Up 1-0 on aggregate going into Leg 2 of the 2019 Canadian Premier League Finals, the Hamiltonians were about to enter a battleground: ATCO Field at Spruce Meadows.
Yes, they had the advantage but they were facing the Spring and Fall winners, who only needed a goal to induce penalties – more than one would likely lead to a championship.
Bobby Smyrniotis and co. had scored in all but three matches in 2019 … and scored in every match against Cavalry. A Forge goal seemed certain … though it came with the last kick of the match, deep in injury time, as Forge shut the door to grab a 1-0 win, 2-0 on aggregate, and become the first CPL side to capture the North Star Shield.
It was a match with slim margins and several moments of note.
Just as we did in Leg 1, here’s a look at the top moments from the Canadian Premier League’s 100th and final match of 2019.
‘That’s four, that’s four’
A continuation of Leg 1, the match was physical. Several crunching tackles on both sides sent the likes of Tristan Borges, Chris Nanco and Julian Buscher to the rough Spruce Meadows pitch.
Skip forward to the 25th minute. Forge’s Dom Samuel steps through Cavalry opponent Nathan Mavila in front of the home bench. Cavs coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. gestured to the referee with four fingers out.
“That’s four, that’s four,” Wheeldon Jr. said – as Samuel side-stepped back in position – referencing the fury of fouls his side had been subjected to in short order.
No card was handed to Samuel, but there was a lot to learn from the moment.
Neither side seemed caught up in the physical play or the referee’s calls … something that swept up everyone on the pitch in Leg 2.
It showed two composed sides … a state of mind that would hold most of the afternoon.
Dom Malonga’s razor-thin miss
Chances were few and far between by early in the second half … and Cavalry was starting to run out of time.
In comes centre forward Dom Malonga. In the 61st minute, the Congolese international and Sergio Camargo combined well in rare space and fed the ball out to Dominick Zator on the wing.
The cross? Perfect. The header? Okay. Malonga was just a foot away from tying the leg but heading the ball straight down … similar to an earlier chance he had in the first half.
Cavalry and Forge are always good for a late goal, though…
Pasquotti causes panic
Now it gets nervy.
Cavalry, by the 81st minute, were desperate for a goal. Cue Nico Pasquotti and his lazer of a long throw.
As the ball sailed towards the box, you could sense something big could happen.
Pasquotti’s ball, flicked into the mixer, produced a tense series plays. Whiffed shots, big Forge blocks and mad scrambles. Zator had the best chance of the sequence with a hard-and-low shot from outside the box meeting Triston Henry’s gloves.
A chance that proved to be one of Cavalry’s last.
Who else but David Choiniere?
Now, now, now. Here’s where the bubble finally bursts.
A two-on-none break between David Choinière and Elimane Cisse sunk Cavalry FC’s chances. Forge had held on, kept a sturdy ship at the back and got a bonus goal to win 1-0 on the day, 2-0 on aggregate.
This lone goal was not without controversy, however, as a clattering between Dominick Zator and Dom Samuel that caused the breakaway went uncalled by the referee.
Arms out defenders at one end, jubilation at the other. The winger’s goal and resulting pile-on served as a pre-celebration – as the last kick of the match sealed it…
Forge FC: First Champions In CPL History
A moment years in the making. Not just over the 100 matches of this Canadian Premier League season, its first incarnation, but much farther back.
Canada has a national professional league, and a professional soccer champion, for the first time in decades.
Perhaps the trophy lift seen above by Forge FC, the first champions crowned, makes it feel that much more real. What’s more, there will be a Canadian soccer champion trophy lift next year, and the year after that, and so on.
Forge FC is your 2019 Canadian Premier League Champions.