CF Montreal, Vancouver Whitecaps advance to Canadian Championship final
MONTREAL — CF Montreal will play in their third Canadian Championship final in five years after beating Forge FC 2-0 at Stade Saputo on Wednesday evening.
Ariel Lassiter and Sunusi Ibrahim were the goal scorers as Montreal beat Forge in the tournament for the third consecutive year.
Despite a slow start to the game, Montreal controlled the ball for the majority of the first half. Forge lined up with two compact banks of four in an effort to frustrate any oncoming attacks with great success.
Forge were the first side to create a scoring chance about half an hour into the game, despite the possession disparity.
David Choinière picked up the ball at midfield and made a darting run down the middle, setting up Woobens Pacius who put a low shot wide from a tough angle for the Hamilton side.
"I think the first 45 minutes were very good and the game was under control," said Forge head coach Bobby Smyrniotis. "We had the more clearcut opportunities in that half and in our low block we were very good at pushing them to the outside and making sure we limit the space inside."
Montreal has made a habit of starting games at home with a lack of pace, keeping possession but finding few meaningful moments with the ball. It has been a sore spot for some time and was again the case against Forge.
However, one aspect Montreal head coach Hernan Losada has excelled at is making halftime adjustments. Often the team comes out after the break reinvigorated and creates far more chances. That is exactly how Montreal took the lead less than ten minutes after the restart.
“Adding a second striker [was the key], it was really that simple,” said Losada. “We had a lot of the ball in the first half, but the final pass eluded us. A second striker on the field put more pressure on their backline.”
The halftime addition of striker Chinonso Offor allowed Montreal to use his large frame to pin opposing central defenders deeper and open up space for the midfield.
Lassiter was the first one to take advantage of this room, using it to score his first goal with the club since arriving from Inter Miami in April.
The Costa Rican winger cut into the middle of the field from 30 yards out and sent the ball towards the net. The weak shot was then deflected by Forge midfielder Alessandro Hojabrpour and found its way into the bottom corner, giving the hosts the lead.
In the ensuing ten minutes, Offor had two golden opportunities to double Montreal’s lead but could not convert.
Offor found himself all alone in front of goal in both situations, needing only to hit the target, but sent the ball over the bar.
“The most important thing is just constant movement from the players and the ball,” said midfielder Mathieu Choinière, who added that incisive crosses from the flanks were crucial in opening up gaps in the middle for both the midfield and strikers.
As the chances and dangerous crosses into the Forge penalty area continued, goalkeeper Triston Henry kept his side in the game, making an incredible point-blank stop on Offor at the 70-minute mark.
Montreal finally capitalized on its chances with 10 minutes left, putting the game beyond Forge’s grasp at 2-0.
After winning the ball in the penalty area, Ibrahim made a swift cut to the right and hit a powerful shot into the corner to double Montreal’s lead.
Montreal will now have to wait until early June for the final, where it will travel to British Columbia to face the Vancouver Whitecaps for the Voyageurs Cup.
“We’re very happy and immensely proud to find ourselves in the final,” said Losada. “When I looked at the schedule for the first time at the beginning of the season and I saw the Canadian Championship, I understood how important this competition is for not just the players but everyone at the club.”
WHITECAPS 3 PACIFIC FC 0
Midfielder Julian Gressel scored 14 minutes in and the Vancouver Whitecaps never looked back, punching a ticket to the Canadian Championship final with a 3-0 win over Pacific FC on Wednesday.
Defender Ali Ahmed scored three minutes after Gressel, and striker Simon Becher iced the game in the 78th minute.
Shortly after scoring his goal, Ahmed needed to be stretchered off the field after he hadn't moved much following a tackle by Pacific FC's Cedric Toussaint.
The Whitecaps posted to social media that Ahmed was conscious and receiving treatment at a local hospital.
The Whitecaps will get to defend their title against Montreal in the final after defeating Toronto FC last year.
Vancouver has won the Voyageurs Cup twice.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 24, 2023.
Elias Grigoriadis, The Canadian Press