October 30th Edition

Forge FC win the CPL in the craziest Cup Final you will ever see

Forge FC win the CPL in the craziest Cup Final you will ever see

What a wild weekend for Canadian footy. 

Saturday, in particular, was the stuff of dreams, with the Canadian women’s national team taking on Brazil in the early afternoon, the CPL Final in the evening and then the nightcap Whitecaps MLS Playoff opener.

At least two of those matches didn’t go to plan, but still what a special day of footy in this country. And the one match that did live up to the hype? Oh did it ever, you better believe we’ve got plenty to say about THAT Forge win in the 2023 CPL Final.

Plus, how Canadians performed in Champions League this week, some new young Canadian prospects to keep an eye on, and much more ahead in The Northern Pitch.

André Varty / DARBY Magazine

There are levels to this sport. 

Winning a final is one of the highest. Doing it in front of your home crowd is even higher. Clinching the match with an extra time Olimpico? That’s just built different.

But that is what has made Forge a championship club since day one. After a season where honestly they were often caught lacking, and in a final where they went down in extra time as Ali Musse opened the scoring with a screamer of his own, Forge found another gear when it mattered most.

Béni Badibanga, serious baller with a serious name, equalized with a stunning strike before the league’s original MVP, Tristan Borges added to his legacy with a golazo that will be seen around the world.

Seriously, just do yourselves a favour and watch these highlights all the way through because finals aren’t meant to be like this, and it might be a while before we see another of this calibre.

You could argue that it’s bad for the league to have the same team win, year in and year out. But what has become clear is that Forge has been raising the standard since day one.

Ahead of the match, Cavalry manager Tommy Wheeldon Jr. spoke about how his side’s mission to get themselves ahead. They did so over the regular season, but it just got away from them in the final.

Both of these sides are in for a shortened offseason, however, as February is just around the corner and with that comes Champions Cup football. Forge, again as the league’s trailblazers, have had some incredible nights in continental competition, while this is Cavalry’s first appearance. After that match and the seasons they have both had, Forge and Cavalry will be hungry to make a statement in Concacaf, and both have the quality to make it happen.

Late October, clear skies, 16 degrees and CanWNT versus Brazil at a sold-out Stade Saputo; a combination made in heaven. Above all, the vibes in Montreal were immaculate. From kick-off, both home and Brazil supporters were loud and created a party atmosphere. It was a game worth celebrating while the weather was still vibe-worthy. For the game itself, however, there is much to be desired from Canada. They started strong and put Brazil on their back heel in the first 10-15 minutes.

Unfortunately, Jessie Fleming came off early due to a knock, which left a noticeable void. Julia Grosso was unable to replace the playmaking style that Fleming offered. At this point, the game was turning in Brazil’s favour.

The Seleção seemed to play the first half conservatively, showing respect towards Canada and perhaps feeling slightly intimidated in a sold-out Stade Saputo.

Brazil pressed and pushed Canada against the wall. The home side struggled to break out, even with the introduction of Christine Sinclair, and the midfield struggled to transition into attack.

In the 93rd minute, Brazil scored a deflected goal after a turnover in the midfield. Canada’s best player on the pitch, Kailen Sheridan, could not keep this one out. Brazil’s bench cleared and celebrated that goal like a World Cup game. That is passion and massive vibes.

Despite the loss, Canada WNT experienced massive love in Québec and will take notes for the next game in Halifax.

Other news this week

Photo: Bayern Munich

🏆 Champions League baby! As usual, all three Canadians started for their clubs and were pivotal features in the game.

🟨 Alphonso Davies picked up a yellow card in Bayern Munich’s 3-1 win over Galatasaray. The foul conceded by Phonzy led to a free kick that resulted in a goal that was called offside. Regardless, this Bayern Munich side is proving to be among the favourites in Europe—a well-rounded team. 

🇵🇹 Meanwhile, Stephen Eustáquio scores against Royal Antwerp. Staqs is slowly becoming Porto’s breakout player. Regularly featuring in the starting lineup, he has become one of the main fixtures for the club’s midfield. In Porto’s 4-1 win away at Antwerp, Eustaquio scored the second goal with a calm technical finish in the Champions League. R1+O side net goal. It’s that type of clinical finish.

