By Darnel Harris
Forge welding is an ancient blacksmithing process during which metal is heated, before being hammered into one refined piece. In their first Concacaf League series, Forge FC lived up to their motto – Together We Forge – by absorbing pressure and then hammering Antigua GFC to win the series two to one on aggregate.
The Concacaf League was created in 2017 to provide additional international matches for North America, Central America and the Carribbean’s top soccer clubs. Forge FC earned the right to represent Canada 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.
Forge’s first opponent, Antigua GFC, was the winner of Guatemala’s spring league. In the first leg at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton, Antigua’s patient defence blocked Forge for forty-five minutes and Antigua’s midfielder 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.
The late win in Hamilton led Forge’s coach Bobby Smymiotis to express confidence, noting that his team gained a sense of their opponents. Emery Welshman, a Forge FC and Guyanese national team midfielder said while the Central Americans’ physical play was an adjustment for his Canadian teammates, they handled the aggressive game well.
In the second leg at Guatemala City’s Estadio Doroteo Guamuch Flores, a small band of Guatemalans cheered on Antigua as they tried to pressure Forge into giving up a goal. Despite 58 percent possession and 8 shots, Antigua’s only short on target was comfortably saved. While Forge was unable to finish two clear chances in the second half, it was Antigua, not Forge, who had to score.
After the match Coach Smyrniotis said, “It’s a special day for us. We wanted to create history, for our league and our organization.” With their victory, Forge FC will continue making history when they carry the Canadian Premier League’s banner into their second around match against C.D. Olimpia, Honduras’ second-best team on August 22nd in Hamilton.