It doesn't seem that long ago — or perhaps it seems like much longer — but the Canadian Premier League's inaugural match was exactly one year ago. On April 27, 2019, Forge FC and York9 FC set us off on the maiden voyage of Canada's newest professional soccer league at Tim Hortons Field, as the sides treated over 17,000 fans in Hamilton to a hard-fought 1-1 draw. We'd return to that very site for many more season-defining moments throughout the year, including Forge's Concacaf League run and the thrilling first leg of Finals 2019. It was that chilly afternoon at the end of April, though, that got it all started. The whole game was a bit of a blur, with many of us sitting back and basking in the arrival of the CPL. Still, a few key moments from the match itself stand out. Here are the five that will live in the lore of Canadian soccer for many years.
1. Ryan Telfer's opening goal

The ultimate trivia question found its answer almost immediately. Although we might've expected a bit of a feeling-out process to start the game, with two brand-new sides who would have little idea how to counter one another tactically, that's not what we got. Nope, we got Manny Aparicio taking a deft touch and playing a gorgeous through-ball toward Ryan Telfer, who managed to hop over a Forge defender and put it past goalkeeper Triston Henry with his right foot. His classy finish proved to the world that the CPL wouldn't be lacking for goals in year one. Plus, you've got to love Aparicio smacking his newly-minted York9 badge for the camera.
2. Emery Welshman's almost bicycle kick

This was the moment that didn't quite work out on day one. Less than three minutes after Telfer put York9 on the board, Forge nearly answered in kind. It's hard to tell if this was Emery Welshman's plan from the start, or if he panicked a little, but the striker took a pass from Chris Nanco and flicked it straight upwards, leaping for a right-footed bicycle kick. The shot dribbled harmlessly past the goalpost, but it wasn't that far off. Imagine if we'd had two goals in the first ten minutes of the game, and one of them had been that? What an incredible start that would've been. Even though Welshman didn't quite pull it off, his commitment to entertaining football made it worth the attempt.
3. Fireworks between rivals

The 905 Derby was heated from the get-go, with two competitive sides eager to claim the spoils on day one. That all boiled over a little bit a few times. First was in the 63rd minute, when Forge captain Kyle Bekker ran straight through York9 midfielder Joe Di Chiara, not trying particularly hard to keep his elbow down. The incident resulted in a fiery exchange between Bekker and Aparicio. The moment has caused plenty of ire between the fanbases, with Bekker finally caving at Forge's championship celebration to call it a "phantom elbow" (and throw in a few re-enactment gestures for good measure). Not long after that incident, as tempers continued to bubble over, Aparicio saw the first red card in CPL history. He was shown out of the game in the 94th minute with a second yellow card (although this writer still thinks the referee might have forgotten about Aparicio's earlier caution when he showed him yellow for that handball).
4. Kadell Thomas' equalizer

It took more than 70 minutes of trying, but Forge did finally get their equalizer. It was a great flank run from Welshman that set things up, as he outpaced Aparicio into the box and found Kadell Thomas all alone in a good position. Thomas' patient touch gave him time to settle the ball, and finish calmly over heavy traffic in front of the net. As we all know, Thomas would go on to score at least one more impressive goal for Forge, but this is where it all started, as the champions-to-be bagged the first of their 47 CPL goals in 2019 on day one.
5. The national anthem

This was a moment years in the making, and it happened before a ball was kicked. More than the kit launches, more than the player signings, this moment was when Canada's professional newest soccer league arrived. Twenty-two professional players lined up on the pitch, a giant Canadian flag, and 17,000 fans in the stands. Some people who were there report getting a little misty-eyed at the time, and can you blame them? That rendition of O Canada was one of the most-anticipated thresholds leading up to the CPL's inaugural season, and it was finally here.

Continue reading...