Credit where credit is due. Ottawa showed up for the finals! Over 14,000 spectators.
And that credit goes to a coach named Carlos Gonzales that turned things around (we’ll discuss his technique later), a front office staff that got the word out, a team that played their hearts out, and to me, most importantly a Supporters Culture that is (ugh) massive.
They all came together to create the best game day atmosphere I have ever been a part of in this league. So thanks, merci and gracias.
As for the game itself, what is there to say. Forge were the better team. I don’t know how Bobby motivates his boys, but it is hard not to think that the CPL Awards didn’t find their way onto a small corner of the bulletin board somehow.
The League MVP was a non-factor. Smothered by the Forge team defence. The press on him was tight. The Forge midfield was a bit of a bully. And the pressure to do it all for the team seemed to overwhelm him in the moment. Some uncharacteristic set pieces including a comically poor corner that led to ironic chants of “MVP” from the Forge faithful seemed to sum it up on the day for Ollie. Just not good enough.
As for coaching, Bobby has been here before, and it showed. Carlos Gonzales was always going to struggle once the first goal went in. Atletico is not built to attack. Insert OC Transpo joke here because there are more parked buses in his philosophy than Grand Prix cars. But Forge seemed happy to have Ottawa possess the ball. Well, happier than Atletico felt having it at least. It was some of the same work Bobby unleashed against HFX at the Island Games. Making the opponents feel uncomfortable by dictating how the game is played. A reminder that no one gets past Bobby easily. And CarGo did not seem to have any answers to the questions Smyrniotis’ tactics asked of him. He may not have the personal accolades to prove it, but Bobby’s fingerprints all over the Northstar Shield back up his superiority in a way a “vote” can’t. (To see why I still maintain he is coach of the year, click here.
But the way Ottawa usually succeeds is by taking those few chances they create and making them count. However, while deserved ‘Keeper of the year nominee Nathan Ingham found himself fishing balls out of the net on 2 occasions, Triston was a wall. And while opposing fans around the league are quick to point out he makes mistakes (who doesn’t in this league) stats don’t lie. He has been beaten once in 5 Finals matches (two legged Final in year one). He calmed the Forge fans’ heart rates on a couple of occasions Sunday night. Oh Henry indeed!
S. 2 Ep. 17 – Can Canada Hold Herdman – FC13 Podcast
But all of that stuff is just fodder for not-so-creative writers. The truth of the matter is whatever the Forge use as motivation, it works.
There is more to say about this game. How about big game Alessandro Hojabrpour? Scores back-to-back game winners in the CPL finals. He broke Hamilton’s heart last year, only to put it back together. And he is still just a kid.
And is there any bigger big-game hunter than David Choiniere? CPL Finals, Concacaf League, even the vaunted Azteca. He won’t be denied when it matters. And that’s why he wasn’t on Sunday.
Big games all around is what was needed. Let’s look at a few more.
⁃ Noah Jensen did not look out of place at all stepping into his suspended captain’s shoes.
⁃ Rama and Morgan controlling the wide sides of the pitch both ways, but especially defensively.
⁃ Krutzen and AAJ doing what they always do (the CPL got Defender of the Year 100% right).
⁃ Garven Metusala stepping up to play some shut down D as a late sub and also setting up Choiniere showing a bit of Bobby’s favourite feature, flexibility.
⁃ Borges with his seemingly millionth assist of the season to start it all off.
⁃ Dom coming on to add an ineffable defensive quality best described as “The Hammer”
⁃ Guys all buying into their roles. It was a team that came back for their trophy
And my final kudos go to the 300 or so souls who lifted the stadium of thousands with their sonorous support (full disclosure I am one of them). Maybe being in the midst of that orange crush has coloured my perspective, but this was the heart of the stadium. It pulsated from the opening whistle and didn’t stop until the bars of the city had shut down. I wouldn’t trade that night with my family and friends for anything. We heard the Atletico Supporters. They did their job. But the stadium felt the Barton Street Battalion.
I think this match was a ringing endorsement for the growth of supporter culture in Canada. A stadium of thousands got a taste of two of Canada’s, biggest, loudest and most fun Supporters Groups. I hope all of the great groups around the league took note. And more importantly I hope the league did. We need to keep growing this.
Congratulations CPL, you did yourself proud.
And congratulations Forge, you are back where you belong.
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