Cavalry FC midfielder Elijah Adekugbe (16) and Forge FC defender Bertrand Owundi (21) battle for the ball in the first half during a Canadian Championship soccer match at Spruce Meadows. (Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports for CPL)
Match-by-match: How Forge-Cavalry became the CPL’s defining matchup
Marty Thompson, Digital Content Editor (@martythompson_)
Name a matchup in world football that would occur nine times in a season?
Both teams would have to be excellent in their respective competitions and meet in multiple tournaments at once
El Classico, maybe? Well, Real Madrid and Barcelona met a modern-record five times in 2010-11. Closer to home, Montreal Impact and Toronto FC faced off seven times in 2016, complemented by Canadian Championship and MLS Cup runs.
Forge FC and Cavalry FC will play for the eighth and ninth times when the Canadian Premier League Finals are said and done – starting Saturday in Hamilton (3:30 p.m. ET, on OneSoccer and CBC), with the second leg a week later in Calgary (3:30 p.m. ET, on OneSoccer).
For those paying attention, the seven previous encounters were quite the spectacle.
With last week’s 1-0 win, Forge evened the season series at 3-1-3. In a collection of tight games that had everything — multiple injury-time goals, a Canadian Championship tie, a late-season title-decider, a near-winter clash and a bench-clearing scuffle — the question is: What’s next?
Here’s a look back at how their previous encounters unfolded.
Looking back, May 12 offered many hints about what was to come this CPL season; Cavalry FC and Forge FC play out classic matches, Cavs offer great celebrations and Nico Pasquotti is a real talent.
Cavalry’s patient passing broke Forge’s backline in the 22nd minute when Nik Ledgerwood’s goal, and resulting celebration, put the home side on the front foot on a wet away day at Tim Hortons Field. Forge’s Tristan Borges would answer back in an eerily similar fashion, evening the score as the rain poured.
Enter Nico Pasquotti. Late in injury time, off an in-swinging free-kick, Pasquotti thumped a winner past goalkeeper Quillan Roberts. Cavalry’s bench rushed to the corner in celebration, sliding along the soaked turf towards the goalscorer, kicking off a Spring session rivalry in style with an early-season classic.
Same place, similar late shenanigans, this time in the Canadian Championship.
Forge, hosting the first leg of their Qualifying Round 2 with the Cavs, struck first with an early second-half goal from Emery Welshman.
It calmed Forge nerves, although not for long, as injury time dramatics returned.
Forge goalkeeper Roberts clawed down Dominique Malonga in the box, conceding a penalty and being sent off in the process.
Malonga converted (on Forge midfielder Alexander Achinioti Jonsson, who stepped in at goal) and abruptly glared at Forge’s bench. That saw tensions bubble over with a full-time melee; players, coaches and referees were all part of a midfield tussle that set up a wicked second leg.
At ATCO Field a week later, these early CPL foes kept the intensity going with high-flying, back-and-forth play, dangerous first-half chances and chippy defending. Kyle Bekker opened the scoring before, guess who, Malonga headed home a second equalizer in as many matches.
Cavalry eventually played out the win. Sergio Camargo’s redirect gave the side a sought-after tie with the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Tommy Wheeldon Jr.’s side spring-boarded off the intense two-legged affair to achieve the biggest league feat to date: beating an MLS side and emerging as the must-beat team in the CPL.
So, by the beginning of Summer, Cavalry FC had dominated the CPL headlines. Undefeated, through to face Vancouver Whitecaps in the Canadian Championship and needing only a draw to clinch the Spring finish, Cavalry faced Forge in their final chance to win the title on home turf.
Not yet a foregone conclusion, arrows certainly pointed in Cavalry’s favour as they searched to celebrate a win in just their eighth match at ATCO Field.
That was until Kyle Bekker, in the fifth minute, slashed a left-footed volley past a flat-footed Marco Carducci.
It ended up being Forge’s lone shot on goal at ATCO Field, and the only goal of the match, ending Cavalry’s undefeated run and taking away their chance to win the Spring title at home, although they would win later in the week.
Forge earned their revenge, in a way, and brought the title race within reach … something they would do again in the Fall campaign.
Fast forward to late August. Both Forge and Cavalry have firmly pulled away from the pack in the Fall race while enjoying success in outside competitions, whether it be the Canadian Championship or CONCACAF League.
Late challengers FC Edmonton and Pacific FC tail off, leaving two clear opponents for the Canadian Premier League Finals. Once a hunch, now more certain: the CPL’s first Finals 2019 contestants face off once again.
In steps right fullback Johnny Grant. The 26-year-old was a non-factor in the Spring season, forced to leave just four minutes into the Inaugural Match with an injury.
He scored his first and only CPL regular-season goal that day, and it was a beauty that saw Forge leapfrog ahead of Cavalry at the top of the Fall standings.
Grant, perhaps, represents Forge’s Fall season renaissance like no other player. Proving his team’s depth and ability to win when it matters, this match was one of 14 without a loss for Forge. Oh, yeah, their next loss …
October brought back-to-back Forge-Cavalry matches after both sides had clinched Finals 2019 spots.
A pair of intriguing matches to the CPL audience followed
This match harkened back to their first-ever meeting; brutal weather conditions, a clinical Cavalry and a 2-1 win. Sub-zero temperatures led to a typically fiery showing we’ve come to expect from these cross-country rivals.
Dom Malonga scored his third and fourth goal against Forge in 2019 with his classic “right place, right time” striker’s instinct. Anthony Novak grabbed a consultation, although both teams fielded rotated lineups so the result wasn’t exactly the focus for the coaches after.
A second-half yellow card to Bertrand Owundi, ruling him out of the first leg of the Finals, stoked the heated rivalry even more heading into a seventh and final preview tilt
David Choiniere scored the lone goal, coming on for Grant who was … playing right-winger. Oh, and Elimane Cisse, essentially a defensive midfielder, was playing as a centre-forward/false nine. Strange, to say the least.
Still, Forge stood strong, keeping Cavalry off the scoresheet for just the fourth time in 2019.
But just as they did the previous match, Cavalry managed to nail a Forge player for misbehaving, with the two-legged final in mind. Dominic Samuel was subject to a tragic double yellow card, ruling him out of the second leg following a collision with Cavalry’s Jose Escalante. Samuel and Owundi have now both been ruled out of Leg 1.
Was it a dive? Possibly. You couldn’t put it past either side to look for an advantage at this point in the season.
But that’s the beauty of this competitive rivalry: since that late Nico Pasquotti-introducing winner to the bench-clearing scrap in the Canadian Championship, you knew these teams had the spirit.