By Darnel Harris
Several thousand fans packed Spruce Meadows in Alberta on Saturday afternoon as Hamilton’s Forge FC and Calgary’s Calvary FC battled in the second leg of the Canadian Premier League’s first Final. Despite high expectations, Hamilton’s suffocating defense and goalkeeping for one hundred and eighty minutes snuffed out Calgary and secured Forge’s championship. Calvary’s offensive touch abandoned them when it mattered most – in front of their home fans.
Before the match, much of the focus was on either the predicted freezing weather and if Forge’s star striker Tristan Borges would be allowed to play. As it turned out, the weather and the suspension cleared in advance of the final match of the year. Both teams and the fans enjoyed ‘tropical’ weather in Calgary as the temperature climbed to nearly eight degrees at game time. Forge FC was also successful in their appeal to the Canada Soccer Disciplinary Committee, freeing Borges to return to his attacking role in Calgary.
As the match started, it quickly became clear that offense would be the least of Forge’s concerns. Calvary kept up consistent pressure, and Forge’s defenders were tasked with breaking up their waves of attacks. Forge responded by making passing difficult but not impossible for their hosts, who took fourteen shots but only planted two on target. While Calvary kept trying until time expired, their efforts lacked clinical finish, with shots flying over the bar or headers missing completely from just a few feet out from an empty net.
Calvary captain Nik Ledgerwood lamented his team’s play afterward, saying, “It’s a hard one to swallow, especially here in front of our home fans.” Forge goalkeeper Tristan Henry credited his team’s confident mentality and the importance of their experiences in the knockout CONCACAF League this summer. “Going to Antigua (in Guatemala) and knowing that we had to get a clean sheet…it’s just that same mentality, we knew that we could get a clean sheet, and that we could do it here, and that helped us win the championship,” Henry explained.
With their travelling faithful fans hollering in the stands, Forge was presented with the Canadian Premier League’s trophy, the North Star Shield. Thrusting the Shield into the sky, players and coaches celebrated, fully aware that they would forever be hailed as the CPL’s first champions. Forge’s victory also means they have earned the right to more Central American adventures in 2020 as the CONCACAF League’s Canadian representative.
Forge FC will be holding their Championship Celebration on Thursday, November 7th at Tim Hortons Field, starting at 6:30 PM and ending at 8:00 PM.