MATCH ANALYSIS: Forge FC go toe-to-toe with CF Montreal in first-leg quarter-final draw
Canadian Premier League

Final Score: Forge FC 1-1 CF Montreal
Goalscorers: D. Choinière 31′; Duke 52′
2024 TELUS Canadian Championship — Quarter-Final (Leg 1)

Match in a minute or less

Forge FC and CF Montreal will have to settle this Canadian Championship quarter-final back at Stade Saputo, as Tuesday morning’s first leg finished in a 1-1 draw in Hamilton.

In front of 14,923 spectators, many of whom were local students from the Hamilton area at Forge’s school day match, the hosts took the lead just over half an hour in, as they attacked in transition. Béni Badibanga squared it across the penalty area to David Choinière who struck it well to score against his former club, making it 1-0.

After Montreal made four changes at halftime, though, the MLS side found a way back into the match. One of those substitutes, Bryce Duke, was the one to equalize, as his first shot was blocked but he jumped quickly on the loose ball and scored.

So, all is left to play for in the second leg two weeks from now; Montreal have a crucial away goal, but nonetheless a draw at home against MLS opposition is a good result Forge can build on.

Three Observations

All to play for in Leg 2 as Forge show intensity in front of boisterous school day crowd

Forge FC have played Major League Soccer opposition three times at Tim Hortons Field now, and they have never lost over 90 minutes.

They may have lost on penalties to CF Montreal and Toronto FC in 2021 and 2022, but neither time were they firmly beaten in the course of the match itself. Such was the case again on Tuesday, and although Forge might leave the game a little disappointed they couldn’t hold onto the lead, the fact that they’ve kept themselves in the tie and can go into Leg 2 knowing any win would be enough makes this a generally successful day.

“We created a lot of quality opportunities, and most importantly we played some quality football,” Forge head coach Bobby Smyrniotis said after the gaem. “Thirty seconds in I think we’re clear on goal, and that’s the intent of the team. That’s the beauty that these environments also bring; this place was packed, it was loud, and that always gives energy to a home team, we saw that in the first 15, 20 minutes of the game. But we were good, played in the zones we wanted to; you’re always going to made small little mistakes that we talked about at halftime, but generally happy with the performance.

Another key success for this day: the event itself. Certainly, 11 a.m. on a Tuesday morning is an unusual time to play a cup quarter-final, but the school day game turned out to be a boon for the host club. Smyrniotis admitted postmatch that he’d known there would be a large contingent of kids in the stands, but perhaps not that many — nor as engaged as they were.

The 14,923 in attendance were loud throughout the 90 minutes, as a legion of schoolchildren might be expected to be, but also fully locked into the game itself. Choinière’s goal brought Tim Hortons Field to life with a noise that somewhat resembled that after Tristan Borges’ championship-winning goal last October.

As Smyrniotis put it, it wasn’t just thousands of kids or thousands of students in the crowd on Tuesday, but thousands of fans — and hopefully, a lot of them will want to come back.

“To be honest, we didn’t know before; not how many people would be here, but how loud it would be and how engaged they were. It was quite fantastic; as a coach and as a player you’re involved in the game, but there are split seconds where you look around and see what’s going on and you realize this is fantastic.”

(Photo: Brandon Taylor/Forge FC)

Montreal turn things around with major halftime shakeup

Some eyebrows were raised at CF Montreal’s squad rotation coming into the match, with seven changes from the starting XI that played Nashville SC on the weekend. Sebastian Breza and Ilias Iliadis made their first appearances of the season, as the MLS club opted for a balanced squad that still included veterans like Joel Waterman and former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Victor Wanyama.

In the first half, Montreal’s energy levels might have been a slight step behind Forge’s, with the visitors a little sluggish in transition at times and not quite connected in the final third. They found their way into the game toward the end of the first half, though, and forced Chris Kalongo into action although they still struggled to execute, particularly from set-pieces with a couple of attempts that were cleared comfortably.

At halftime, though, Montreal head coach Laurent Courtois turned the game on its head somewhat, making four substitutions and bringing in Bryce Duke, Ariel Lassiter, George Campbell and Raheem Edwards — all of whom started on the weekend against Nashville.

It took just over five minutes for the subs to make an impact; it was Edwards who intercepted the ball out of the air and he played it quickly across the box to Duke, who ultimately recovered his own rebound to score.

Courtois admitted after the game that the quadruple substitution had been completely unplanned, with the scoreline and the flow of play forcing him to bring on some of his more experienced players in order to avoid falling further behind.

“That was not planned at all,” Courtois said. “I thought it was necessary. It was not ideal, but they were able to raise the level and at least show a bit of urgency and come back for the tie. But that was not the plan.”

