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TFC awarded CONCACAF Champions League bye with Forge unable to train

Toronto FC has been given a bye into the CONCACAF Champions League with Forge FC, its opponent in the Canadian Championship final, unable to return to full training.

Canada Soccer, which runs the Canadian tournament, said the final will be played at a later date.

The pandemic has taken a toll on both clubs. Hamilton’s Forge is still waiting approval from local authorities to start camp while TFC, which started training Feb. 17, has been sidelined by a series of positive COVID-19 tests.

Canada Soccer was facing a time crunch given the winner of the Canadian Championship final has an April 7 date with Mexico’s Club Leon in the first leg of round-of-16 play in the CONCACAF Champions League, the confederation’s flagship club competition.

Canada Soccer said TFC and Forge had both signed off on the decision, adding “every effort will be made to hold the Canadian Championship at a later date pending league schedules and in accordance with all public health and safety measures.”

Canada Soccer, which had previously only said the final would be played in the first quarter of 2021, confirmed Thursday that March 20 had been the tentative date. The Champions League dates and a FIFA international window opening March 22 left it little wiggle room.

Eventually, we will crown a Battle of the North champion and award the Voyageurs Cup for the 2020 season.– Canada Soccer president Nick Bontis

Still it did not sit well with Forge owner Bob Young, who released an open letter last Saturday complaining his team was not prepared given the lack of training. Forge has not played since a Dec. 8 loss to Honduras’ CD Marathon in the CONCACAF League, a feeder competition to the Champions League.

Two days after the Young letter, TFC announced its camp had been closed with players and staff sent home to self-isolate after several positive COVID-19 tests.

Canada Olympic coach Mauro Biello opted not to pick any of TFC’s youngsters for the CONCACAF Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship in Guadalajara, Mexico, saying they would not be ready for Canada’s first game March 19.

The Canadian Championship final will be played at a later date in Hamilton.

“Canada Soccer looks forward to hosting the Canadian Championship final at Tim Hortons Field and celebrating the achievements of both clubs with their fans in the stands in a safe manner,” Canada Soccer president Nick Bontis said in a statement. “Eventually, we will crown a Battle of the North champion and award the Voyageurs Cup for the 2020 season.”

Changes made

The 2020 Canadian Championship originally was to have featured 11 clubs — three Canadian teams from Major League Soccer and eight Canadian Premier League sides. The tournament was slated to kick off June 16 and run through Sept. 23, but was delayed when soccer suspended play due to global pandemic.

In August, Canada Soccer decided to scrap the tournament and just stage a one-off final.

Forge qualified for the final by winning the CPL’s Island Games in Charlottetown last summer. Toronto made it by finishing first among the Canadian teams in the first phase of the revised MLS 2020 schedule.

The Canadian Championship was first held in 2008. Toronto FC has won the Voyageurs Cup seven times compared to four for Montreal and once for the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Toronto (2018) and Montreal (2014-15) have both finished runners-up in CONCACAF Champions League.

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Forge FC owner cries foul at timing of Canadian Championship final

Forge FC owner Bob Young says the Canadian Premier League champions will be playing the Canadian Championship final against Toronto FC at a disadvantage.

In an open letter on social media, Young says Canada Soccer has proposed a date for the game “that worked for one team but ignored the situation of the other.”


While Young does not reference the date in his letter, March 20 has been talked about.

At issue for Young is the preparation time for both teams.

“Why would Canada Soccer propose a date to play this game where one of the teams had more than a month to practise and prepare for the game and, due to COVID restrictions, the other team only a week?” he wrote. “They are proposing a date that, according to leading Canadian soccer coaches and medical personnel I’ve spoken to, would put one team’s athletes at risk of injury, and would certainly give the team that had been practising an obvious and significant advantage.”

Toronto FC was granted permission by MLS to open camp early, on Feb. 17 to prepare for the Canadian Championship final. Most other teams started March 1.

In an interview, Young said Forge had only just received permission from the Ontario government to train.

“My complaint is not with any of the individuals at Canada Soccer. It is with the decision that they’ve reached on this topic,” he said.

The winner of the Canadian Championship final earns a berth in the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League, CONCACAF’s flagship club competition. The victor will meet Mexico’s Club Leon in a two-legged round-of-16 matchup scheduled for April 7 and 14.

