Forge FC have reclaimed their spot at the head of the table.
The Hamilton-based soccer club has played in every Canadian Premier League final in the four-year history of the league, winning the North Star Shield in 2019, 2020 and now 2022. All three of those championship wins have come on the road.
A first-half goal from Alessandro Hojabrpour and a second-half insurance marker from David Choiniere lifted Forge FC to a 2-0 win over Atletico Ottawa Sunday in the CPL showcase match.
“Happiness. We worked all year for this. That was our goal since the beginning of the season and to achieve it, you feel accomplished,” Choiniere said.
“We know they were going to have a low block so we just have to find the space in behind and by finding the space in behind you get corners, goal kicks, all situations, free kicks, like the first goal. That was the game plan.”
Atletico Ottawa was playing in its first league final of their four-year history and trying to complete a rags-to-riches story. Having finished last in the CPL in 2021, Atletico were the regular-season champions this year and were hosting Sunday’s final as a result.
“We’ve had a brilliant season. A brilliant, brilliant season. Nobody thought at the beginning (of the season) that we could be here on the last game of the season. We’ve done history. We won the regular season, we’ve been the most consistent team throughout the season and we had a good final,” Atletico coach Carlos Gonzalez said.
“It would have been the perfect season if we had won today, but I think it was a brilliant season for the guys on the field and off the field.”
Holding a 1-0 advantage to start the second half, Forge FC looked to increase that lead early in the second half, but two brilliant saves by Atletico keeper Nathan Ingham – off Tristan Borges and Aboubacar Sissoko – kept the differential at one.
In the 75th minute, Atletico came close to levelling the score, but Triston Henry made a spectacular stop in tight off Sergio Camus Perojo off a feed from Olie Bassett.
The ensuing corner failed for Atletico and Forge FC went down the field and, in the 78th minute, went up 2-0 thanks to Choiniere’s goal.
That was that.
“I just keep my head in the game and try not to overthink anything. When I saw the shot I just reacted and glad I made the save,” Henry said, then reflected on the ensuing goal.
“That makes the save feel even better, because that save keeps us in the game and keeps it at one nil and gives us a chance for another goal.”
Atletico started the game with their usual style of sitting back and waiting for a chance to counterattack. None came.
It was quite the opposite, in fact, as Forge FC pressured to the point where they had five cornerkicks in that opening half. None were successful but it seemed to keep Atletico on their heels.
Forge FC had four shot attempts in the first half to just one by Atletico Ottawa. The only registered shot on goal by either side in the opening half though came on a set piece by Forge FC as Hojabrpour got his head on a free kick by Borges in the 28th minute for a 1-0 advantage.
It then became a daunting task for Atletico as they have never scored a goal at home against FC Forge, including four regular-season games this year.
Atletico came to life offensively in the dying minutes of the opening half, but despite some good ball movement, they were unable to penetrate the Forge defence to get a shot on goal.
“It was disappointing losing the way we did. I don’t think we created enough chances on the night to win the game. We left too many spaces open at times when we were trying to get the equalizer, so obviously we’re disappointed but from where the club was last season to now, when we look back we’ll be proud and look toward next season,” forward Olie Basset said.