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Forge defeats sluggish Toronto FC in Canadian Championship semifinal opener | NanaimoNewsNOW

Forge defeats sluggish Toronto FC in Canadian Championship semifinal opener | NanaimoNewsNOW
Forge defeats sluggish Toronto FC in Canadian Championship semifinal opener | NanaimoNewsNOW

Toronto had a lot of possession that night, but were sometimes not stingy with it and showed wasteful finishing with only one shot on target in the first half. Forge could have increased their lead in the second half if it weren’t for Toronto goalkeeper Luka Gavran’s shot-stopping and the woodwork.

The return match is on August 21 at BMO Field, where Toronto must emerge from the valley to advance to the final.

Pacific FC hosted reigning champions Vancouver Whitecaps in the other cup semi-final on Wednesday.

Toronto (7-13-3 in MLS play) has lost seven straight games in all competitions and is winless in 10 (0-8-2). It has not won since May 18, when it defeated semi-professional CS Saint-Laurent 8-1 in the cup quarterfinals.

Badibanga’s goal came from inside Forge’s half after he looked up to see Gavran clear of his goal. That prompted the Congolese-born former Belgium youth international to unleash a David Beckham-style shot from 60 yards that flew over Gavran’s head before bouncing into the Toronto goal.

Badibanga, who celebrated his highlight with a double somersault, started the match by taking down Federico Bernardeschi.

It was the second bizarre goal Gavran conceded in as many games. Atlanta forward Jamal Thiaré caught Toronto’s backup goalie napping in the 97th minute on June 29, when he came from behind to steal the ball — as Gavran tried to kick it forward — and fired it into an open net for a 2-1 victory.

Poku made it 2-0 with three minutes to go, heeling the ball into the net at the near post after Toronto’s defence had been breached by fine passes from Kyle Bekker, Tristan Borges and David Choiniere.

TFC should have scored first when Bernardeschi found Insigne in space in front of goal, but Insigne’s shot went wide. It was a sequence Insigne repeated several times that night.

Bernardeschi, Toronto’s most dangerous man, was battered by Forge players all night long.

It was 70 degrees at kickoff at Tim Hortons Field with thunderstorms in the forecast. And the skies opened up at halftime.

Toronto made changes at halftime, bringing on Matty Longstaff and Owusu. Kevin Long, Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty and Kerr came on later as coach John Herdman tried to find a way back.

Toronto and Forge have a history: they met in the final of the pandemic-delayed 2020 Canadian Championship Final, with TFC winning on penalties.

Herdman made five changes to the starting lineup that lost 4-0 in Columbus on Saturday, adding Insigne, Gavran, Aime Mabika, Deybi Flores and Kobe Franklin. Flores was suspended for the weekend’s match, while Insigne, nursing a rib injury, came on as a substitute for the final 30 minutes.

Bernardeschi, who shed his trademark blond cornrows, wore the captain’s armband.

Forge made three changes to the team that drew 3-3 with Vancouver FC on Friday. Bekker, goalkeeper Chris Kalongo and defender Garven Metusala return.

Forge had seven Canadians in the starting lineup, compared to three for Toronto.

Toronto were without the injured Tyrese Spicer, Alonso Coello and Brandon Servania, while captain Jonathan Osorio and Richie Laryea are away with Canada at the Copa America.

Forge were without injured striker Terran Campbell, while Mexican fullback Daniel Parra was suspended after receiving multiple yellow cards.

Forge (5-4-3 in the league) had won just one of its previous five games (1-2-2) and are fifth in the eight-team CPL, an unusual position for the four-time league champions.

TFC reached the semi-finals by defeating Simcoe County Rovers of League 1 Ontario 5–0 in the one-leg preliminary round and CS Saint-Laurent of Ligue 1 Quebec 11–1 in the two-leg quarter-final.

Forge defeated CPL rivals York United 3–1 in the preliminary round and then defeated CF Montreal 3–2 over two legs in the quarter-finals.

Prior to this year, Forge had lost all four cup matches against MLS opponents, being defeated by Toronto on penalties in the 2020 final and being eliminated by CF Montreal in the 2021 and 2023 semifinals and the 2022 quarterfinals.

Toronto has won the tournament eight times and finished runner-up five times, but has not lifted the trophy since the 2020 competition.

The winner of the Canadian Championship wins the Voyageurs Cup, receives $50,000 from Canada Soccer and earns a spot in the CONCACAF Champions Cup, the elite club competition in North and Central America and the Caribbean.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 10, 2024

The Canadian Press