The MLS season kicks off April 17.

Young said the game could be played the first week of April.

Forge booked its ticket to the Canadian Championship final by winning the Island Games in 2020. TFC made it by posting the best record in the all-Canadian portion of the pandemic-disrupted 2020 MLS season.

Young, who also owns the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats, said he wrote the open letter because “Canada Soccer won’t respond to me.”

Canada Soccer, which runs the Canadian Championship, has yet to confirm the date or venue for the final. It has only said the game will take place in the first quarter of 2021.

Time is running short. There is a FIFA international window March 22-28 during which World Cup and Olympic qualifying matches are scheduled.

Canada Soccer did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Young’s letter.

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Former CPL MVP Tristan Borges rejoins Forge FC on loan from Belgian team

Tristan Borges, a former player of the year in the Canadian Premier League, is returning to Forge FC.

The CPL champion announced Friday a loan deal with Belgium’s Oud-Heverlee Leuven that will see the attacking midfielder rejoin the Hamilton-based side for the 2021 Canadian Premier League season.

Hamilton sold Borges to the Belgian team in January 2020. At the time, CPL commissioner David Clanachan called Borges’ move a “landmark transfer” for Forge and the league.

Borges made 33 appearances in 2019 for Forge in all competitions, finishing as the CPL’s Golden Boot winner with 13 goals while tying for first in the league with five assists. He was named the league’s player of the year and U-21 player of the year after scoring the winning goal in the first leg of the CPL finals in October at Tim Hortons Field against Calgary’s Cavalry FC.

Borges has represented Canada at the under-17 and under-20 level and won his first senior cap for Canada against Barbados in January 2020.

He played for SC Heerenveen’s under-21 side in the Netherlands from 2016 to 2018 before returning home for the CPL’s inaugural season in 2019. With Portuguese bloodlines, he has a European passport that eased the move abroad.

“We’re very happy to welcome Tristan back to our club,” Forge director of football Costa Smyrniotis said in a statement Friday. “The co-operation with OH Leuven has been very good here, with the common, important goal of furthering the competitive development of Tristan over this upcoming year.”

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Reigning CPL MVP Kyle Bekker re-signs with league champion Forge FC

Captain Kyle Bekker, who led Forge FC to back-to-back Canadian Premier League titles, has re-signed with the Hamilton team.

The Canadian international midfielder was named the CPL’s most valuable player last year after leading the league in appearances (tied with 11) and minutes played by an attacking player (879). The 30-year-old native of Oakville, Ont., who had three goals and one assist in the league’s truncated 2020 season, was also a finalist for MVP honours in 2019.

“We are extremely happy to have our captain sign his new contract and commit to our club for the foreseeable future,” Costa Smyrniotis, Forge’s director of football, said in a statement. “Kyle has been such a valuable leader for our club since day one, both on the field and in the community. We look forward to continued success together in Hamilton.”

Bekker has made 49 appearances for Forge in all competitions, including 39 in league play.

Bekker played in Major League Soccer from 2013-16 with Toronto FC, FC Dallas and Montreal. He then suited up for North Carolina FC in the United Soccer League and the San Francisco Deltas in the North American Soccer League.

Bekker, who has won 18 caps for Canada, came up through the Sigma FC youth program in Mississauga, Ont., under current Forge head coach Bobby Smyrniotis, Costa’s brother. He played collegiate soccer at Boston College.

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Forge FC’s CONCACAF League run ends with ill-tempered loss to Honduras side

Forge FC’s long-distance Scotiabank CONCACAF League campaign ended Tuesday in an ill-tempered 1-0 loss to Honduras’s CD Marathon that saw both captain Kyle Bekker and coach Bobby Smyrniotis shown red cards in the final minutes.

The game, played on a windy night at an empty Estadio Tiburcio Carias Andino, marked the Canadian Premier League champions’ second attempt to qualify for the confederation’s elite club competition. They lost their first shot in a penalty shootout loss to Haiti’s Arcahaie FC last week in the CONCACAF League quarter-final.

Forge has one final chance to qualify when it takes on Toronto FC in the final of the Canadian Championship, slated for the first quarter of 2021.