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 By far, the best stadium to be in on a European night is Celtic Park. Why, you may ask? Listen to the stadium when the Champions League anthem plays. The roar of Celtic Park is a battle cry that physically makes the away team uncomfortable—pure hostility. Alistair Johnston started for the Hoops as they hosted Atlético Madrid in Glasgow. Celtic were strong in the first half with standout performances from AJ and their Japanese players Reo Hatate and Daizen Maeda. Despite the positives, Morata’s equalizing goal for Atletico resulted in a 2-2 draw for Celtic.The Hoops currently are bottom of the group with 1 point.

🤕 In more bad news, Johnston was subbed off against Hibernian FC after receiving a ball to the head. Celtic have moved AJ into concussion protocol, and we hope for a fast recovery.

👀 Another name to watch is Jamie Knight-Label. You may wonder who this youngster is, but don’t worry, we’re here to inform you. Jamie Mathieu Knight-Label was born in Montréal and moved to Bristol when he was five years old. His father is Québecois, and his mother is Welsh. The 18-year-old is a product of the Bristol City youth academy and has been moving up the ranks, currently playing the U21 squad. He made his debut off the bench in the Championship this weekend and looked class despite a 2-0 loss to Iké Ugbo’s Cardiff City. The defender has featured for Canada in the 2022 Concacaf men’s U-20 Championship. Jamie Knight-Label is a name to keep in mind. Again, did we mention that he’s a defender?

🇮🇹 Juventus looking to extend Julia Grosso’s contract. With her contract coming to an end in June 2024, Juventus are keen on prolonging the contract of the 23-year-old as opposed to letting her leave on a free transfer. Moreover, to prevent other major clubs from acquiring her in the winter transfer window. Juventus have set Grosso’s price at €400,000. The Bianconere want to keep the Canadian in Turin as they attempt to build a dynastic team that will dominate both domestically and in Europe. Grosso is at the heart of those plans.

🌊 The Vancouver Whitecaps travelled to LA to play their first playoff round. This game was a seven-goal thriller and far more entertaining for LAFC. Vanni Sartini’s squad walked into a hostile BMO Stadium where the home side drew first blood; Vancouver gave a fighting performance with goals from Ryan Gauld to make it 1-all and later by Sam Adekugbe to make it 2-2. Unfortunately, LAFC outperformed the Caps by sealing the game 5-2 at full-time. The Caps will need to rebound on November 5 when they return home for the second match in this new best-of-three series at part of the latest MLS playoff format. The good news, they have been quality at BC Place this season. If they win that match, they would force at third and decisive match on November 9, back in LA.

😬 CF Montréal had a tense end-of-season media day. It’s been a turbulent season with a disappointing end for MTL. Missing out on playoffs in a dramatic last-minute fashion, rumours circulate about Hernan Losada’s position as head coach in 2024. It is important to note that CFM had one of their most successful seasons in 2022, finishing second in the regular season, reaching the second round of playoffs and then losing AJ, Koné, Milhailovic, Kamal Miller and coach Wilfried Nancy. A major change. With that context in mind, Losada had a massive job ahead of him. However, the front office wasn’t fond of his performance. Sporting director Olivier Renard stated, “I’m not happy with what we’ve seen throughout the season. […] Away from home, we were non-existent both in terms of personality and style of play.”

😳 Montréal’s only DP, Victor Wanyama, expressed his concerns with the head coach. Wanyama was replaced by 19-year-old Nathan Saliba, which frustrated him, but he respected the decision since the team was winning and the youngster was performing well. However, when the team started losing and asking for an explanation for being benched, “I asked for explanations, and I didn’t get one. I was surprised that he couldn’t give me the reason.” Wanyama further expressed that communication with the manager was unclear and that “our opinions didn’t matter.” When Losada was asked about Wanyama’s comments, he replied: “I can understand his frustration. Sometimes, it can be difficult to accept that a young player plays in your place because he is better than you.” So, things are tense. There are a lot of moving factors with CF MTL at the moment. Canadian players remained diplomatic during this affair. However, at the end of the day, the supporters want results. That will only come once the internal tensions between manager, player and front office can be resolved. Here’s the full press conference.

