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 2019, from the opening game at Tim Hortons Field to the decisive second leg of Finals 2019 at ATCO Field at Spruce Meadows. With all of this in mind, the CanPL.ca editorial team of John Molinaro, Armen Bedakian, Marty Thompson and Charlie O’Connor-Clarke offer up their picks for the best match of the 2019 season. Check out their selections below.
Bedakian: Forge 1-2 Cavalry FC, May 12

You never forget your first. Nine times, these two teams met in 2019. Nine. That’s surreal in soccer, but each was a right treat in their own way. The two legs of Finals 2019 between Forge and Cavalry were certainly dramatic, as were the two legs of their Canadian Championship meetings. But for my money, the single best encounter between these two — and, perhaps, the single best match in the 2019 CPL season — came from the very first kick of the ball. This match had it all: back-and-forth action, a vocal crowd of 6,000 at Tim Hortons Field, an agonizing open-net sitter, missed in heartbreaking fashion by Sergio Camargo, and, finally, a last-second game-winning goal, scored dramatically against all odds by the green-clad visitors from Alberta… specifically, Nico Pasquotti, in the 95th minute, to give Cavalry all three points — and, likely, the Spring title.
Thompson: HFX Wanderers 2-1 Forge FC, May 4

This is a sentimental one. May 4, 2019 saw three cities host Canadian Premier League matches for the first time. It was a triple-header of Canadian soccer — six hours of action that started in Halifax, with Forge FC visiting HFX Wanderers. Camera cuts to the teams walking out of the tunnel — sorry, out of repurposed shipping containers; wood lined the inside of the structure with wall lighting I can only describe as “maritime-esque” — and onto a rough pitch on a soggy mid-Spring day. I couldn’t look away. It was the most beautiful thing — and so uniquely Canadian Premier League. By 30 minutes in, Wanderers Grounds was packed and ready to witness a thriller. Akeem Garcia scored the first goal in club history before they quickly conceded. Supporters were ready to explode when Luis Alberto Perea’s chance for a winner late in the second half came off, sailing into the goal and officially giving Halifax the professional soccer bug. Blue smoke bombs. A full supporters' section jumping up and down. Later that day we would get flurries in Calgary and a massive crowd in Winnipeg, but for me, nothing could beat that first match in Halifax. For me, the CPL had arrived right then and there, and I’ll never forget it.
O’Connor Clarke: York9 1-1 Cavalry, Sept. 28

This one was just insane. The Nine Stripes were clinging to their Fall title hopes by a thread, desperately needing to beat the Cavs for the first time all season. This, the second half especially, was an incredibly heated affair; after a few bone-crunching tackles from either side, these teams seemed to absolutely hate each other. Ryan Telfer was a marked man all afternoon, feeling the brunt of a Nathan Mavila challenge that resulted in a full-team confrontation, and ultimately a red card for Jose Escalante. Mavila himself saw red moments later, when he threw caution completely to the wind in sliding right through a counter-attacking Telfer. Both teams seemed to be at each others’ throats after every foul. Nine-man Cavalry versus York9 wasn’t something we expected, but it sure was entertaining. The Cavs didn’t bunker, either. Nico Pasquotti danced around the York9 defence in the box to put his heavily out-manned side in the lead, and the Cavs nearly scored again on the counter a few minutes after. The Nine Stripes’ goalkeeper coach Camilo Benzi added to the theatrics, visiting the Cavalry bench after being ejected. York9 salvaged the draw on the last kick of the match, but not their season, as they’d needed all three points. Still, it was one heck of a show for a neutral observer.
Molinaro: HFX 1, Pacific 1 on Oct. 9

It was an unseasonably chilly evening on Oct. 9 in Halifax — the open press box offered little protection, so I kept drinking coffee to stay warm as I watched the action unfold on the pitch below me. Wanderers hosted Pacific in their home finale, a game that had no meaning whatsoever as both sides had no hopes of winning the Fall season. But even though there were no great stakes involved, the two clubs went at each other as though the CPL Championship was on the line at Wanderers Grounds. A wild match featuring plenty of open play saw Lukas MacNaughton open the scoring just 13 minutes in, before Luis Alberto Perea converted a penalty in the 27th to tie things up for HFX. The second half didn’t produce any goals, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying, as both clubs put together some great passing and attacking sequences that ultimately fell short. The final 45 minutes also saw the return of Pacific midfielder Marcel de Jong, who made his CPL debut following a seven-month spell on the sidelines due to an Achilles injury suffered before the season. At the final whistle, the crowd inside Wanderers Grounds gave both teams a standing ovation for the attacking spectacle they'd provided over the previous 90 minutes. The game made a lasting impression on CPL commissioner David Clanachan, who noted that it was while watching a replay of this game the next day in his office that the importance and enormity of the league, and the progress it has made, hit him squarely in the face. “You know one of those moments where you’re watching something in sports and you’re taking it in, but you’re not really paying too much attention to it, but just enough that you’re actually seeing what’s happening? I’m watching this football match, and I’m watching players string seven, eight, nine passes together — all quality passes... My brain had to click in and say, this is our league,” Clanachan said.

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