Toronto FC are Canadian champions once more.

TFC lifted the 2020 Voyageurs Cup on Saturday night at Tim Horton’s Field in Hamilton, Ontario, defeating Forge FC 5-4 in shootout following a 1-1 draw.

Given a reprieve in the first half when Tristan Borges put his penalty kick off the crossbar, Toronto took the lead in the 57th minute through Alejandro Pozuelo.

A dangerous TFC move was partially halted, but Ayo Akinola retained possession before laying a ball across the top of the box to Pozuelo. Fresh off a two-goal performance against the Chicago Fire on the weekend, he glided into the arc before hitting a trademark left-footer to the top left-corner of goal.

Forge wasted no time in responding, Borges making amends for his early miss with a lovely left-footed finish of his own three minutes later corralling a ball from Aboubacar Sissoko before smacking it in on the bounce.

Level, both sides would go in search of a winner, but the full time whistle would blow before either could and the winner would be determined from the penalty spot.

The first four takers would score before Deandre Kerr saw his skitter agonizingly wide in the third round. Quentin Westberg would deny Kyle Bekker the next frame and a run of three-straight TFC conversions from Pozuelo, Jordan Perruzza, and Kosi Thompson would put the pressure on the Forge.

Kwasi Poku’s shot would carom off the bar and down, prompting howls from the Forge faithful that it had crossed the line, but it had not and TFC could celebrate the title.

“It's important,” said Bob Bradley post-match. “There are guys that were here in 2020, they are responsible for getting the team to a final, and then you've got a new team that has a chance early in the season to play in a final.”

“Coming here against Forge is always going to be hard. They're a good team that are experienced, they're tested in these kinds of games. And the experience for the group is really important,” he continued. “And then for the club, for the supporters, the history of TFC in the Canadian Championship, and being able to add to it today, those are all great things.”

Michael Bradley concurred that it was “an important night.”

“With a new team, a lot of young players, and just for the way the last few years have gone for a lot of different reasons,” he outlined. “The experience for this group to play in a cup final, to play on a big night, yeah, that was something we were all really excited about. This group needed that. So we're really excited and proud. It's a good step for us.”

Forge put up a strong challenge. They were on the front foot for most of the first half and could have taken a lead from the penalty spot after 20 minutes.

“Good team, well organized, with good football ideas,” complimented the TFC coach. “As has been the case for us throughout the year, there's moments where our football is okay, there's other moments where we lose control.”

“We're still trying to become a more consistent team that can sustain some of the good football longer, but while we're working on that, we've got to have a mentality to stick together and find ways,” he continued. “We started the second half really well, scored a really good goal. Hate to see us then so quickly give up the next goal. We just don't do well sorting things out. Tristan is able to slip in there and if you let him take a ball down in that spot, he's a good finisher, he's got a great left foot. But then we hang in.”

“The history at TFC in penalties is not a positive one, but we spent some time yesterday going through an approach, had them pick teams, had them walk from far out to go and put it down and rehearse the way you would do it in a match,” Bradley revealed. “Just try to create a new mindset that if by chance we got to penalties that everybody was going to be positive and we would go for it. Guys stepped up and did a good job.”

Having lost their last three shootouts – the 2016 MLS Cup Final, the 2018 Concacaf Champions League Final, and the 2019 Canadian Championship Final – it was nice to be on the right side of one.

“Our history in penalty shootouts and finals is not great,” said the TFC captain. “If you want to play in finals and you want to win trophies, you have to be able to win in different ways. We've been on the wrong end of a few and so it was important, given the way the game went tonight, to be able to win this way.”

Along with experienced takers like Pozuelo, Carlos Salcedo, and Jesús Jiménez, three of Toronto’s kicks were taken by young players – Kerr, Perruzza, and Thompson.

“We worked on them in a real way yesterday,” explained Michael Bradley. “As opposed to just letting guys hit a few after training in a casual way, we set things up in a real way, so that everyone took one. We rehearsed the whole thing.”

“Obviously there's no recreating the tension or the pressure or the drama of the moment, but to be able to practice them, to be able to have a routine, to be able to work on that is important,” he outlined. “We're trying to encourage all of our players, especially our young ones, to play with personality, to go for it, to not be afraid. Tonight was a big step for a lot of them, they’re making good progress.”

With the June international break, Toronto can celebrate closing the book on the 2020 season and look to carry that momentum into 2022 when MLS play resumes on June 18 away to the New York Red Bulls.

A few days later, on June 22, TFC will welcome CF Montreal to BMO Field for the semifinal of the 2022 Canadian Championship.

“We want the guys [to celebrate]. On the field with the fans and then inside,” said Bob Bradley. “There's a feeling when that trophy is there and everyone knows they were part of it.”

“At the end of your career you'll remember teams that played in finals, you'll remember cups you won. There's nobody that's going to look back and say, ‘Yeah, you know, that 2020 cup final that was played in 2022, that doesn't mean anything, right?’” he continued. “It still was a night where at the end there's a trophy and you want to make sure everybody believes that it can be us, one way or another. Whether our football is good or not good, whether it goes to penalties, doesn't go to penalties. Everybody felt that and that's important.”

“It's important that as a group, they experience the feeling of winning something,” he closed. “And hopefully that's good motivation for the rest of the year.”

The victory was Toronto’s eighth Voyageurs Cup – Montreal claims 11, but only five have come in the Canadian Championship era.

It was Michael Bradley’s fourth. It never gets old.

“I've been here nine years and I've played in a lot of these games in stadiums and cities all across the country,” he began. “I know how special the tournament is. I know how serious teams take it. I know how much it means to the fans.”

“Regardless of whether you're playing Vancouver or Montreal, whether you're playing a CPL team now, whether you're playing at home, whether you're playing away, you know that nothing is going to be given to you. You have to step on the field ready to compete, ready to be at your best,” detailed the Toronto captain. “It's a special tournament, it’s a unique tournament. When you think about the history of it, the Voyageurs Cup, the way the fans were able to keep the tournament alive. These are special nights and so we’ll use this one in a good way as we continue to move our team forward.”