🔵 Also, Romell Quioto could be gone next season as rumours emerged that Turkish club Konyaspor is interested. On a positive note, Mathieu Choinière won club MVP, while Jonathan Sirois won the club’s defensive player of the year.

Canadian Premier League

🏆 North Star Cup unveiled ahead of CPL final. With the CPL Shield inaugurated this season, the North Star Cup has finally been revealed. A trophy that gives similar vibes as the Gold Cup, Europa League, or MLS Cup. All trophies will share similarities, but this cup stands out uniquely with its sleek design and adornment of Canadian symbols. It's a cup worthy of the Canadian Premier League.

🥇 The league also announced its award winners for the 2023 season at a swanky event this past Thursday. Unsurprisingly, regular season champs Cavalry were the big winners. Daan Klomp took home both Defender of the Year and Player of the Year. Ali Musse was voted Players’ Player of the Year by his peers and Tommy Wheeldon Jr. won his second Coach of the Year award. Forge’s Triston Henry took home the Golden Glove as best goalkeeper, while Valour’s Matteo de Brienne was named best U-21 Player of the Year.

📋 CPL Commissioner Mark Noonan held a state of the league address before the final. With eight notable highlights:

1) The league will be sticking with eight teams for next season, with two new teams expected in both 2025 and 2026 respectively.

2) York United is expected to announce a “new world-class ownership group” within the next 30 days.

3) CPL has been working with upward of 15 groups interested in expansion.

4) Mark Noonan calls for a team in Québec. The second largest province is without CPL franchises, with CF Montréal being the only professional football club in the province. Noonan also called for the need to expand the league westward and fill in the geographical gaps.

5) The CPL seems to have taken steps forward toward cable in the wake of a dispute between Rogers and OneSoccer. Full story here.

6) The U-21 minutes initiative will remain the same in 2024. Clubs are required to give a minimum of 2,000 minutes for domestic U-21 players in order to be playoff eligible—an initiative to help develop young Canadian players at the professional level.

7) VAR is still in consideration. Mark Noonan is balancing the cost of VAR, and training VAR officials, versus other investments the league could make.

8) The CPL has enjoyed an overall season attendance increase. In 2022, the attendance at CPL games was 360,832. This year, the attendance to live games has increased to 429,915. That is a 19% increase throughout the league. This also means the league’s revenue is increasing. For a five-year-old league, this is a banner year.

A full breakdown of each point can be found here.

Northern Picks

Gems from at home and across the pond.
This week’s picks come from Michael Wagenknecht (@wagsinho)

Wagsinho for those who know. He’s the maestro behind FC Cold Sand, a wizard with the camera, and one of the silkiest ballers in the GTA. Catch him posting up at the clubhouse, Sonndr Cafe for a one on one and a cheeky coffee.  

📚 What to read

I’ve just started Doctor Socrates, it’s always interesting to learn more about players off the pitch. A fantastic footballer that fought for social injustice off the pitch.

📺 What to watch

Recently I watched Players Tribunes’ “Remember The Name” series. Some of them are from a few years ago so it’s interesting to look back and see which names we’re still remembering haha.

Another series I watched called “Dogs Of Berlin” was definitely over the top and intense, but it definitely keeps you drawn in. It’s a fictional story involving betting in German football that includes tons of drama and current real-world social dilemmas.

🎧 What to listen to

Ruben Gonzalez for music. Throw on the album titled “Introducing” and go for a walk, you’ll walk longer than you planned. I’ve also just listened to a few episodes of Mundial Mag’s podcast “GIANT”. They’re all very well done, but “the baptism of Ronaldinho” is a great one to draw you in and remember his magic.

✅ Who to follow

@futballisztika has some brilliant futbol based images. Often times ones I’ve never seen before! I’ve only dreamt of visiting a gallery like this.