Sometimes, in a final or a championship game, you get a moment that is worthy of winning a trophy and going down in history. Every so often, but oh so rarely, you get several of them at once.

In the 2023 Canadian Premier League final between Forge FC and Cavalry FC at Tim Hortons Field on Saturday night, the raucous crowd of nearly 14,000 witnessed one of the most incredible periods of soccer that you will see anytime soon. It was the wildest end to a Canadian season you could hope to witness, something that not even shark-jumping screenwriters would come up with.

Three goals in extra time, all of them stone-cold stunners, each more remarkable than the last, broke open a stalemate and provided an unbelievable spectacle. The most enthralling part about it was that for much of what was the most closely-fought CPL finale in the league’s five-year history, there was no inclination whatsoever that this madness was coming.

In a final that was a slow-burner, Forge goalkeeper and league Golden Glove winner Triston Henry thought he’d come up with the big play in the second half of regular time with a truly world-class save from Jesse Daley’s volley. That, and the disallowed goal from Béni Badibanga that followed it just 20 seconds later at the other end of the pitch, was the standout moment of a game that lay dormant for much of the 90 minutes.

It was a slow-burner, for sure. But things caught fire in extra time, with tensions high and time short, as the cagey caution that had seen both teams afraid to lose and therefore unadventurous in regular time descended into chaos, into pure and unadulterated entertainment. Quite simply, the game exploded, producing one of the most remarkable 30-minute periods of soccer you will see anytime soon.

Cavalry had been the better team for much of the game, showing seemingly boundless energy in shutting down Forge and driving forwards. And they were rewarded when Ali Musse, the league’s Players’ Player of the Year and by some distance the visitors’ best player all night, broke the game open with a rasping first-time rocket of a shot from the edge of the box that gave Henry precisely zero chance of stopping it.

Tommy Wheeldon Jr. and Cavalry’s staff danced down the touchline, caught up in the euphoria of the moment. But this game wasn’t done. Not by a long shot.

Forge win finals, that’s what they do. But sometimes, you need more than a sprinkling of magic to get the job done. Bobby Smyrniotis got that in spades.

Badibanga equalized in stunning fashion, taking a short corner and curling the ball over the head and hand of Marco Carducci and a covering Cavalry defender, hitting that proverbial postage stamp that is virtually impossible to reach.

That, of course, lit the touchpaper. Tim Hortons Field was a cauldron of noise and an inferno of orange, and the crowning moment came in even more incredible fashion, if that were possible.

Tristan Borges hit a devilishly swerving corner past Carducci and straight into the net, a championship-winning Olimpico, the most unhinged and ridiculous end to an unhinged and ridiculous game.

Unsurprisingly, Wheeldon Jr. was virtually speechless post-game, albeit impressively articulate for a man who’d just watched all of that unfold and seen his team lose a trophy from 1-0 up nearly halfway through in extra time of a final.

“You can take one once-in-a-lifetime [goal] in a final, so that happens…” he reflected to media post-game. “For two of them to happen — that’s just unicorn stuff, isn’t it?”

Smyrniotis, of course, was rather more chipper.

“A match for the ages,” he said, and he was spot on. “Look at this atmosphere. It’s incredible, it’s just magical.”

And what it all means once the dust settles and heart rates return to normal is that Forge have won the CPL for the fourth time in its first five years despite not winning the regular-season title, becoming the first team ever to win the final at home. For Smyrniotis, the latest triumph crowns an almost perfect five-year cycle as Forge manager. He’s built a dynasty, a winning machine that almost comes out on top in the biggest moments.

What’s next for Smyrniotis? We hear there’s a vacancy at Canada Soccer…

For now, though, he gets to lift the trophy again after a conclusion that bordered on unbelievable.