Toronto FC were crowned 2020 Canadian Champions on Saturday night at Tim Hortons Field, as they defeated Forge FC in a thrilling penalty shootout to claim the Voyageurs’ Cup after an intense match that ended 1-1 after 90 minutes.
With a trophy on the line, both managers put their best possible lineup forward for this match. Although Forge gaffer Bobby Smyrniotis’ hand was forced somewhat by injuries to key defenders, he was still able to deploy a very attacking squad with Tristan Borges, Terran Campbell, and David Choinière across the front. Plus, former Toronto FC players Ashtone Morgan and Kyle Bekker got the start — Bekker playing in his fifth match against his old club, Morgan in his first.
Toronto coach Bob Bradley, meanwhile, started a number of key stars, including designated players Alejandro Pozuelo and Carlos Salcedo, as well as veteran captain Michael Bradley.
Forge surged out of the gates, pressing TFC aggressively and looking to play balls over the backline to create scoring opportunities — of which they had a handful in the opening 20 minutes, generating five shots. One early free kick attempt from Tristan Borges drew an excellent diving save from goalkeeper Quentin Westberg.
In the 19th minute, Forge thought they’d found their moment; Choinière brought down a long ball superbly and drove toward the goal alone, prompting TFC fullback Luca Petrasso to bring him down from behind and concede an early penalty kick. Tristan Borges stepped up to take the spot kick, but his attempt thumped off the crossbar and out of harm’s way as Forge weren’t able to take the lead.
After missing the penalty, Forge continued to press, but TFC also grew into the game somewhat and managed to penetrate into the attacking third far more often. Still, Forge’s Terran Campbell had perhaps the next best opportunity of the half with a powerful shot from just above the penalty spot, though Westberg once again parried it. Despite chances at both ends, though, the sides went into halftime knotted at 0-0.
The visitors sought to add some energy in the second half, as Bob Bradley added Jacob Shaffelburg into the mix in place of Jayden Nelson. Almost immediately, TFC seemed to generate some momentum; they came perilously close to scoring just a couple of minutes into the half, but Malik Owolabi-Belewu managed to clear the ball just in time.
Shortly before the hour mark, TFC at last broke through. After an initial attempt in transition was defended well, the ball cycled back to the top of the box where Alejandro Pozuelo was waiting. The Spanish star took a touch toward the middle and blasted it with his left foot into the top corner, just inches past the diving Triston Henry’s hand.
Forge are not a team to lie down after conceding, though; just two minutes later, they surged back up the pitch. Aboubacar Sissoko, creating a pocket of space from the right touchline, spotted Tristan Borges running unmarked toward the back post, and he found him with an inch-perfect ball over the top. Borges brought it down well and fired with his left foot to equalize.
From there, the game opened up incredibly. Both sides played very direct football, trying to get upfield as quickly as possible for the final half-hour. Terran Campbell and Woobens Pacius broke free of the TFC backline a few times to get on the end of long balls, but a few more excellent saves from Westberg kept it at 1-1.
So, the game proceeded to a penalty shootout — just as it did the last time Forge faced an MLS team at Tim Hortons Field. The first two takers for both teams buried their efforts, but TFC’s third shooter — Deandre Kerr — put his shot well wide of the left post to give Forge an advantage. After Woobens Pacius and Alejandro Pozuelo both put away their attempts, though, Forge’s Kyle Bekker had his penalty saved to even up the shootout.
Both sides scored four of their allotted five penalties, so the contest proceeded to sudden-death. Kosi Thompson scored his first strike, and Forge’s next — and final — taker Kwasi Poku put his shot off the crossbar, as Toronto FC claimed the trophy after a riveting final.