Calgary, Alberta, Canada — Forge FC held on to their first leg lead to win the inaugural Canadian Premier League title. The second leg certainly didn’t have the controversy or wild back and forth moments of the first leg. Both sides managed to keep 11 players on the pitch, though there were many challenges from both sides that rode the line.
Tense Build Up
The biggest talking point coming into the match was the overturned suspension of Golden Boot winner Tristan Borges. Both Cavalry FC and Forge FC submitted appeals to Canada soccer after Joel Waterman and Borges were sent off for their respective sides in the first leg. Ultimately, Borges had his red card overturned, while Waterman’s suspension was upheld.
Cold Hard Battle
The match was played in a cool nine degrees Celsius and it was a physical battle all the way through. Cavalry had more of the ball and had a number of chances that were squandered. Dominique Malonga came close in the first half with a close range header. Meanwhile, Zator had two great looks in the second half but couldn’t bury either chance.
The defining moment of the match ultimately came in the 95th minute. With every Cavalry player in the Forge FC box, a clash between Daniel Krutzen and a Cavalry player led to the ball spilling free. Elimane Cisse picked up the ball and ran the length of the field uncontested. A simple layoff to David Choiniere and a calm finish gave Forge the 2-0 aggregate lead. Cavalry FC coaches and players were incredulous that a penalty wasn’t given for a foul in the box.
Champions ✅ pic.twitter.com/Uz4RzhD4L0
— OneSoccer (@onesoccer) November 3, 2019
While Cavalry controlled the ball and had 14 shot attempts, Smyrniotis set up his Forge FC side brilliantly to bend but not break. One change was playing fullback Johnny Grant at right wing, pressing the Cavalry Fullbacks into wild passes out of the back and denying them time and space.
The back four of Kwame Awuah, Daniel Krutzen, David Edgar and Dominic Samuel were masterful in this match. Krutzen and Edgar in particular were immense, combining for 20 clearances in the match. Their stalwart defensive work was crucial in helping Forge FC win the inaugural CPL title.
Both coaches bravely faced the media after the emotional rollercoaster of the match and post-game ceremonies. Many Cavalry players, when receiving their silver medals from CPL commissioner David Clanachan, simply took them off as soon as they left the podium.
Tommy Wheeldon Jr., when speaking to the media, made light of the loss and played it off to the CPL’s structure. “Anywhere else in the world” Wheeldon said, “we’re champions. We gave everything we had … I couldn’t be prouder of my team.”
Smyrniotis cut a somewhat different figure in front of the media, praising his team’s commitment and performance while drenched in celebration champagne.
— Forge FC (@ForgeFCHamilton) November 3, 2019
A Wild First Season
Although Forge come away winners of the North Star Shield, many were quick to acknowledge Cavalry’s incredible dominance in the spring and fall seasons. The Cavalry side were runaway winners of the spring competition. Although Forge FC ran them close, Cavalry ultimately pipped the Fall title by a single point.
While the merits of the Playoff structure and the challenges of the two-season competition can be debated, it is clear that the Canadian Premier League is a success after its first season. Over 100 Canadians playing professional soccer in a league of their own is a success story, and several gems were certainly unearthed.
The Canadian National Team call ups Marco Carducci and Amer Didic point to the success of the league. With the U-Sports draft coming up in just a few days, season two starts right away.
Many questions are being asked about which players are going to move on to more established leagues. Some players have already been released from their first CPL contracts. Two of the names coming up often played in the inaugural final — Cavalry’s Carducci and Forge’s Borges. Rumor has it the golden boot winner and attacking talisman is headed to Belgium.
One technical person I spoke to suggested that there was “next to no chance” Borges was with Hamilton next season and that he was “99% likely” to be in Europe. Belgium was the overwhelming feeling of all I spoke to. He may have another level up in him too after couple yrs.
— Duane Rollins (@24thminute) July 23, 2019
Smyrniotis neither confirmed nor denied that Borges was on his way out when asked about it in the press conference.
PHOTO: Forge FC players celebrate their CPL victory. Photo courtesy of OneSoccer.