Marathon proved to be a tough, physical opponent. And Forge’s frustration on the night was summed up in the 85th minute when Bekker, the CPL player of the year, was red-carded for a sliding studs-up tackle on Edwin Solano, who had put Marathon ahead in the 18th minute.

Smyrniotis was red-carded by Guatemalan referee Bryan Lopez in stoppage time. Lopez also showed four yellow cards to Forge and three to Marathon.

Veteran Forge defender David Edgar, in his last game before retirement, did not mince words at the Hondurans’ tactics in a game that featured 44 fouls pretty evenly spread between the teams.

“You’re saying there’s cheating?” he said when asked about how the game was officiated. “I’m sorry, I’ve held my tongue for 14 years playing down [in)] this part of the world and that’s what it feels like at times.

“Whether we’re naive or nice as Canadians we’re going to have to get used to it. And these boys have learned a lesson because nothing’s given to you down here.

“I’m proud of the way the boys handled it, stuck up for themselves, got stuck in,” he added. “And it was a good old-fashioned ding-dong.”

The 33-year-old from Kitchener, Ont., who won 42 caps for Canada including five as captain, was yellow-carded in the 64th minute after bumping the far smaller Solano, who went down theatrically, after the two tangled going for a ball in the air.

Forge’s irritation surfaced again two minutes later when substitute Chris Nanco was cautioned for clumsily clipping Kervin Arriaga.

Forge assistant coach Peter Reynders handled the post-game media duties, calling the game a contest between physicality and technique.

“I think we played a very good game,” he said. “A high-intensity game. A lot of duels. We had our chances.”

Honduras was the fourth stop on Forge’s Central American adventure after El Salvador, Panama and the Dominican Republic.

Early difference maker

Marathon, known as the Green Monster for its club colours, moved the ball well and were dangerous on set pieces, thanks to their size and the accurate delivery of captain Allan Banegas.

Forge, meanwhile, lacked clinical finishing.

Forge and Marathon ended up in the play-in game after losing their quarter-finals last week in the CONCACAF League, a 22-team feeder competition that sends six clubs to the Champions League — the winners of the four quarter-finals and two play-in matches.

Marathon lost its quarterfinal 2-0 to Costa Rica’s Deportivo Saprissa, the defending CONCACAF League champion.

Honduras’s Olimpia and Costa Rica’s Alajuelense, the other CONCACAF League quarter-final winners, have also qualified for the Champions League. The final CONCACAF League team to advance will be determined Wednesday when Honduran club FC Motagua plays Nicaragua’s Real Esteli in the other play-in match.

Marathon went ahead in the 18th minute on a set piece after Kwame Awuah was penalized outside the Forge penalty box for tugging a Marathon attacker. Banegas’ curling free kick found Mathias Techera, whose header hit the bottom of the goalpost and bounced straight to Solano to knock in through traffic.

Forge, playing with the wind behind its back, brought on Nanco to open the second half and threatened early as Mo Babouli hit the crossbar in the 47th minute after a Bekker corner was headed to the far post.

Smyrniotis made two changes to his starting lineup, inserting Maxim Tissot and Kadell Thomas for Paolo Sabak and Dominic Samuel.

Tuesday was just the fourth game for Forge since Sept 19 when it defeated HFX Wanderers FC to win the Island Games, the CPL’s truncated season. Marathon, meanwhile, topped its group in the Honduran league at 8-3-2.

Forge previously downed El Salvador’s CD Municipal Limeno 2-1 in the preliminary round and Panama’s Tauro FC 2-1 in the round of 16 prior to the loss to Arcahaie.

A Marathon player tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of the game. But other tests among the teams and match officials were negative so the match went ahead.

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Forge FC heads to Honduras in latest attempt to secure CONCACAF Champions League berth

Hamilton’s Forge FC is headed to Honduras for another attempt to secure a berth in the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League, the confederation’s top-tier club competition.

The Canadian Premier League champion plays CD Marathon in a play-in match next week. Both teams lost their quarterfinals Tuesday in the CONCACAF League, a 22-team feeder tournament that sends six teams to the elite Champions League.

Date and venue in Honduras have yet to be announced.

