Pacific FC are the 2021 Canadian Premier League champions after beating Forge FC 1-0 at Tim Hortons Field on Sunday night. Alessandro Hojabrpour scored the winning goal, as Pacific won their first North Star Shield, and denied Forge FC their third consecutive title. Here are three reasons why Forge FC didn't lift the North Star Shield.

Forge can’t take advantage of their chances

In the first half, Omar Browne and Mo Babouli were among the Forge players to fire shots at Callum Irving, as they tried to test the Pacific goalkeeper, but only two of them were on target. Kyle Bekker was the only player to get shots on goal, both from tough positions near the outside of the box. In the second half, Forge got another seven shots off, but none hit the target as they worked to get into good positions as time ticked away. Omar Browne and Kwame Awuah in particular were trying to make things happen on either flank, and centrally Bekker, Alexander Achinioti-Jönsson and Tristan Borges were sharp with their passing, but Forge lacked the finishing blow needed to find the back of the net. The home side upped the tempo after Alessandro Hojabrpour gave Pacific FC the lead, but The Tridents sat back a bit deeper and focused on defending their lead. Despite their best efforts, Forge were unable to find an equalizer, as Thomas Meilleur-Giguère and Lukas MacNaughton turned away everything in sight in the heart of the Pacific defence, keeping an impressive clean sheet.

League’s best defence can’t stop league’s best attack

Pacific were up against the league’s best defence in this match -- a Forge FC side that kept 11 clean sheets in CPL action and conceded just 24 goals in 28 regular season matches, six fewer than second-place Cavalry FC. The Tridents, however, had the league’s best attack, scoring an impressive 47 goals, eight more than second-place Forge’s 39, and showed off that attacking flair on Sunday. What’s more impressive is that Pacific were without striker Alejandro Diaz, who scored 10 goals and added four assists in 2021. Diaz missed out with a minor injury, and would have certainly started the match if he was available. Marco Bustos was on the bench for this match, making his return to the matchday 18 after suffering an injury and missing a handful of matches, but didn't enter the game. The goal that made it 1-0 on Sunday came from an unlikely source -- young central midfielder Alessandro Hojabrpour. After a cross was played into the box by Gianni Dos Santos, Hojabrpour headed the ball into the top corner at the near post, leaving Triston Henry with no chance to keep it out. Forge held strong for the remaining 30 minutes, but the goal was enough to earn Pacific FC the 2021 North Star Shield.

Pacific had two weeks off, while busy schedule catches up to Forge

By going deep into Concacaf League, Forge FC added even more matches to an already crowded schedule. Sunday’s match was their 40th match of the season in all competitions, and just four days after they drew 0-0 with Motagua in Concacaf League action in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Pacific, on the other hand, were playing their 33rd match of the season, after also reaching the semifinal of the Canadian Championship earlier in the season. After their semifinal win over Cavalry FC to reach the CPL final on November 20, The Tridents have had more than two weeks off, while Forge has played three times in that span -- twice in Concacaf League and their CPL semifinal against York United on November 21. The break allowed Pacific’s players to rest, and get players back healthy -- star attacker Marco Bustos among them, who was able to make the bench after being out of the matchday 18 entirely against Cavalry. It also allowed Lukas MacNaughton and Gianni Dos Santos to get back up to match fitness. They both missed the semifinal, as well as the final match of the regular season, through suspension, and both started on Sunday. MacNaughton was one of the best players on the pitch on Sunday, putting in a strong performance at centre-back. Next year it will be Pacific who are the CPL representative in Concacaf League, while Forge will take part in the Concacaf Champions League earlier in the year.

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