Forge FC of Hamilton earn spot in 2022 CONCACAF Champions League

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Published November 2, 2021 at 10:34 pm

Triston Henry, left, Garven Metusala, Omar Browne and Kyle Bekker celebrate Browne's opening goal for Forge FC at Tim Hortons Field on Tuesday. (CONCACAF Match Photography)

Forge FC made some history by showing some big-game chill.

The third-year Hamilton pro soccer club became the first Canadian Premier League side to earn a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League. At Tim Hortons Field, Forge won 3-0 against Santos de Guápiles to prevail 4-3 on aggreggate in a CONCACAF League quarterfinal.

Omar Browne (29th minute), Mo Babouli (65th) and second-half sub Joshua Navarro (82nd) scored the goals.

The CONCACAF League feeds up to the region’s Champions League, which is the flagship club competition in North and Central America and the Caribbean. Forge still has this year’s CONCACAF League semifinal ahead of them, where they will likely face FC Motagua, who defeated fellow Honduran side FC Marathón on Tuesday night.

That means Forge will play the away leg in a stadium they visited two years ago. Motagua shares a home stadium in Tegucigalpa, which is the Honduran capital, with Olimpia. In 2019, Olimpia ousted Forge from the CONCACAF League in the round of 16.

The semifinals will begin between Nov. 23 and 25, with the second leg matches slated for Nov. 30 to Dec. 2.

Hamilton fell 3-1 in the first leg against Santos on Oct. 20. This time around, Browne not only opened the scoring, but set up Babouli in the second half for a 2-0 lead. That tightened Forge’s grip on the tie, since they had the only away goal.

Navarro got the clincher 10 minutes after subbing in for Babouli. Forge captain Kyle Bekker played a ball ahead for Emery Welshman to run onto with speed. Welshman dribbled in and shielded off his defender and crossed for Navarro to finish from inside the six-yard box.

Earlier in the half, Babouli volleyed a looping pass from Browne into the goal. It was Babouli’s third of the competition.

Browne got the party started just shy of the half-hour mark when he went bar-down with a left-footed rocket from outside the 18-yard box.

Forge are in just their third season of existence, but have had plenty of heartbreak in CONCACAF League. Their run in 2020 ended in the quarters after Arcahaie, a Haitian club, prevailed on penalties after a 1-1 draw.

The first-year Forge won the first leg against Olimpia in 2019, before the Hondurans roared back to win 4-2 on aggregate.

Meantime, Forge FC are chasing the regular-season title in the CPL. They are second on points, but are only one point behind Pacific FC with three games in hand. They have back-to-back away games at York United on Saturday and Tuesday (Nov. 6 and 9).

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