Forge lost a penalty shootout to Haiti’s Arcahei FC following a 1-1 tie in regulation time in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Marathon was beaten 2-0 by Costa Rica’s Deportivo Saprissa, the defending CONCACAF League champion, in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

Marathon will be a formidable opponent. Founded in 1925, it currently tops its group in the Honduran Premier Division at 7-3-2.

Forge, meanwhile, has played just three times since winning the Island Games, which represented the CPL’s truncated season, on Sept. 19 in Charlottetown.

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Forge FC falls on penalties to Haitian club Arcahaie FC in CONCACAF League quarters

Forge FC lost a heartbreaker to Haiti’s Arcahaie FC in Scotiabank Champions League quarterfinal play Tuesday, conceding a cheap goal on a goalkeeping blunder in regulation time and then losing a penalty shootout.

The win earned Arcahaie a berth in the 2021 CONCACAF Champions League, alongside the confederation’s elite club teams, while moving it into the final four of the CONCACAF League — a 22-team feeder competition that sends six teams to the top-tier CONCACAF tournament.

Forge, the Canadian Premier League champion, has a chance to make the Champions League via a do-or-die play-in match next week.

Guerry Romondt saved Forge’s first two penalties — from Daniel Krutzen and Alexander Achinioti-Jonsson. Arcahaie substitute Ose Charles converted the decisive kick in the 4-2 shootout win.

The game was knotted at 1-1 after regulation time with Forge dominating play. but unable to get the go-ahead goal.

“Obviously this is one that stings,” said Forge coach Bobby Smyrniotis. “We’ve played two games in the last 2 1/2 months. This is the third one,” he added. “So there’s some kind of rhythm that’s not going to be there. And the toughest thing to do in this game is score goals.”

Forge looked in complete control up 1-0 early in the second half but conceded the tying goal in the 59th minute on a mistake by Triston Henry. He delayed playing a back pass from Kwame Awuah and his scuffed clearance attempt deflected in off onrushing Arcahaie forward Kervens Jolicoeur.

“That’s something maybe that’s going to happen once in his career,” Smyrniotis said.

“This one kind of stings but he’s fantastic. He’s goalkeeper of the year in the Canadian Premier League for a reason. It’s unfortunate that this comes at this moment but we’ve got to look past it,” he added.

WATCH | Forge FC lose to Haiti-based Arcahaie FC on penalties:

The Hamilton side lost 4-2 in a penalty shootout to Haiti’s Arcahaie in the Concacaf League quarter-finals. 1:33

After the tying goal the game was delayed by a hole in the Arcahaie goal netting, requiring several zip-ties to close the gap.

Krutzen opened the scoring in first-half stoppage time from the penalty spot after David Choiniere was taken down in the box by Hantz Anacius. Romondt dove the right way but Krutzen’s shot found the corner.

Krutzen also converted a penalty — in second-half stoppage-time — to give Forge a 2-1 win over Panama’s Tauro FC in the round of 16.

The 24-year-old Belgian defender rattled a free kick off the Arcahaie crossbar in the 49th minute as Forge tormented the Haitians with set pieces.


The four CONCACAF League quarterfinal winners qualify directly for the Champions League while the losing quarterfinalists compete in single-leg play-in games, with the two winners also qualifying.

Arcahaie advances to play either Costa Rica’s Deportivo Saprissa or Honduras’ Club Deportivo Marathon, who played in a later game Tuesday, in the January COBCACAF League semifinal. Saprissa won the CONCACAF League last year.

Forge will play the Saprissa-Marathon loser next week in the play-in match.

Regulation time ended with Forge driving at the Arcahaie goal but unable to get the go-ahead goal. It was the same for the seven minutes of stoppage time with Arcahaie players going down like bowling-pins, delaying play.

Game played despite virus scare

Tuesday’s game went ahead despite one Forge staff member and two Arcahaie players testing positive for COVID-19 ahead of kickoff.

CONCACAF said all three had been isolated. All other players and staff tested negative.

Smyrniotis made two changes to his starting 11 with Johnny Grant returning from suspension to take over from Kadell Thomas and fellow midfielder Paolo Sabak replacing Elimane Cisse.

Forge pressed from the opening kickoff while the Haitians looked to counter-attack. Choiniere almost scored for Forge in the opening minute but couldn’t get a boot to a low ball sent across the front of goal by Grant.

