The 2023 Canadian Premier League Final is headed to Hamilton after Forge once again defeated rivals Cavalry FC in the playoffs, this time 2-1 in the league’s inaugural 1st vs. 2nd match. Forge have now appeared in all five of the finals in the league’s history.
This will be the second time that the final has been hosted at Tim Hortons Field, which is coincidentally the only time that three-time champions Forge did not win the CPL playoffs, losing the 2021 final 1-0 to Pacific FC.
Forge opened the scoring in the 29th minute via a Jesse Daley own goal, and then added to their lead in the 50th minute through a brilliant strike from captain Kyle Bekker. Cavalry FC’s lone goal came from substitute Joe Mason.
The result does not mean playoff elimination for 2023 regular season winner Cavalry, but takes away their ability to host the 2023 final. They instead will host Pacific FC on October 21 in a rematch of the 2021 semifinal, with the winner headed to Hamilton for the final.
Cavalry came flying out of the gates at home, creating a very good chance in the 4th minute as Ali Musse picked out Sergio Camargo at the back post with a lovely cross. Camargo’s header, however, was high and wide of the net despite him being relatively unmarked.
Musse then went to work against Forge wingback Kwasi Poku, showing his ability as he managed three shot attempts over the following few minutes, none of which were able to truly challenge Triston Henry. Forge responded well, overloading the middle of the park with Manjrekar James stepping forward from centreback into midfield and taking a few ultimately harmless shots from distance.
Noah Jensen was the first to truly test Marco Carducci in the Cavalry net with a well-hit strike from distance, but one that Carducci stopped and held without too much difficulty.
What did cause Carducci and his backline an issue was a 29th-minute corner from Forge captain Bekker. His cross into a dangerous area, and under pressure by Forge’s Alessandro Hojabrpour, was punched by Carducci off the back of Daley’s head and into his own net to give Forge a 1-0 lead.
Forge kept the pressure on, as Bekker sent a thunderous strike goalward in the 40th minute that narrowly missed the Cavalry net. That was the last real chance of the half, however, as Forge held their 1-0 lead going into the break.
On the other side of halftime, Forge doubled their lead. Rezart Rama played a lovely backheel into the path of Noah Jensen, who laid it off for Bekker. The Forge captain finished the movement off brilliantly, with his seventh all-time goal against Cavalry in all competitions, the most any player has managed in this rivalry.
Down two goals, Cavalry pressed relentlessly pinning Forge back in their own half for most of the second 45 minutes. They came incredibly close in the 70th minute when Sergio Camargo struck the bar.
Two minutes later, however, Bekker nearly added another. Again it was Rama who got down the right flank and played a brilliant ball into the box that the Forge captain struck towards Carducci, forcing an outstanding save.
Cavalry FC, found life in the 80th minute as substitute Mason made an immediate impact off the bench. Musse sent in another outstanding corner kick that Mason flicked goalward from the front post and past Henry to make it 2-1. The hosts kept pressing thereafter, with several dangerous balls into the Forge box, but the Hamilton side held on for yet another big postseason victory.
In the end, it was the 23rd time in 25 matches between the two sides that the game has been decided by a single goal. Forge are now undefeated in six postseason meetings against Cavalry. This was the first time they beat their rivals during 2023 after drawing three times, and losing a fourth, during the regular season.
29′ — Jesse Daley (Cavalry FC) (Own Goal)
50′ — Kyle Bekker (Forge FC)
80′ — Joe Mason (Cavalry FC)
20’ — Yellow: Manjrekar James (Forge FC)
26′ — Yellow: Sergio Camargo (Cavalry FC)
57′ — Yellow: Alessandro Hojabrpour (Forge FC)
90+1′ — Yellow: Rezart Rama (Forge FC)
90+10′ — Yellow: Aboubacar Sissoko (Forge FC)
90 +10 — Yellow: Bradley Kamdem (Cavalry FC)