May 28th, 2024

Early to rise, early to play soccer for Forge FC, CF Montreal in cup quarterfinal

By Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press on May 6, 2024.

Vancouver Whitecaps' Ryan Raposo hoists the Voyageurs Cup after Vancouver defeated CF Montreal 2-1 in the Canadian Championship soccer final, in Vancouver, on Wednesday, June 7, 2023. The two-legged Telus Canadian Championship quarterfinals kick off Tuesday with the defending champion Whitecaps at Cavalry FC and 2023 runner-up CF Montreal at Forge FC.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Forge FC and CF Montreal have to hit the ground running Tuesday.

Forge, the reigning Canadian Premier League champion, hosts the MLS side in the opening leg of their Canadian Championship quarterfinal in an 11 a.m. “School Day Match” start.

“I don’t think I’ve played in a morning game since I was U-7 or U-8,” Montreal defender Joel Waterman, who played in the CPL for Cavalry FC, said with a laugh. “It’s an interesting one.

“But look we’ve got to play the game. For us the mission doesn’t change. We want to go out and win a game. We want to win this cup, it’s no secret. It should be a fun one to have a pre-game meal at 7:30 a.m.”

Asked what he would be eating at this time, he replied: “Good question. I don’t know if I can do pasta that early. So probably some other carbs: toast, whatever, fruit, yogurt. We’ll see.”

Montreal coach Laurent Courtois played down the unusual kickoff time.

“It’s early for both teams,” he said.

“We’re going to talk about everything (Monday night). (Tuesday) we’re going to have breakfast, two reminders and then go play a soccer game. No excuse,” he added,

The early kickoff time won’t phase Forge coach Bobby Smyrniotis.

“It doesn’t change a lot for my plans,” he said. “I’m normally in here by 6:30, 7 o’clock in the morning each and every day “¦ The difference is you’re not preparing for training, you’re preparing for this match.”

The defending champion Vancouver Whitecaps visit Cavalry FC in Tuesday’s other quarterfinal.

On Wednesday, it’s Pacific FC at Atletico Ottawa and Toronto FC at Ligue1 Quebec champion CS Saint-Laurent.

The quarterfinal second legs are scheduled for May 21 at Toronto and Vancouver, May 22 at Montreal and May 29 at Pacific.

Tuesday’s Forge game was originally slated to be a league outing against Halifax Wanderers FC, the 500th match in CPL history. But the cup took over the calendar slot.

The CPL will now mark the milestone 500th game Friday when York United FC hosts Valour FC.

More than 10,000 students from 100-plus schools are expected Tuesday at Tim Hortons Field. Forge has booked some 2,300 school buses to get the young fans to the stadium, with some schools taking care of their own transport.

Forge averaged 5,484 per home game last season. The club record of 17,611 was set in the league’s first-ever match, on April 27, 2019.

Vancouver and 2023 runner-up Montreal had byes in the first round of the 14-team cup tournament while Cavalry and Forge eliminated fellow CPL opposition in Vancouver FC and York United FC, respectively.

The Canadian Championship winner hosts the Voyageurs Cup and qualifies for the CONCACAF Champion’s Cup, the confederation’s elite men’s club competition

It marks the fourth year in a row that Forge and Montreal have clashed in Cup play with the MLS side winning all three meetings: 8-7 in a penalty shootout in the 2021 semifinal, 3-0 in the ’22 quarterfinal and 2-0 in the ’23 semifinal.

The game is also a matchup of brothers with David Choiniere playing for Forge and younger brother Mathieu Choiniere wearing Montreal colours.

The Forge-Montreal winner will face either TFC or CS Saint-Laurent in the semifinal.

Forge last played April 27, defeating visiting Valour FC 21 to improve to 3-0-0 in CPL play. Montreal (3-4-3, having played eight of the 10 games away from home) lost 4-1 at Nashville SC on Saturday.

Vancouver Whitecaps at Cavalry FC

Cavalry and the Whitecaps have history.

The Calgary-based side defeated Vancouver 2-1 on aggregate in the third qualifying round of the 2019 cup competition, before falling to eventual champion Montreal (3-1 on aggregate) in the semifinal.

The Whitecaps avenged that loss by dispatching Cavalry 5-3 in a penalty shootout in the 2022 quarterfinals. Cavalry was at the wrong end of another penalty shootout in the 2023 preliminary round, losing 5-3 to Pacific FC.

Vancouver, which stands fourth in the MLS Western Conference at 5-3-2, has lost just one of its last six games (3-1-2) and is coming off a scoreless draw with visiting Austin FC in its 50th anniversary match.

Cavalry, fifth in the CPL standing at 1-1-2, is unbeaten in three games (1-0-2) since dropping the season opener 2-1 at Forge.

“We’re in a good place,” said Cavalry coach and GM Tommy Wheeldon Jr. “What we’ve got to do now is rise to the challenge of playing an established club like the Whitecaps who are in a good run of form themselves.”

Vancouver is looking to win the cup for a third straight year.

“That would be a huge statement to everyone in the country that we are kind of the leading team,” said Whitecaps coach Vanni Sartini.

Vancouver is missing the injured Sam Adekugbe, who grew up in Calgary, and Damir Kreilach.

Cavalry will be without midfielder Shamit Shome, suspended after being sent off in the cup win over Vancouver FC. While Jesse Daly and Eryk Kobza are back training, Tom Field and Ali Muse are doubtful, according to Wheeldon.

Follow @NeilMDavidson on X platform, formerly known as Twitter

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 6, 2024

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