Forge dominated possession but could not translate it into scoring chance. And the Haitian side began to grow more comfortable on the ball as the deadlock continued.

Romondt was called into action twice late in the first half, punching away Forge free kicks. Mo Babouli thought he had scored on the stroke off halftime, heading in another free kick, but was flagged offside.

Location moved to Dominican Republic

While Arcahaie was the home side, the game was played in the Dominican capital of Santo Domingo at the more suitable Estadio Olimpico Felix Sanchez.

The Haitians advanced Nov. 5 with a 3-1 round-of-16 win over Waterhouse FC in Kingston, Jamaica. Forge dispatched Tauro two days earlier in Panama City.

The Canadian side then returned home, serving the mandated 14-day quarantine. Forge arrived in the Dominican on Nov 21, training in Punta Cana before making the 170-kilometre trip to the capital on Monday.

Arcahaie moved into the round of 16 when Belize’s Verdes FC pulled out of their Oct. 20 preliminary-round match due to positive COVID-19 tests. That match was also scheduled for Santo Domingo.

Forge defeated El Salvador’s CD Municipal Limeno 2-1 in San Salvador on Oct. 22 in preliminary-round play.

Forge, thanks to its triumph in the Island Games in Charlottetown during the summer, will also have another chance to qualify for the main CONCACAF club competition when it takes on Toronto FC in final of the Canadian Championship scheduled for the first quarter of 2021.

Forge exited the CONCACAF League in the round of 16 last year, beaten 4-2 on aggregate by Honduras’s Olimpia.

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Forge to meet Haiti’s Arcahaie FC in CONCACAF League quarter-finals

Hamilton’s Forge FC will face Haiti’s Arcahaie FC in the quarter-finals of the Scotiabank CONCACAF League.

The Haitian side advanced Thursday with a 3-1 win over Waterhouse FC in Kingston, Jamaica. Forge won its round-of-16 match Tuesday, defeating Panama’s Tauro FC in Panama City 2-1 on a stoppage-time penalty.

Arcahaie advanced to the round of 16 when Belize’s Verdes FC pulled out of their preliminary-round match due to positive COVID-19 tests.

The 22-team CONCACAF League is a feeder tournament, sending six clubs to the 2021 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League. The four quarter-final winners will qualify directly for the 2021 CONCACAF Champions League. The four losing quarter-finalists will compete in single-leg play-in games, with the two winners moving on.

WATCH | Forge advances to CONCACAF quarters:

Daniel Krutzen’s penalty in stoppage time lifts Forge FC to a 2-1 victory over Panama’s Tauro FC. 0:49

Time and location of Forge’s quarter-final have yet to be announced.

The Canadian Premier League champion will also have a chance to qualify for the main CONCACAF club competition when it takes on Toronto FC in the as-yet-unscheduled final of the Canadian Championship.

Forge exited the CONCACAF League in the round of 16 last year, beaten 4-2 on aggregate by Honduras’ Olimpia.

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CPL’s Forge on to CONCACAF League quarters after edging Panama’s Tauro FC

In its short history, Forge FC has already earned a reputation for scoring late.

And it added to that lore Tuesday when Daniel Krutzen scored on a stoppage-time penalty to give Forge a 2-1 win over Panama’s Tauro FC, moving the Canadian Premier League champions into the Scotiabank CONCACAF League quarter-finals.

It marked the second time in six CONCACAF League games over the last two years that the Hamilton side has scored a stoppage-time winner. And it was the fourth time in the competition that Forge had scored a goal in the 82nd minute or later.

Forge also scored a 95th-minute winner to beat Cavalry FC in the second leg of the inaugural CPL final in 2019.

Forge advances to face the winner of Thursday’s round-of-16 match between Jamaica’s Waterhouse FC and Haiti’s Arcahaie in the quarter-finals. Arcahaie advanced when Belize’s Verdes FC pulled out of their preliminary-round match due to positive COVID-19 tests,.

WATCH | Forge clips Tauro to reach quarter-finals:

Daniel Krutzen’s penalty in stoppage time lifts Forge FC to a 2-1 victory over Panama’s Tauro FC. 0:49

The Canadian side is now one win away from qualifying for the CONCACAF Champions League, the confederation’s top club competition.

