On the eve of the 2020 CPL Final, Bobby Smyrniotis confidently stated “give me a path for how I can win a championship and I’ll figure out how to get there,” to reporters.
Smyrniotis certainly lived up to those words on Saturday, with Forge FC successfully retaining its 2019 championship by defeating the Cinderella team of the Island Games, HFX Wanderers, 2-0 in Charlottetown, P.E.I.
The victory also clinches a spot for Forge in the 2020 Canadian Championship final against Toronto FC.
HFX, who finished bottom of the overall table last season, was one of the most improved teams. Half of the Wanderers’ starting 11 was made up by new signings, including former Vancouver Whitecaps trialist Aboubacar Sissoko and Joao Morelli, who was involved in five goals at the Island Games. Backed with a strong pressing game with one of the best midfields in the league along with a sturdy defence, they were deserving finalists.
Unfortunately for HFX, Forge showed off its own defensive solidity on Saturday. Despite the Wanderers winning the possession battle, it only translated to six shots and they struggled to play through the compact blocks of the Hamiltonians in the centre of the pitch.
Then, as expected before the game, Forge made a set piece count. Off a broken play via a corner, Alexander Achinioti-Jonsson buried a cross back across the face of goal on the hour mark, which is all the champions needed to retain their crown.
A late gaffe from HFX goalkeeper Christian Oxner led to a second for Forge. It was an unfortunate error for Oxner, who’s been one of the standout shot-stoppers at the tournament and made a few crucial saves to keep the Wanderers in the match.
These Island Games will be remembered for the drama and the improvement of the entire league as a whole – especially the teams not named Forge or Cavalry FC. But one key fact remains the same.
Forge FC is still the team to beat.