Major task ahead for Hamilton’s Forge FC in Tuesday’s Champion’s Cup second leg in Mexico


Published February 13, 2024 at 3:39 pm

A record crowd for a CPL team will be in the stands tonight for the second leg of the Chivas Guadalajara-Forge FC Concacaf Champions Cup match at Estadio Akron in Mexico, with 30,000 fans expected to attend to cheer on their football heroes.

The crowd should be in a good mood to start the game, with Chivas holding a commanding 3-1 lead from the first leg last week at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton.

The last time Chivas hosted a Concacaf Champions match at the stadium was in 2018, with that match happening to be the tournament championship -ma game won by Chivas over Toronto FC.

It is against that historic backdrop that CPL side Forge steps onto the pitch, knowing the herculean task before them.

A pair of goals by U.S. international Cade Cowell, who also assisted on the third goal, was the difference last week against the undermanned Forge FC club, who now need a minimum of three goals to advance to the second round.

Chivas have lost just once in 15 home field Concacaf Champions matches and have only two losses in 16 league games this season. Forge, meanwhile, are still in pre-season mode with the home opener not for another two months.

“We expect a little bit of the same,” said Forge head coach Bobby Smyrniotis. “They’re a quality club with quality players that has a style of play, and you can see that that’s distinct in what they do, and we want to be able to do the same. We were happy with our performance in the first match and not happy with the result. But we want to come out and play.”

There is precedent for Forge overcoming a 3-1 deficit in this tournament. The Hamilton club did just that in the 2021 Concacaf League, winning 3-0 at home after dropping the first leg 3-1 to Costa Rican side Santos de Guápiles. The circumstances are different this time around, but history is there to tell the Forge players it can be done.

“Just watching and being part of that first game, you realize it’s a quality team. The pace is very fast, and you can see they’re in shape, in midseason form,” said Forge forward Tristan Borges, the hero of last year’s CPL championship game. “I think for us it’s just focusing on this game, knowing what we have to do, sticking to our game plan and just enjoying the moment as well.”

Forge spent a large portion of the preseason down in Querétaro, Mexico, including playing four friendlies against Mexican opposition, to prepare for Tuesday’s contest. They have also previously played in Mexico in this competition, the second leg of their 2022 round of 16 tie against Cruz Azul at Estadio Azteca.

The match will be televised on OneSoccer at 10 p.m. ET.

The projected starting X1 in tonight’s match include: Kalongo; Samuel, Metusala, Achinioti-Jönsson, Owolabi-Belewu; Bekker, Hojabrpour, Jensen; Choinière, Campbell, Badibanga.

With files from Mitchell Tierney


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