“We’re happy to have gotten this win and we hope we can keep on writing some of these magical moments for our city, for our club, for our supporters,” said coach Bobby Smyrniotis.

Forge had played just one previous game since its Sept. 19 win in the Island Games final and Smyrniotis said his team’s training in the leadup to the Tauro game was not perfect. But the players could run all day.

“The one thing I told the guys is we’re fit as we’ve ever been,” he said.

“I know we’re a team that can use depth and use players in different situations and I think that keeps coming out to our advantage,” he added. “And the guys believe in that.”

Depth is key

Once again, Forge’s bench made a difference. Substitutes Paolo Sabak and Anthony Novak combined to win the penalty with Sabak threading the ball through two defenders to find Novak flying towards the Tauro penalty box. He beat lunging defender Omar Negrete and was then taken down by substitute goalkeeper Jorginho Frias in the 90th minute.

Midfielder Alexander Achinioti-Jonsson started the play, winning the ball off a Tauro player and backheeling it to Sabak.

Frias, 19, likely didn’t need to make the desperate dive at Novak’s feet since the Forge attacker was running out of room to the side of the goal. But Krutzen made him pay, calmly slotting the ensuing spot kick into the corner.

Frias entered the game in first-half injury time in relief of Luis Hurtado, who had been favouring his right leg, was stretchered off.

Mo Babouli gave Forge an early lead before Tauro’s Edwin Aguilar equalized in the 18th minute in an entertaining game at an empty Estadio Rommel Fernandez.

Tauro came close to ending it in the 87th minute when a ferocious cross went through a crowd before going wide.

The 22-team CONCACAF League is a feeder tournament, sending six clubs to the 2021 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League.

The four quarterfinal winners will qualify directly for the 2021 CONCACAF Champions League. The four losing quarterfinalists will compete in single-leg play-in games, with the two winners moving on.

Forge will also have a chance to qualify for the main CONCACAF club competition when it takes on Toronto FC in the as-yet-unscheduled final of the Canadian Championship.

Forge exited the CONCACAF League in the round of 16 last year, beaten 4-2 on aggregate by Honduras’ Olimpia. The Hamilton side had dispatched Guatemala’s Antigua GFC 2-1 in the preliminary round.

WATCH | Forge wins CPL championship:

Forge FC takes on HFX Wanderers FC in the championship match at The Island Games in Charlottetown, P.E.I. 2:12:44

Playing on home soil and no stranger to CONCACAF club competition, Tauro was a formidable opponent with several recent domestic league games under its belt. But Forge was equal to the task in an entertaining game.

Forge threatened early Tuesday and went ahead in the 11th minute after Achinioti-Jonsson stole the ball off a Tauro player and fed David Choiniere speeding down the right flank. Choiniere beat his marker and sent in a low cross that bounced off Negrete to Babouli, who poked it in with his right foot with Hurtado out of position.

Tauro responded seven minutes later with a rapid-fire counter-attack after a Kyle Bekker giveaway. Diego Valanta’s looping long ball found Aguilar behind the Forge defence and the Tauro captain, after controlling the ball with his head, hammered a venomous right-footed shot past Triston Henry. Veteran defender David Edgar appeared to lose his footing as the 25-year-old Aguilar went past him.

It was Aguilar’s sixth goal in seven CONCACAF League matches.

Smyrniotis made two changes to the team that beat El Salvador’s CD Municipal Limeno 2-1 in preliminary-round play on Oct. 22. Fullback Kwame Awuah, back from suspension, came in for the suspended Johnny Grant while Senegal midfielder Elimane Cisse came in for Sabak.

Forge came straight to Panama after the win in El Salvador. The Canadian team is slated to return home Wednesday.

All rounds are being contested in single-match formats this year. The original plan was to go to two-legged ties from the quarter-finals on but COVID-related delays prompted CONCACAF to reduce the number of games.

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CPL’s Forge tallies late to win CONCACAF League game in El Salvador

Substitute Anthony Novak’s 83rd-minute goal lifted 10-man Forge FC to a 2-1 victory over El Salvador’s CD Municipal Limeno in a Scotiabank CONCACAF League preliminary-round game Thursday.

