Down, but not out.
After suffering a heartbreaking loss to Haitian club Arcahaie FC in the quarter-finals of the 2020 Concacaf League last week, Forge FC has one more shot at qualifying for the 2021 Champions League via Tuesday’s special “play-in” match versus Club Deportivo Marathón of Honduras
Forge earned historic wins over Club Deportivo Municipal Limeño in El Salvador during the preliminary round and Tauro FC in Panama in the round of 16, and looked poised to become the CPL team to reach the final four of this continental competition. Arcahaie FC had other ideas, though.
Tuesday could be a history-making night for Forge, as a win over Marathón would also see them advance to next year’s Concacaf Champions League, becoming the first CPL outfit to qualify for the Concacaf region’s most prestigious club competition.
WHAT’S AT STAKE
The winner of the Concacaf League, which features 22 teams from across North and Central America and the Caribbean, as well as the other three semi-finalists will qualify for next year’s Concacaf Champions League.
Also, the four losers from the quarter-finals will be paired off in special “play-in” matches with the winners clinching a berth in the 2021 Concacaf Champions League.
What that means is that the winner of Tuesday’s Forge-Marathón will advance to next year’s Champions League.
5 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT TUESDAY’S GAME
- Can Henry move past his error?: The turning point in Forge’s loss against Arcahaie FC came early in the second half following a goalkeeping howler by Triston Henry that allowed the Haitians to tie things up and eventually go on to win it. But Forge defender Dom Samuel refused to put the blame on Henry for the CPL Champs’ loss. “Look, we all know, that he knew what he did – you just have to move on,” Samuel told reporters after the game. “There was a lot of time left on the clock. We looked around and said ‘let’s keep pushing.’ There was a lot of game left.” Still, it’ll be interesting to see how Henry, voted the CPL goalkeeper of the year in 2020, rebounds from that mistake and whether he can put it behind him against Marathón.
- Injury report: Coach Bobby Smyrniotis confirmed to CanPL.ca that Klaidi Cela will miss his fourth Concacaf League match in a row on Tuesday, as the defender is still recovering from torn knee ligaments suffered in August. Forward Chris Nanco missed the last match against Arahaie FC through injury, but has recovered and is able to play against Marathón. Midfielder Elimane Cissé did not travel with the team to Honduras, as he has returned home for family reasons.
- David Edgar’s last match: In a bit of a surprise, David Edgar announced his retirement earlier this month. The veteran defender confirmed that he plans to hang up his cleats at the conclusion of Forge’s Concacaf League run in 2020 which Tuesday’s Concacaf Champions League “play-in” will be his last game as a professional. “It’s been very special (at Forge). When I met with Bobby and signed the deal I remember driving home from Hamilton to Kitchener and thinking, ‘this feels right,’ and it’d been a while since something felt right in football for me. I knew we were on the cusp of something special with Forge and with the CPL. The whole league, I’ve just been so proud of it and so proud to be a part of it,” Edgar told CanPL.ca.
- Marathón in Concacaf League: This year mark’s Marathón’s second participation in the Concacaf League. The Hondurans bowed out in the preliminary round of last year’s tournament following a loss to Comunicaciones FC of Guatemala. In this year’s competition, Marathón beat Antigua GFC of Guatemala in the round of 16 before losing to Costa Rican heavyweights Deportivo Saprissa in the quarter-finals. Beyond that, Marathón has twice played in the Concacaf Champions League, reaching the quarter-finals both times in 2008-09 and 2009-10. During their first Champions League run, Marathón impressively won their opening-round group – which included Mexican giants Cruz Azul and MLS side DC United, and Deportivo Saprissa. The following year they emerged from a tough group that featured Mexico’s Deportivo Toluca, DC United and San Juan Jabloteh on Trinidad.
- Forge’s past continental experience: Forge competed in the 2019 Concacaf League, when it beat Guatemalan champions Antigua GFC in the preliminary round 2-1 on aggregate. Forge upset Honduran giants Olimpia 1-0 at Tim Hortons Field in the first leg of their round of 16 series, before dropping a 4-1 decision in the return match in San Pedro Sula. Many players from that Forge side are still with the team for this year’s run in the Concacaf League, including captain Kyle Bekker, starting goalkeeper Triston Henry, and veteran defender David Edgar.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
“We’ve had a great two years with a lot of ups as a club, and we haven’t had too many downs.Usually in sport you’ve got a lot more of those valleys than you have peaks. So we’ve just got to get up and do what we do best” – Forge coach Bobby Smyrniotis
“We have another opportunity, we know what’s in front of us. We have what it takes to get it done.”– Forge defender Dom Samuel after the loss to Arcahaie FC.
”The mentality we have and how locked in we are as a group, that’s been the key. You saw it at The Island Games and I think it’s been the same in Concacaf – it feels like nothing can really shake us no matter what’s put in front of us. Having that strong will to win has helped us throughout this competition.” – Forge goalkeeper Triston Henry on Forge’s key to success in the Concacaf League.