A soccer match can be memorable for any number of reasons. Games that live on in our collective memory usually tick off a few boxes. It was a wild upset, it featured a remarkable comeback, or it was a historical result. Maybe a match stands out because it was the first one you ever attended. A great match doesn’t have to produce a lot of goals, either. A 0-0 draw can be a beautiful spectacle and offer plenty of exciting entertainment. The Canadian Premier League saw its fair share of memorable contests in 2020, from the opening game of The Island Games, to the final match in PEI. With all of this in mind, CanPL.ca’s Marty Thompson, Charlie O’Connor-Clarke and John Molinaro offer up their picks for the best match of 2020. Check out their selections below.
RELATED READING: 2020: CPL year in review
Forge, Cavalry draw in Island Games opener
If you ask me, The Island Games’ opening match had everything. In a rematch of Finals 2019, Forge FC took on Cavalry FC in the league's first match in nearly 300 days, creating an end-to-end affair with goals, beautiful saves, and many dramatic moments. For the observers, it was a cathartic experience. Canadian soccer returned in a way no one expected – on the shores of PEI – and witnessing it, virtual stadium and all, was nothing short of awe-inspiring. This is all to say the match itself was brilliant. Dominick Zator’s 11th-minute opener for Cavalry was matched beautifully by Anthony Novak, who scored a wicked overhead kick against the run of play for Forge. A bizarre sequence that ended in Nico Pasquotti’s trademark long throw being ruled out left onlookers in awe: The CPL was back in a big way! Nathan Mavila’s equalizer and subsequent kneeling celebration, in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and people facing systematic racism, put the entire experience into much-needed perspective. -- By Marty Thompson
HFX defeats Cavalry en route to Finals appearance
For me, it was during this game that I started truly believing that the 2020 CPL Finals might not be a Forge-Cavalry rematch. Just 12 minutes into this crucial second-round match for both sides, all hell had broken loose. Jay Wheeldon was sent off after picking up two yellow cards in 10 minutes, and Akeem Garcia scored from the penalty spot to put HFX in front. The pace of play was wicked; both teams had by then earned a reputation for relentless pressing and counter-attacking, and that was on full display all afternoon. When Joao Morelli scored another penalty to make it 2-0 before halftime, Cavalry looked genuinely shocked for perhaps the first time ever. The Cavs were full value for entertainment in the second half, too; had they completed the comeback, the story would’ve been just as good. With so many key players -- Sergio Camargo, Oliver Minatel, Nico Pasquotti, and so on -- out injured, and now just 10 players on the field, the uphill battle from 2-0 down looked like Mount Logan. Team manager Tofa Fakunle donned his boots for this one, as did 17-year-old Aribim Pepple, as Cavalry’s thin reinforcements did their best (but ultimately fell just short). It was a formative moment for the Wanderers, an educational one for the Cavs, and an extremely entertaining one for all of us. -- By Charlie O'Connor-Clarke
Forge beats Tauro FC in Panama in Concacaf League
Forge FC became the first CPL team earn a win on foreign soil when it beat El Salvador’s Club Deportivo Municipal Limeño in the preliminary round of the Concacaf League. But for me, Forge’s victory over Tauro FC in Panama in the round-of-16 was the highlight of their historic run in the Concacaf League. This was a thrilling and entertaining match from beginning to end, with Forge taking it to the Panamanians right from the opening kickoff. Facing one of the top teams in Central America didn’t intimidate Forge in the least, as Bobby Smyrniotis’ side took the lead and then showed a great deal of grit in battling their hosts even in the second half when it looked like it was going to a shootout. Daniel Krutzen converted a cool-as-you-like penalty in the dying moments of the match to seal a dramatic upset win for Forge, and keep their magical Concacaf League run going. -- By John Molinaro