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The Canadian Premier League kicked off in entertaining fashion Saturday, with substitute Kadell Thomas’s 77th-minute goal lifting Forge FC into a 1-1 tie with visiting York 9 FC.

Emery Welshman played provider, sending a cross from the byline into the penalty box to Thomas, who controlled the ball and then curled a right-footed shot high into the goal.

York 9’s Ryan Telfer wasted little time making history with the first CPL goal. The Toronto FC loanee beat Forge FC goalkeeper Triston Henry in the third minute with a right-footed shot from the edge of the penalty box after captain Manny Aparicio’s perfect through ball stranded three defenders.

Forge FC came on strong and had multiple chances to tie the game but was unable to convert until Thomas’s late strike before an announced crowd of 17,611 at Tim Hortons Field. York 9 was in defensive mode as the match wore on.

Aparicio was sent off for a second yellow card in stoppage time.

Tickets were essentially free thanks to Forge owner Bob Young, who also owns the CFL Tiger-Cats. Spectators were asked to make a donation to youth soccer while season-ticket holders were offered free passes to another game.

The seven-team league is seen as a platform for young Canadian talent.

While the sides had only been together for only seven weeks, the opener delivered on entertainment. Both teams looked to play attractive possession-based soccer as best they could on a windy, crisp afternoon.

“For a league opening, pretty damn good,” commissioner David Clanachan said.

Tim Hortons Field was decorated with Forge FC’s orange trim. “Together We Forge” read the banner at centre field. Outside buses unloaded green-clad York 9 supporters from Toronto.

“It’s an exciting day for soccer fans: The Canadian Premier League kicks off today.” tweeted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

It’s still very much a work in progress. Prior to kickoff, the two teams had less than 9,500 followers combined on Twitter.

Welshman came close to tying the game three minutes after Telfer’s goal with a spectacular bicycle kick that went just wide. And Forge FC mounted one counter-attack after another as the first half wore on, only to be let down by the final touch.

Welshman, a former Toronto FC first-round draft pick, came close again in first-half stoppage time, beating several defenders before firing a shot just wide.

Tristan Borges hammered a shot off the York 9 crossbar in the 50th minute. Borges was denied in the 60th minute by a fine save by Nathan Ingham, who got a leg to the ball sliding across the crease.

Emotion ran high after Forge captain Kyle Bekker ran over Joe Di Chiara as he gathered the ball for a throw-in.

Under league rules, teams must have a minimum of six domestic players and maximum of five foreign players in their starting lineups.

Forge FC featured nine Canadians in its starting lineup along with Senegal’s Eiimane Oumar Cisse and Sweden’s Alexander Achinioti-Jonsson.

Toronto-based York 9 featured nine Canadian starters — Justin Springer has both Canadian and St. Kitts & Nevis citizenship, plus Japan’s Wataru Murofushi and Sweden’s Simon Adjei.

The seven teams will each play 28 regular-season games, 14 home and 14 away, in a season split in two, with spring and fall champions meeting to decide the year’s overall winner.

Pacific FC hosts HFX Wanderers FC on Sunday in Langford, B.C.

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