PREVIEW: Forge FC vs. Valour FC – 2021 Canadian Championship Quarterfinal

2021 Canadian Championship — Quarterfinal
Forge FC vs. Valour FC
September 15, 2021 at 7:30 pm ET/6:30 pm CT
Tim Hortons Field, Hamilton, Ont.
Watch Live: // Tickets available here


At least two Canadian Premier League teams will make the semi-finals of the 2021 Canadian Championship: Wednesday we’ll find out one of them when Valour FC pays a visit to Forge FC and Tim Hortons Field.

Both teams will look to the Voyageurs Cup for a break from recent league struggles and will have good reason to, as they sit two results away from a CanChamp final berth.

Valour arrives after losing their third-straight CPL match last Tuesday – a surprise 3-0 result to FC Edmonton. It was their third defeat in a row, a run in which has seen the fourth-placed team’s playoff padding evaporate as York United and HFX Wanderers now stand in striking distance of the final playoff spot. Winnipeg advanced to the quarter-finals after dispatching another Ontario team in Atlético Ottawa 3-2 at TD Place in Ottawa last month. Austin Ricci notched a three-minute brace to give the club their first win in the competition since its founding in 2019.

“We’re returning to what made us successful early on in the season and then trying to eliminate the individual errors here or there,” Rob Gale said before the match about recent troubles in league play. “It’s turning our frustration and disappointment the right way and making sure we’re identifying what needs to be worked and getting to that.”

Forge, meanwhile, have uncharacteristically lost two-from-three in league play – including a 2-0 decision to York on the weekend. Oddly, Forge has yet to win a CanChamp tie themselves after dropping a two-legged decision to eventual semi-finalists Cavalry FC in 2019 and saw 2020 final with Toronto FC postponed.

“We want [the Canadian Championship] to be part of our DNA,” coach Bobby Smyrniotis said, adding they expect to play the 2020 final sometime this year. “It’s a one-game affair that gets you to the next level. So I think all of our efforts have to be put into it. It was something we talked about at the beginning of the year… We have to be good on every front – we owe it to ourselves and our fans.”

Valour has had the better of this matchup in 2021, taking both games in the opening Winnipeg bubble by 2-0 and 1-0, respectfully.

Wednesday’s quarterfinal is the first of the 2021 CanChamp, with Forge’s tie bumped up a week to allow for their 2021 Concacaf League tie with Panama’s Independiente to play out next Tuesday.

The remaining quarterfinals – York United vs. Toronto FC of MLS, HFX Wanderers vs. CF Montreal of MLS, and Cavalry FC vs. Pacific FC – will take place next Wednesday.


  • Forge adds Emery Welshman: Emery Welshman, the former MLS SuperDraft pick who featured on Forge’s inaugural roster, rejoined the club Wednesday ahead of their CanChamp tilt. The 29-year-old, who can play across an attacking three, moved to spend three seasons in Israel while playing internationally for Guyana, scoring 10 goals in 22 appearances and arrives in Hamilton as the club looks for a fresh face in attack. “He’s another good option upfront, and it’s us trying to get healthier and be a bit more potent in the attack,” coach Smyrniotis said,  referring to the team’s attacking troubles in recent matches. Welshman certainly offers a different look in Forge’s multi-pronged offence – a strong, veteran physical presence that’s as comfortable up the middle as on the wing. Look to see that implementation and experimentation begin Wednesday.

  • Valour desperate for consistency: The Winnipegers return to CanChamp play after a week off – a rare instance in the hustle-and-bustle of CanPL life in 2021 and their longest of the season. Coach Rob Gale has allowed this break to allow his team to heal, seeing Jose Galan and Brett Levis returning to full fitness. Attempting to identify why Valour have struggled in the past month, Gale targeted defensive continuity in the absence of defenders Andy Baquero and Stefan Cebara, who are doubtful for Wednesday’s match: “Before in the bubble we had that defensive core, we had the same back four pretty much continuously. At the moment we haven’t got that luxury. We need to get bodies healthy so I can pick a sort of base behind the ball which we had in the early part of the season to give us the platform for the attacking players.” Who makes up that defensive core moving forward, as the team still appears to be reeling from the injury to Andrew Jean-Baptiste back in July, is clearly continuing to take shape.
  • Match in the middle: Wednesday’s tilt sets up an important clash in the middle of the park, specifically for Forge. Elimane Cisse and Kyle Bekker, who are playing quite well recently, present as tireless attackers that can draw midfielders side to side at will. Winnipeg, meanwhile, will likely return to their back-three formation to add an extra body in midfield, ready to cope with such an industrious midfield work. Raphael Ohin will more than likely be tasked with neutralizing Forge alongside Moses Dyer or Daryl Fordyce, too. How Gale manages that core while releasing attacking midfielders like Raphael Galhardo and Keven Aleman will be a test that must be passed to get a result and advance to the semi-final.


Forge FC wins: 5 || Valour FC wins: 2 || Draws: 3

Previous match:

July 11, 2021 — Valour FC 1-0 Forge FC


“We’re returning to what made us successful early on in the season and then trying to eliminate the individual errors here and there… That’s the mindset we’re in. What’s done is done and even in that little patch we went through we did play some good games.” – Valour FC head coach Rob Gale

“Our last performance against York… We would have preferred this game to be in the league so we could get back to our winning ways in that competition… Valour is tough competition for us – they’ve beat us twice this season so we need to come out on the front foot and set things straight.” – Forge FC captain Kyle Bekker