Have you gone back to watch the CPL’s inaugural game yet?
On April 27, I recall sitting on my couch after arriving back from Tim Hortons Field, and desperately wanting to relive the match I had witnessed only a few hours before. That was the first time I re-watched the Inaugural Game – and not the last.
The opening ceremonies, the 17,000 fans in attendance, Ryan Telfer’s historic goal… everything was just so perfect. Canadian professional soccer finally came back.
Oh, and keep an eye on a 20-year-old named Tristan Borges. I heard he’s good.
May 4, 2019 saw three cities host CPL matches for the first time. It was a triple-header of Canadian soccer — six hours of action that started in Halifax, with Forge FC visiting HFX Wanderers FC.
The camera cuts to the teams walking out of the tunnel — sorry, out of repurposed shipping containers — and onto a rough pitch on a soggy mid-Spring day.
By 30 minutes in, Wanderers Grounds was packed and ready to witness a thriller. Akeem Garcia scored the first goal in club history before HFX quickly conceded.
Supporters were ready to explode when Luis Alberto Perea’s chance for a winner late in the second half came off, sailing into the goal and officially giving Halifax the professional soccer bug. Blue smoke bombs. A full supporters’ section jumping up and down.
How do you choose just one of nine Forge FC and Cavalry FC matches in 2019? Well, let’s start with the most controversial one.
While many will point to the final minutes – which featured a goalkeeper red card, a player hoping in goal, and a late equalizer – it’s the entire breadth of this match that made it special. Both sides were particularly impressive at the back and they would, of course, go to give many more wonderful tilts right up to Finals 2019.
FC Edmonton’s 3-1 win over Pacific FC in August – the finale in a Saturday triple-header – was the lanky forward’s coming out party. Two goals and an assist made everyone in CPL circles take note as Ongaro went onto become one of the best young strikers in Canada.
There were a few other gems in this match too: Omaur Diouck’s highlight-reel volley, a nice Ben Fisk consolation goal, and a rare-yet-solid performance from Canadian veteran Randy Edwini-Bonsu.
Cavalry FC’s eight-goal output had viewers shaking in disbelief. It started with Nik Ledgerwood quite innocently converting from the penalty spot. From there, it got worse and worse for Valour. Watch it all unfold again – starting from that early penalty.
Days after that 8-0 loss to Cavalry, Valour again hosted some bizarre scenes at IG Field.
A one-way first half may be the most impressive run Forge FC had all season. Back-to-back goals in the span of a minute was made more impressive by Valour’s disorganization. Everything peaked in the 26th minute when Valour defender Adam Mitter intentionally handled the ball before it crossed the line, earning himself a red card and awarding Forge a penalty.
Just like that, a team that lost by eight goals last week were down by three in no time. Oh no, not again.
Valour salvaged a goal second half while the rain came down thick and fast.
The Nine Stripes were clinging to their Fall title hopes by a thread, desperately needing to beat the Cavs for the first time all season to keep things interesting.
Go ahead and skip to the second half – it gets heated. Ryan Telfer was a marked man all afternoon, feeling the brunt of a Nathan Mavila challenge that resulted in a full-team confrontation, and ultimately a red card for Jose Escalante. Mavila saw red moments later, reducing the Cavs to nine men and cranking the intensity dial to maximum.
Instead of bunkering, the Cavs pushed on and gave us one of the more special moments in Year 1.