Forged Under Pressure: What Makes a CPL Rivalry?

Forged Under Pressure: What Makes a CPL Rivalry?

Kevin Anderson

I have written a lot about “The Rivalry” for 13th Man Sports. The first unforced and meaningful rivalry in CPL history. The brawling, Spring and Fall-ing animosity that is Forge/Cavalry.

But recently with two Ontario “rivalry” games back-to-back for Forge, some other teams have started to claim rivalry with the league’s most storied franchise. So let’s have a look at who stacks up, and who doesn’t as rivals to the Mighty, Mighty Forge.


First, we should consider the factors that make a rivalry tick. I think things like head-to-head competitiveness are important. How the fans feel about each other. Big game history. Controversy. Geography. And of course, league-manufactured PR. Just kidding about that last one of course.

With no further ado, let’s look at the contenders.


Forge vs Cavalry FC

Duh. This is a no-brainer. Since season one these two teams have been rivals. There was early controversy. A contested penalty late in injury time, which AAJ nearly stopped. That foul also led to a brouhaha. It also led to accusations of inappropriate language from a coach toward opposing players, and, regardless of the facts, laid bare the need for better processes in the new league for handling serious issues. Well, that handles all the Forge/Cavalry controversy. Except of course more was to come in the finals with two red cards being handed out. One rescinded. Animosity grows.

Also, there is the whole Spring and Fall argument. Cavs fans will tell you (usually unrequested) that the greatest accomplishment of season one was winning both Spring and Fall. Forge fans (usually condescendingly) will retort that Bobby played a ‘B’ team in the final game of the season – in a game that could have won him the fall – in order to rest up for the actual, league-designated championship, something they went on to play in style. (Domination in the game in Hamilton that was only kept close by 3 crossbars and a fine PK save).

Canadian Premier League – Cavalry FC v Forge FC – Calgary, Alberta, Canada Jul, 27, 2022 Cavalry attacker Ben Fisk and Cavalry defender Roberto Alarcón close in on Forge FC defender Ashtone Morgan. CFC Media Mike Sturk

And of course, there is the rumour that the away dressing room at ATCO Field still has stains on the ceiling from Forge Champagne. That adds a little salt too.

Are the games close? Well up to now they have faced each other 19 times. Only once has a game been decided by more than a single goal. (July 9th, 2021. 2-0 Forge). And though Forge’s record is 10-4-5 against Cavalry, all games have been fiery.

Plus Escalante was Forge’s own pantomime villain before the league knew enough to hate him.

The geography is both a hit and miss. While the distance means only a few intrepid souls make the trip, either way, to follow on away day, it does set up the classic East-West tensions that North American sports fans are used to.

This is a certified rivalry.


Forge vs Atletico Ottawa

A thrilling final before the biggest-ever playoff crowd in league history. A League Championship* handed out for finishing atop the table last year, pipping Forge to first. A third entrant in the Battle of Ontario. The massive foreign ownership versus the ownership that started it all. These should all add up to Rivalry status, no?

Short answer: No.

Atlético Ottawa vs Forge FC May 27, 2023 PHOTO: Valerie Wutti/Freestyle Photography

The details are these. While the turnout at TD Place was amazing for the finals last year, the end result was to be expected. 2-0 Forge. Now, normally in the soccer world, that score would be reported as 0-2. Home team first. But in CPL-land, everyone knows that TD Place is also known as Forge’s Home on Bank Street. The Cottage. Bob Young’s Rental Property. It tells you something that Atlético Ottawa has never won a game there against Forge. It tells you something more that they’ve never scored a goal. Not one. With one victory against Forge in their short history calling this a rivalry might be premature. Crowds and all. (And I love their crowd, especially ‘the Dub.’ Young, vibrant, diverse and loud. But they are not quite the grizzled, veteran ‘we-were-here-before-there-was-even-a-league” vibe of the Battalion in The Bellows – Section 112).

As for the league title last year, or as it is affectionately known, the cardboard cut-out, that doesn’t even rise to controversy. For a team with nothing in their trophy case but a wooden spoon, this might seem like something to cheer about. But to the rest of the league, it is something less. Not quite an embarrassment, but something in that vein. Announcing something well after the halfway point of the season is very CPL. Announcing it without supporter input, vintage CPL. Announcing it without an actual trophy to accompany it, Classic CPL. At any rate, Bobby knew what was being played for based on the rules (at the beginning of the season) and experimented accordingly. As did the rest of the league. (Imagine if PFC knew there was going to be a cash prize for finishing first. Maybe a sale at the end of the season for their prized asset might have been on the cards – rather than at the midpoint). Anyway, that “win” is not enough to fire up a rivalry.

So, for now, FOR-ATO is a no as a rivalry. But the future looks bright as the groundwork is being laid.

The Road To Olympic Gold FC13 Podcast

Welcome back Ball Boys and Girls, we know that we have been away for a while on a small break, and we apologize, but we are back and ready to dive into it! And what a better way to kick things off than with an Olympic win! That's right, today Andrae and Thomas sit down to discuss the masterclass performance by the Canadian Women's National team, as they took on Jamaica in the first of two games. It seems as Bev Priestman has really honed the team after their shocking exit from the Women's World Cup, and now have the sites set on Olympic Gold. So jump on in, and buckle up for your source of everything Canadian. ———————————————————— Thanks so much to todays sponsor SeatGeek! When you need tickets, but can't seem to find them, head on over to the #1 trusted name in the ticket resale business, and use our code FC13Pod to get $20 off your first order. ————————————————————- Be sure to follow us on Twitter @FC13Podcast, and our parent account, @13thManSports for all of your sports needs!

