June 24th, 2024

Forge edge Calvary 2-1 in OT thriller to defend CPL title

By Tim Wharnsby, The Canadian Press on October 28, 2023.

Cavalry FC forward Myer Bevan (left) fights for the ball with Forge FC defender Manjrekar James (5) during first half Canadian Premier League finals soccer action in Hamilton on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nick Iwanyshyn

HAMILTON – Tristan Borges and Forge FC followed the game plan down to the celebration part, to party like youngsters.

Moments after the final whistle blew in Forge FC’s 2-1 overtime victory against Cavalry FC to claim a fourth Canadian Premier League championship, the home team jumped up and down in front of Section 102, where the loyal Barton St. Battalion resided. A few steps from the festivities was where Borges bent and scored his title-clinching corner-kick goal on Saturday.

When Borges and his teammates arrived at Tim Hortons Field on Saturday for the final, Forge FC head coach Bobby Smyrniotis had a photo of each player as a youth player tacked to their locker stall.

“I talked to the players before the game,” Smyrniotis said. “I discussed with them to bring the joy when they were nine years old, to play this game with that type of joy.”

Borges gave Forge FC its joyful moment in the 21st minute of the 30-minute overtime. His left-footed corner kick swung high to the far post and past the outstretched arms of Calgary-based Calvary FC goalkeeper Marco Carducci to send 13,925 home fans into a frenzy.

“Five years, five finals, and four trophies,” the 25-year-old Borges said. “When it’s all said and done. It’s all about winning. I think we’ve proven every single year that we deserve what we get.”

Thanks to three brilliant stops from Forge FC goalkeeper Triston Henry, named the CPL’s goalkeeper of the year earlier in the week, Forge FC pushed the game into overtime at 0-0.

But Ali Musse scored in the 11th minute of the first half of overtime to push the visitors to a 1-0 advantage with a deadly shot from just outside the box.

But Belgian forward Beni Badibanga drew Forge FC even with a high shot off a short corner kick from Kyle Bekker in extra time of the first half of overtime.

Then Borges, who persevered most of the season through various injuries, put Forge FC ahead for good.

“Our game plan was if we have any corners, especially big moments like that, was to put it on the goal and to see what happens,” Borges said.

In the eight-team CPL, Cavalry FC finished first in the regular season with 16 wins, seven draws and five losses, while Forge FC was second at 11-9-8, 13 points behind Cavalry.

But Forge FC won the first-against-second-place match two weeks ago to earn the right to host the final. In six playoff matches between the rivals, the Hamilton side has won five and settled for a draw in the sixth.

But this appeared to be Cavalry FC’s night when it struck first in overtime.

“I don’t want to say in full control, but it felt pretty comfortable,” Cavlary’s Charlie Trafford said. “We didn’t give up very many chances.

“Then we go and finally get the goal that we wanted, and then it got a bit chaotic. Then they got two crazy goals that you don’t expect, and so it hurts.”

In 26 all-time meetings between Forge FC and its rivals from Calgary, only two were decided by more than two goals.

“Ours was a good goal, too,” Cavalry FC coach Tommy Wheeldon said. “So then for two goals to happen. That’s unicorn stuff, isn’t it? But credit to the Forge, they have it in them. They know how to win finals in the tightest of margins.

“But yeah, we’ve been shell-shocked with the way we lost that game because I thought a large part of it we were the better team.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 28, 2023.

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