2023 CPL Final: Forge Reigns Supreme, Bests Cavalry For Fourth Title Win
Tonight saw the North Star Cup hoisted by a rapturous crew in orange who are no strangers to trophy celebrations.
Forge FC defeated heated rivals Cavalry FC 2-1 in front of a joyous home crowd, etching in another ‘forever first’ as the first Canadian Premier League side to win the playoffs in their home city.
Absolutely stellar goals from Badibanga and Borges helped cement the club’s near-unbelievable fourth title win five seasons, securing back-to-back championships for the second time in both club and league history. While heartbreaking for Cavalry, it’s more proof in the pudding that nobody does big games better than those who hail from the hammer.
Forge had reach tonight’s final after finishing second place in league standings, besting Cavalry away from home in the first-versus-second preliminary match to earn hosting rights tonight. After a two week rest – their opponents just had one, needing to beat Pacific to earn a ticket to the finale – they marched into Tim Hortons Field without leading goalscorer Woobens Pacius, who picked up a knock ahead of the title bout.
The first half opened with Forge on the front foot, buoyed on by a rapturous home crowd. Bekker and Jensen combined well from the middle, while runs from Rama and Badibanga kept Cavalry mostly stuck within their own half, banking on runs from counters.
Despite the run of play going against them, Cavalry nearly ended the first half on a high after a ranged shot from Fraser Aird nearly caught out Golden Glove winner Triston Henry:
The second half saw much of the same dynamic continue, though Bevan will want his 58th minute chance back after a run from Musse saw Forge exposed, with the attacker also curling an effort just wide – despite Forge seemingly having momentum, it was Cavalry who were racking up the good chances:
Rama continued to have an exceptional game for Forge, causing massive problems on the flank equating to Forge getting some good balls into the box, with Cavalry holding firm.
The action went end-to-end with Cavalry’s Jesse Daley coming inches from the opener before Forge countered fast, with Badibanga hustling beyond the last man to chip Carducci – and while the fireworks went off, the goal was called back by for a foul in the buildup.
Musse had another knock at the door ten minutes from time, forcing Henry into a fine diving stop. With no goals coming forth, however, the CPL Final would head for extra time for the first time in league history.
It was in extra time that a goal finally happened: Cavalry – who had carved out the best chances – got the goal they’ve been waiting five years for, with Ali Musse finishing a superb build-up. As the ball struck the back of the net, pandemonium ensued.
Never ones to let big games get to them, however, Forge quickly rose to the occasion and blew the proverbial roof off Tim Hortons Field with a fast equalizer, all within the first half of extra time, through a superb shot that Badibangi launched perfectly into the top corner from miles out.
Ten minutes away from a penalty shootout, Tristan Borges stepped up just as he had in this very stadium in 2019, taking an audacious effort at an Olimpico and converting straight from a corner to cement himself in league history once more.
If Forge’s third win last season was called a dynasty win, tonight’s fourth win is that of an era. It was not an establishment of the status quo, or even a reinforcement: it goes beyond that. Forge is synonymous with winning in a manner that no other CPL team – the runners-up included – can come close to touching for a number of years now.
With the lights now dimmed at Tim Hortons Field, so to closes what has been a record-breaking season for the Canadian Premier League itself: with more attendance than ever before, more goals, and a bold playoff structure that brought fireworks and storylines aplenty, it’s safe to say that Canada’s top flight has had a wonderful year overall, and it was capped with a CPL Final that did it justice.
We look forward to what year six brings – and, undoubtedly, so does Forge.
Header Image Photo Credit: John Jacques