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Forge, Cavalry lead the way after opening weekend of CanPL’s ‘Island Games’

The Canadian Premier League is back and after the first weekend of action, the two most dominant clubs from 2019 are already showing how good they are.

Marcus Haber celebrates his goal against Valour FC on Sunday
(CPL/Chant Photography)

The Canadian Premier League is back with The Island Games, and after the first weekend of action, the two most dominant clubs from 2019 — Forge FC and Cavalry FC — are already showing how good they are.

All eight clubs, including expansion side Atletico Ottawa, have played at least once now in Charlottetown, with six of the teams (with the exception of FC Edmonton and Valour FC) picking up at least one point.

Here’s a recap of all of the action thus far.

Day 1: Welcome to the Island Games

The action got underway on Thursday evening with a rematch of the 2019 CPL Finals: Forge FC vs Cavalry FC. It didn’t take long for Cavalry to find the back of the net, as Dominick Zator scored the first goal of the season in the 11th minute with a header from a corner kick. Anthony Novak equalised for Forge in the 26th minute with an impressive half-bicycle kick, sending it into halftime at 1-1.

After the break it was a pair of former Toronto FC players Kyle Bekker and Mo Babouli combining with David Choinière to give Forge the lead. Babouli used a great bit of skill to create some space for himself before laying the ball off to Choinière. He found the head of Kyle Bekker, who made no mistake.

It looked as though Forge were going to take all three points in the tournament opener, but a controversial handball call (from the fourth official, of all people), gave Cavalry a late to chance to equalize, and Nathan Mavila made no mistake from the spot, tying it up with his first goal for the club, as the match ended 2-2.

Day 2: An Atletico Ottawa debut

On Saturday, there were two games, including the first in Atletico Ottawa history.

Ottawa was taking on provincial rival York9 FC, and got off to a dream start. Mohamed Kourouma scored the club's first-ever goal in first half stoppage time, and just moments after the break, Malcolm Shaw made it 2-0 for the newcomers.

When it seemed like Ottawa might pull off an upset and win their first-ever match, left-back Vashon Neufville, who was having a good game up to that point, was sent off in the 50th minute, drastically shifting the tide.

10 minutes later, the Nine Stripes would make them pay for the red card, as teenager Lowell Wright brought them back within one. With the goal, Wright became the youngest goalscorer in CPL history, aged just 16 years 361 days.

Two minutes later, Joseph Di Chiara equalized for York9, converting a penalty conceded by Ottawa's Jarred Phillips. Perhaps two points lost rather than one gained for Ottawa, but it was a good performance in their first match nonetheless.

The second game of the day on Saturday featured a team from each coast as a pair of penalties helped HFX Wanderers seal a draw with Pacific FC. João Morelli gave HFX the lead from the spot in the 11th minute, a lead that would last up until the 68th minute, when Zach Verhoeven found the back of the net with a driven strike across the goal.

Pacific went ahead in the 75th thanks to Marco Bustos' first goal with his new club, but the lead wouldn't last long, as Ibrahima Sanoh scored from the spot for HFX in the 86th minute, and this one would also end 2-2.

Day 3: Can we get a game that doesn’t finish 2-2?

Sunday's first match saw Cavalry remain unbeaten, as the Calgary-side triumphed past a new-look Winnipeg-based Valour FC side 2-0, becoming the first team at The Island Games to win a match. Last year’s runners-up were also the firs team to keep a clean sheet.

In the 29th minute, Canadian international Marcus Haber scored his first goal for his new side, heading home a Mohamed Farsi cross from close range. TFC academy product Sergio Camargo scored a penalty four minutes later, giving Cavalry the 2-0 victory.

Then, in the final match of the weekend, Forge picked up their first win of 2020, beating FC Edmonton 2-0.

Kwame Awuah got the scoring underway with a stunning strike from outside the penalty area. His left-footed effort curled into the top corner for his first CPL goal in his second season.

FC Edmonton put up a good fight, nearly equalizing from a Kareem Moses free kick, but it was Forge who would take all three points on the day, adding a Moses own-goal in second-half stoppage time.

FC Edmonton's main concern may not be the dropped points, but the status of defender Amer Didic going forward. The Canadian international was helped off the pitch around the hour mark with what appeared to be a problem in his foot. So far, there is no update on his availability for The Eddies' next match.

Here are the current standings.

Upcoming Schedule

Aug 18 - Tuesday (8:00 pm EDT)

Pacific FC vs. York9 FC

Aug 19 - Wednesday (1:00 pm EDT)

Atletico Ottawa vs Valour FC

Aug 19 - Wednesday (8:00 pm EDT)

HFX Wanderers vs Forge FC

Aug 20 - Thursday (8:00 pm EDT)

FC Edmonton vs Cavalry FC

Aug 22 - Saturday (1:00 pm EDT)

York9 FC vs Valour FC

Aug 22 - Saturday (4:00 pm EDT)

Forge FC vs Pacific FC