanding.
“Throughout the whole team, especially in the defensive line and in midfield, these guys are very good defenders,” Smyrniotis noted.
“Whether they’re very good in the 1-v-1 battles, whether they’re very good tactically reading situations, to winning balls in the air, we’ve got a very good mix in who our back four is.
“It’s also that they’ve played with each other quite a bit. They know their motions; they know when guys may step out and how to cover themselves.
“That plays a big role.
“And then just the general confidence in the group. We’ve played the past two seasons mostly with the same guys in those areas.
“You’ve got big confidence when you’ve won two championships.”
Step 5. Find and exploit a weakness