Overall, Courtois suggested that he’d been impressed by Forge, who caused particular problems for Montreal with their aggression in the press and in their quick transitional play. The CPL side made better use of the width of the pitch (more on that later), especially with an inexperienced player like Ilias Iliadis matched up with David Choinière on the left flank.

“It’s a really good team we faced today,” Courtois said. “We knew they were going to have some moments with control where we needed to be careful, and we got punished also when we had the ball and they were able to capitalize in transition. They also got dangerous in the second half in those same moments, so we knew that both on the ball and off the ball it’s a really good team we faced and it could’ve gone both ways.”

Montreal likely didn’t want to use a many of their MLS regulars as they did in this game, with an extremely tough run of league matches coming up. They play Lionel Messi’s Inter Miami on Saturday, followed by Concacaf Champions Cup finalists Columbus Crew on Wednesday, and then derby rivals Toronto FC the following Saturday before Leg 2 against Forge.

(Photo: Brandon Taylor/Forge FC)

Forge use width of pitch, quality of wingers to create transitional attacks

So far this season, Forge have been the most fluid attacking team in the Canadian Premier League with how synchronized the movement of their front four has been. On Tuesday, up against stiffer opposition, they maintained that free-flowing approach, with David Choinière and Béni Badibanga interchanging across the two flanks and Tristan Borges floating between them to combine for quick passes between enemy lines.

Jordan Hamilton, who got the start at centre-forward due to an injury to Terran Campbell, did an excellent job in his role. With Montreal playing a back three, Joel Waterman remained stuck to Hamilton as the spearhead of Forge’s attack, which the striker used to his advantage. He was able to continuously push Montreal’s defenders backward, which opened up space between the lines and allowed Forge to play wide while keeping Choinière and Badibanga onside.

Hamilton’s run just before Choinière’s goal is worthy of credit, as he engaged a defender and dragged him into the box, allowing the cross to go past him to a wide-open Choinière with plenty of space to score.

Forge definitely did not look like a lower-level side than Montreal at any point. Choinière and Badibanga would not have looked out of place if this were an MLS game, considering the first touch, speed and technique both players displayed when driving the ball forward. Badibanga in particular always seemed to show up when Forge launched a transition, dictating the tempo and beating defenders with his pace.

Some of Forge’s staff and players might leave this match feeling they should’ve scored another — they had a pair of agonizingly close chances in the final few minutes, first with a Noah Jensen shot and then again on the ensuing corner kick after it was saved. However, now that they’ve scored their first ever goal against CF Montreal, they’ve got an idea of how they can be most dangerous in two weeks at Stade Saputo.

That second leg on May 22 will be Forge’s best chance in years of defeating MLS opposition. If they’re as up for it as they were on Tuesday, and the attack remains this aggressive, there’s reason to believe that could be their moment. Player of the Match

Béni Badibanga (Forge FC)

The Belgian winger was an incredible handful for Montreal all day, spending time on both wings and showing an eagerness to take on defenders and create chances. He had three successful dribbles, 22 passes in the final third, three shots and won possession six times, also providing a good ball across the box to feed David Choinière for his goal.

Box Score


Forge FC: Kalongo; Duncan (Samuel 84′), Achinioti-Jönsson, Metusala, Parra; Bekker, Hojabrpour; Badibanga, Borges (Jensen 78′), D. Choinière; Hamilton (Poku 84′)

CF Montreal: Breza; Ruan (Duke 46′), Iliadis (Edwards 46′ (Biello 73′)), Waterman, Alvarez, Jabang (G. Campbell 46′); Wanyama, M. Choinière, Zouhir; Toye (Lassiter 46′), Ibrahim


31′ — David Choinière (Forge FC)
52′ — Bryce Duke (CF Montreal)


5′ — Yellow: Ilias Iliadis (CF Montreal)
28′ — Yellow: Ousman Jabang (CF Montreal)
51′ — Yellow: Joel Waterman (CF Montreal)
54′ — Yellow: Daniel Parra (Forge FC)
72′ — Yellow: Fernando Alvarez (CF Montreal)

What’s next?

The second leg of this quarter-final tie will go down at Montreal’s Stade Saputo next Wednesday, May 22 (7:30 p.m. ET). Before they can worry about that, however, Forge return their attention to the Canadian Premier League, where they’ll take on Pacific FC this Saturday, May 11 at Starlight Stadium (2 p.m. PT/5 p.m. ET).

Watch all TELUS Canadian Championship matches live on OneSoccer. In addition to its website and app, OneSoccer is now available on TELUS channel 980 and on Fubo TV. Call your local cable provider to ask for OneSoccer today.