Novak controlled a fine ball from Dominic Samuel that landed just inside the penalty box and hammered a shot past goalkeeper William Torres. The goal came after some a stretch of pressure from the Canadian side with Mo Babouli tormenting Limeno defenders.

Forge lost fullback Johnny Grant in the 64th minute for a second yellow card in a choppy second half that featured a lot of whistles from Honduran referee Selvin Brown.

Forge will stay in Central America, heading directly to Panama for a Nov. 3 round-of-16 date with Tauro FC.

The 22-team CONCACAF League competition is a feeder tournament, sending the winner and next five best-ranked clubs to the 2021 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League.

Thursday’s game marked the first action for Hamilton’s Forge since Sept. 19 when it defeated HFX Wanderers FC in the Island Games final. Municipal Limeno, meanwhile, is two games into its new season and played on the weekend.

WATCH | Novak’s late marker leads Forge to victory:

The Hamilton side defeated Club Deportivo Municipal Limeño 2-1 in El Salvador on Friday. 1:00

Forge fielded the same starting 11 as in the Canadian Premier League final with the exception of Kadell Thomas coming in for suspended midfielder Kwame Awuah.

Forge had the better start but Limeno, making its CONCACAF League debut, came on as the first half wore on.

Forge’s David Choiniere opened the scoring in the 21st minute, the beneficiary of a marvellous Babouli pass. Choiniere’s run took him between the centre backs before sliding a left footed shot past an onrushing Torres.

Limeno tied it up in the 38th minute through Kevin Oviedo. The Forge defence converged on Harold Alas high in the penalty box and he laid the ball off to an open Oviedo, whose shot overpowered Triston Henry.

There were danger signs in the 15th minute after a giveaway by Forge defender Daniel Krutzen. But Edwin Sanchez couldn’t hit the target, seeming unsure whether to deliver a shot or cross.

WATCH | Forge wins CPL championship:

Forge FC takes on HFX Wanderers FC in the championship match at The Island Games in Charlottetown, P.E.I. 2:12:44

At the other end, Thomas was a threat down the left flank.

Henry had to play sweeper in the 20th minute to take care of a through ball that split the defender. Limeno caught Forge napping with a quick free kick in the 28th minute, while Henry was organizing his defensive wall, but the shot was wide.

Forge cut open the Limeno defence again the 36th minute but Babouli’s shot went wide. Henry made a diving stop in the 42nd minute to deny Sanchez.

Forge came close in the 53rd minute but Krutzen’s header off a corner glanced off the crossbar. Henry was called into action at the other end in the 55th, parrying a header off a corner.

Limeno had difficulty taking advantage of the man-advantage and had trouble dealing with Babouli’s offensive trickery.

Tournament disrupted by virus

Originally slated to run from July to November, the CONCACAF League was postponed due to the global pandemic. The competition, which kicked off Tuesday, is scheduled to run through Jan. 28.

COVID-19 continues to dog the tournament, however.

Thursday’s match between Costa Rica’s LD Alajuelense and the Dominican’s Cibao FC was postponed pending further testing in the wake of ” inconsistencies which raise the possibility that (pre-game) CONCACAF protocols were not followed.”

Tuesday’s game between Haiti’s Arcahaie FC and Belize’s Verdes FC was postponed just hours before kickoff after four players and four staff members from Verdes FC tested positive.

There were also positive tests ahead of the preliminary-round match between El Salvador’s CD FAS and Nicaragua’s Managua FC, but not enough to change Tuesday’s kickoff.

Thursday’s game was played at an empty Estadio Cuscatlan, the national stadium in the El Salvador capital rather than at Limeno’s more modest home stadium in Santa Rosa de Lima, some 170 kilometres away.

Preliminary-round and round-of-16 matches are being played as single-game ties at the highest-ranked club’s stadium. All other rounds will be played as home and away ties.

The CPL champions were without defender Klaidi Cela, who tore knee ligaments in the CPL final, and forward Chris Nanco, who suffered a hamstring injury at the Island Games. Nanco could join the team in Panama.

Last year, Forge dispatched Guatemala’s Antigua GFC 2-1 on aggregate in the preliminary round before losing 4-2 on aggregate to Honduras’ Olimpia in the round of 16.

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