Forge vs York9/United

This has some of the markings of a rivalry. The first ever match in CPL history. Bad blood (mostly created by Bekker’s elbow, figuratively and literally). Competitive games, including a playoff meeting. Although Forge’s record is 11-1-6 against York all-time, it is competitive. York has dished out some not-quite thrashings, but well-earned victories. And adding the crossover of two Forge stalwarts in Mo Babouli and Johnny Grant adds a little spice. And the geography lends itself to a battle too as fans can make the trip comfortably. So this one is a nailed-on rivalry for sure, right?


Toronto, ONTARIO, CANADA/ Canadian Premier League/May.5th, 2023/ Jojo Yanjiao Qian/Forge FC

There are a couple of things that hurt the rivalry perspective. Firstly, fans. As in, one team has them. I know that’s a little harsh, but the numbers don’t lie. York has been near the bottom in attendance since the start of the CPL. And the sheer number of supporter groups dilutes the rivalry factor a bit. And though I absolutely adore the “Pie Rack”, it is short a few pies. The friendliness and cooperation between the Forge and York supporters are fantastic though, and a bit Canadian rivalry-ish. Shout out to the Lee Johnson Memorial game – to return again this year.

The second thing that hurts the rivalry a bit is the lack of success on one side. While both teams have met in the playoffs, it was once, and it was not close. York’s only post-season game was a drubbing at the hands of the Forge. It makes it a bit harder to build hate if one team is a lot more successful. Not impossible, it will just not necessarily be required. One good thing about the new playoff format is that it may help build on some of these rivalries.

Lastly, there is the “Corporate-ness” of it all. The 905 Derby is definitely right out of a league office meeting. And it stinks. Highways as descriptors are bad enough for rivalries. But at least both teams use those to get to the matches. In fact, the proximity of the two cities is what lends itself to highways as they don’t have to fly to meet each other. An area code assumes the teams are calling each other or something. I mean is it too on the nose to say someone was phoning it in when they came up with this?

That said, I think this is a rivalry, just perhaps not a top-tier one.


Forge vs Pacific

Is this a rivalry? Um, heck yes.

Forge owned PFC in the early going. (The head-to-head stands at 10-2-3 which is a testament to the good ol’ days for Forge).

But PFC has done something – something no one else has – to turn it around. They beat Forge in a Final! And it was at Tim Horton’s Field. (If only they always played the Finals in Ottawa). Nothing creates a rivalry quite like beating a team in the Finals, then staying competitive.

Forge FC Vs. Pacific FC – PFC / CPL

The added bonus of the Great Escape – when Hojabrpour and Campbell joined the good guys – adds some extra flavour. It is pretty rare to see players jump ship to the team they beat in a Final. But here we are.

They have an East-West dichotomy. They’ve obviously played big matches against each other, and one is looking to knock the other off its perch as the most successful CPL team in history.

I’d say this one makes the list.

Forge vs HFX

Nope. Though they met in the Islands Games Final, this is no rivalry. The fans/supporters are too nice. The 8-7-2 record favours Forge, but the 7 ties tells you that HFX shows up to the games. But in the end, a road trip that fans sign up for each year like its a world class resort just doesn’t breed rivalry.

But it is definitely a fun fixture to be part of.


Forge vs Valour FC

This actually should be a rivalry. They have an almost even split in the lifetime series. Forge probably lost out on a piece of cardboard as a result of two losses in the same week at Big House in Winnipeg. Their has been a little bad blood, resulting in some late game reds. East-West thing. Blah, blah, blah.

But this all comes down to big games. And Valour just hasn’t had one yet. It could have all been different if they had won the weird 3-team play-in for the initial Concacaf League. But as it stands, it is just another game on the schedule.


Forge vs Vancouver FC

See me in a few years.

What Other Rivalries Exist

Ok, so in the end, as a Forge-based writer, the rivalries in this article skewed local. But the league has some others.

The Coast-to-Coast Derby – PFC and HFX Wanderers. Unfortunately, the Wildrose Cup is no more; but with no wins for Edmonton ever, that wasn’t much of a rivalry between the Cavs and Eddies anyway. That leaves York and Atletico. This one is the real deal for me.

Atlético Ottawa vs York United FC on April 29, 2023 PHOTO: Tim Austen/Freestyle Photography

They play each other tough on the pitch. The fans give each other some great back-and-forth on the socials. And they both need something to play for with the role of CanPL’s Ontario Football Royalty spoken for by Forge.

I hope to see more rivalries blossom in the CPL as new teams join, and new teams win big games.

But until then, Forge vs Cavalry remains the standard bearer. Forge vs PFC is a close second. And finally, York vs Atletico is growing. (And Pacific vs new VFC is probably going to build up too).

Let me know what I missed or flat-out got wrong in the comments.

Subscribe to 13th Man Sports to get email notifications when we post!

One thought on “Forged Under Pressure: What Makes a CPL Rivalry?

  1. Well… after last night I think the 905 Derby keeps having spice sprinkled on it after two well-fought battles by both teams this year

    It’s also worth mentioning that York really aren’t that bad against Forge by the standards of other teams, 11-1-7 in Forge’s favour ain’t bad for the Nine Stripes. And the fact that there’s only been one draw adds to it I think, anything can happen. Hopefully more organic rivalries grow soon

Let us know what you think!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.