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Preview: Toronto FC takes on Forge FC in long-awaited 2020 Canadian Championship Final

We may be in 2022, but an overdue piece of silverware is up for grabs at Tim Hortons Field.

Sean Pollock/Waking The Red

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for Forge FC versus Toronto FC in the 2020 Canadian Championship Final…in 2022.

For the first time in history, TFC will face Forge in competitive action, and in spite of the coronavirus pandemic delaying this fixture for two years, the stage is finally set for this long-awaited meeting on Saturday, June 4th at Tim Hortons Field.

Kickoff is set for 7:00 pm EST, with the game available to stream on OneSoccer.

Before diving into the current form of both teams, it is worth noting exactly how TFC and Forge punched their tickets to the 2020 Canadian Championship Final.

The nature of the pandemic meant that the usual cup format of the Canadian Championship could no longer be staged. As a result, the Canada Soccer Association announced that the 2020 edition of the tournament would consist of only the final, which would be played between one Canadian MLS club and the 2020 CPL Island Games winners.

On the MLS side, Canada’s three franchises faced each other three times between August 18th and September 16th, 2020. Toronto FC would win the three-team series, tallying 12 points from a possible 18. Thus, the Reds advanced to the tournament’s showpiece match at the expense of CF Montreal and the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Greg Vanney would have been the man in charge if this fixture indeed took place in 2020, but it will be Bob Bradley at the helm, Toronto’s third different head coach since Vanney’s departure a year and a half ago.

Despite finishing third in the first stage of the Island Games, Forge topped the group stage and set up a clash with HFX Wanderers in the final. Goals from Alexander Achinioti-Jönsson and Maxim Tissot saw The Hammers record a 2-0 victory to not only lift the North Star Shield for the second straight year, but to also book their place in the 2020 Canadian Championship Final.

Football fans in close proximity of Toronto and Hamilton will have looked forward to this fixture one day coming to fruition since Forge FC was founded in May 2017. Now in June 2022, the dawn of a new rivalry might finally be upon us.

With Toronto FC also through to the 2022 Canadian Championship semi-finals, the Reds could become the first club in history to lift the Voyageurs Cup twice in the same calendar year. For Forge, they’ll have their sights firmly set on becoming the first ever CPL club to win Canada’s domestic cup competition.

Both sides are coming into this clash off the back of narrow victories in their respective leagues. Toronto FC came from 2-1 down to beat the Chicago Fire 3-2 on May 28th courtesy of a game-winning brace from Alejandro Pozuelo. Meanwhile, Forge also recorded a one-goal win in their last CPL outing, as a Tristan Borges hat trick helped his side to a 4-3 away victory over FC Edmonton.

Forge currently sits fourth in the CPL standings with a game in hand, seven points behind leaders Pacific FC, and just two points ahead of Valour FC and York United. Over in MLS, Bob Bradley’s men may be third from bottom in Eastern Conference, but they are just three points behind seventh-place Inter Miami with 20 league games left to play.

On the injury for Toronto, the Reds will be without Jonathan Osorio, who was also forced to withdraw from the Canadian men’s national team’s June window. TFC’s all-time appearance leader was forced off injured just 12 minutes into his side’s win over Chicago, with Bob Bradley telling the media after the game that the injury was “sort of lingering.”

Bradley also confirmed that Chris Mavinga, Shane O’Neill (who is in concussion protocol), Noble Okello and Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty will also play no part in the final.

As for Toronto’s opponent, Forge head coach Bobby Smyrniotis said that aside from Chris Nanco, Johnny Grant and Omar Browne, the team is managing the rest of the group “day-by-day.”

In his pre-match press conference, Bradley spoke on how much this game truly means to the club and the players in spite of the two-year delay:

“The most important part is for the club and the players,” TFC’s head coach remarked.

Echoing Bradley, goalkeeper Quentin Westberg, who has started his side’s last two games in all competitions, expressed his desire to claim victory on Saturday:

“Let’s make this Canadian Championship special,” said the 36-year-old.

This matchup will be special for the likes of Kyle Bekker and Ashtone Morgan, two notable names who once played for Toronto FC. Both Bekker and Morgan featured for TFC in at least one leg of the 2014 Canadian Championship Final. Now, the duo will look to spoil the party for their former employer when they visit Tim Hortons Field.

TFC and Forge both recently came up against sides from the opposite league in the 2022 Canadian Championship quarter-finals. The Reds presided over a narrow 2-1 victory over HFX Wanderers, while Forge were defeated comprehensively by CF Montreal in their tie.

Against CPL clubs, Toronto FC has a perfect record of three wins from three. In addition to the victory in Halifax, the Reds took down York United and Pacific FC in last season’s edition of the tournament. Forge on the other hand, has never beaten an MLS side, losing twice to Montreal in 2021 and 2022 respectively.

Ultimately, this is a competition that Toronto FC holds dear to their heart. Having not lifted this honour since 2018, the Reds know that Saturday will be an opportunity to not only win their first trophy of the season, but to also boost morale ahead of the rest of their MLS campaign.

Moreover, a trophy is up for grabs at Tim Hortons Field, and Toronto FC and Forge FC look set to provide fans with a proper cup final.