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Rick Zamperin: Encouraging start for the Canadian Premier League

Forge FC fans chant and cheer during the inaugural soccer match of the Canadian Premier League between Forge FC of Hamilton and York 9 in Hamilton, Ont. Saturday, April 27, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Aaron Lynett

Full marks for the inaugural match of the Canadian Premier League.

Basked in bright sunshine, albeit with a chilly and persistent wind, the 17,611 fans who went to Tim Hortons Field for Saturday’s debut of Canada’s new national soccer league were treated to an entertaining afternoon.

READ MORE: New Canadian Premier League kicks off in Hamilton

The first 9-0-5 derby between host Forge FC and visiting York9 FC was a spirited and hard-fought affair that brought cheers, and some jeers, from the enthusiastic crowd who attended game No. 1 free of charge.

York9 jumped out to an early lead when Ryan Telfer netted the CPL’s first ever goal just three minutes after the opening whistle.

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Forge fought back and was in control for most of the game while generating a couple of exceptional scoring chances, but for a while, it seemed as if the hometown club didn’t have an equalizer.

That was until the 78th minute when substitute Kadell Thomas, a 22-year-old striker from Brampton — the kind of dynamic player this league was created for — curled a shot into the back of the net and gave the fans what they wanted to see.

The match ended in a 1-1 draw, but more importantly, the players, coaches and officials had generated a fluid performance and a compelling script in game No. 1 in front of a national TV audience.

WATCH: Hamilton’s Forge FC kick off inaugural season with downtown rally (April 18)

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Hamilton’s Forge FC kick off inaugural season with downtown rally – Apr 18, 2019

Now the question is: was it enough? Did the CPL, Forge and York9 do enough to bring some, many, or — best case scenario — all those fans, and more, back for the next game?

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READ MORE: Bob Young’s Canadian Premier League vision comes to life with inaugural match in Hamilton

Forge FC’s next home game is May 8, a Wednesday night, which will be an unfair comparison to Saturday’s opening game. We’ll get a better sense this summer of whether or not this team, and this league, has struck a nerve with Canadians.

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