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Duke goal gives CF Montreal draw at Forge FC in Canadian Championship play

CF Montréal Bryce Duke CF Montréal midfielder Bryce Duke - The Canadian Press

HAMILTON — Substitute Bryce Duke's 52nd-minute goal gave CF Montreal a 1-1 draw — and a valuable away goal — in the opening leg of its Canadian Championship quarterfinal with Forge FC on Tuesday.

David Choiniere, whose younger brother Mathieu started for Montreal, opened the scoring in the 31st minute for the Canadian Premier League champion, which had perhaps the best of the first half but seemed to lose its way after Duke's equalizer.

"It's a really good team we faced today," said Montreal coach Laurent Courtois.

Forge's inaugural "School Day Match" was an 11 a.m. local start, drawing more than 10,000 students on a sunny 16 C day at Tim Hortons Field.

Attendance was announced at 14,923, second only to the 17,611 that saw Forge play in the league's first-ever match, on April 27, 2019. The Hamilton side averaged 5,484 per home game last season.

The support gave Forge an early boost.

"This place was packed, it was loud and I think that always gives energy to the home team," said Forge coach Bobby Smyrniotis. "We saw that in the first 15, 20 minutes of the game."

The return leg is May 22 at Stade Saputo with the series winner facing either Toronto FC or Ligue1 Quebec champion CS Saint-Laurent in the semifinal. In the event of an aggregate tie, the team with the most away goals wins.

The defending champion Vancouver Whitecaps played at Cavalry FC in Tuesday's other quarterfinal.

On Wednesday, it's Pacific FC at Atletico Ottawa and Toronto at CS Saint-Laurent.

After the game, Courtois and Duke declined to address a report that Olivier Renard, the club's chief soccer officer, had left the club.

Courtois said he wanted to limit his answers to the game. "Next question," said Duke, when he was asked about it

The morning kickoff in Hamilton was originally slated to be a league outing against Halifax Wanderers FC, the 500th match in CPL history. But the cup took over the calendar slot.

The CPL will now mark the milestone 500th game Friday when York United FC hosts Valour FC.

Forge appealed for a penalty in the first 30 seconds when Jordan Hamilton went down in the penalty box, with a defender at his back. But referee Renzo Villanueva was unmoved.

After an even opening 30 minutes, Forge went ahead in the 31st minute on a counterattack. Hamilton found Beni Badibanga down the left flank and the Belgian winger cut in, sending in a cross that eluded Hamilton but found an unmarked David Choiniere.

He roofed a hard shot that Montreal 'keeper Sebastian Breza was able to get a hand to but not keep out.

Montreal sent on Duke, Raheem Edwards, George Campbell and Ariel Lassiter at halftime and the substitutions soon made a difference.

Edwards, intercepting a Forge attempted clearance, curled a ball into the penalty box that found its way to Duke after a give-and-go with Mathieu Choiniere. Duke's first shot hit a defender but came right back to him and he made no mistake with the second attempt in the 52nd minute.

"A small little error and we give up a goal," said Smyrniotis.

Midfielder Alessandro Biello, the 18-year-old son of Canada interim coach Mauro Biello, replaced the injured Edwards in the 73rd minute for his first-team debut.

Forge pressed in the dying minutes and Montreal 'keeper Sebastian Breza made a diving save in the 90th minute to tip a Noah Jensen shot just wide.

Montreal outshot Forge 16-13 (5-2 in shots on target) and had 56 per cent possession.

It marked the fourth year in a row that Forge and Montreal have clashed in Cup play with the MLS side winning all three meetings: 8-7 in a penalty shootout in the 2021 semifinal, 3-0 in the '22 quarterfinal and 2-0 in the '23 semifinal.

Vancouver and 2023 runner-up Montreal had byes in the first round of the 14-team cup tournament while Cavalry and Forge eliminated fellow CPL opposition in Vancouver FC and York United FC, respectively.

The Canadian Championship winner hosts the Voyageurs Cup and qualifies for the CONCACAF Champion's Cup, the confederation's elite men's club competition

Courtois made seven changes to the Montreal starting lineup that lost 4-1 at Nashville SC on Saturday.

Montreal (3-4-3 in MLS play) has played eight of its 10 league games to date away from home. It has won the Canadian Championship five times.

Defender Joel Waterman, a former CPL player with Cavalry FC, captained Montreal with Samuel Piette on the bench.

Smyrniotis, whose team is unbeaten in the league at 3-0-0, went with the same lineup that dispatched visiting York United FC 3-1 in preliminary-round cup play May 1.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 7, 2024