By Darnel Harris
Displayed above the stands at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton is Forge FC’s motto – Together We Forge. In their first Concacaf League match, Forge fans cheered as their fired-up team handled the pressure and hammered in two goals in the second half, for a 2-1 win.
Created in 2017 to provide additional international matches for the region’s top soccer clubs, Forge FC earned the right to represent Canada in the Concacaf League on June 16th, after beating Edmonton’s Valour FC. To win the Concacaf League, Hamilton would need to win all five rounds. However, to advance to the Concacaf Champions League in the spring, Forge just needs to win three rounds against Guatemalan and Honduran teams.
Hamilton’s first opponent, Antigua GFC, was the winner of Guatemala’s spring league, and throughout the first half the skilled visitors calmly blocked Forge’s efforts. In the 33rd minute, Antigua’s patience was rewarded as Edgar Pacheco smashed in a looping shot from thirty meters out.
Refusing to give up, Forge stormed out of the dressing room and put away a corner just one minute into the second half. Hamilton’s goal set up an intense second half as both teams pressed for a critical second goal, but they were unable to get their shots on target. Just as the game seemed headed for a draw, substitute David Choiniere dashed past Antigua’s defenders and snuck a shot from close range into the net in the 90th +1 minute.
Antigua’s coach Roberto Montoya used his substitutions to try and get a second goal, but his team was unable to score. Forge’s coach Bobby Smymiotis expressed confidence, noting that his team gained a sense of their opponents, and would aim to continue in the second leg. Emery Welshman, a Forge FC and Guyanese national team midfielder said the Central Americans’ physical play was an adjustment for his Canadian teammates, who handled the aggressive game well.
Forge travelled to Guatemala City on Tuesday to prepare to play at Estadio Doroteo Guamuch Flores, where rain – and twenty-five thousand hostile fans – will greet them. If Forge can either win or draw in Guatemala, they will play against Olimpia, Honduras’ second best club on August 22nd in Hamilton.