Premier League champions Hamilton Forge face Mexico’s Chivas Guadalajara in the CONCACAF Champions Cup.
The reigning Canadian Premier League champion Hamilton Forge, which doesn’t start its league season until April 13, jumps into the deep end on Wednesday when the team hosts Chivas Guadalajara of Mexico in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions Cup first-round match.
Chivas’ domestic season has already begun as the team sits in eighth place in the Mexican Liga MX standings with a 2-1-2 record.
“It’s a team that’s on pace,” Forge coach Bobby Smyrniotis said. “So, if you think that you are going to get on the field and you will be able to keep up with them in terms of fitness, you are wrong. So you have to be very methodical as a team, you have to plan really well, try to implement the tactics in the best way possible.”
He added: “But remember that this is not American football or basketball, where there are a lot of booing. The match starts in the first minute and continues. So I rely on the players, and the experience of the players who passed them in the match.” “The past to guide themselves through the good moments in the match and through the difficult moments in the match.”
Forge spent January 15-31 in Queretaro, Mexico, preparing for Wednesday’s game at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton. The return match is scheduled to be held on February 13 at Akron Stadium in Zapopan, Mexico.
“I think we have to go into the game with a certain level of humility,” Forge captain Kyle Baker said. “Obviously they are a huge club. They have very good players and there will be spurts in the game where they will have the bulk of the ball. That’s the reality.”
“This is something we are not necessarily used to in the local league where we like to control the pace of the game. But we have to be brave, we have to go out and try and play and we will not change.” A lot of that is in our style.”
The cold weather should help the Hamilton Forge Club
The forecast for Wednesday indicates that the maximum temperature will reach 5 degrees Celsius and the minimum temperature will reach -1 below zero, which is well above the seasonal average. But it is still much lower than the highs and lows expected in Guadalajara (29 and 11 degrees Celsius).
“-20 would have been good,” Smirniotis said with a smile. “This is a bit of a relief for everyone. Hopefully, if we don’t get as cold as we want (Wednesday), we get those beautiful winds blowing off the mountain,” he added.
The Forges will be without goalkeeper Triston Henry, who will be taking time off to deal with a personal matter.
“We are behind him on this and we are continuing to move forward,” Smyrniotis said.
Senegalese midfielder Elimane Cisse and Ghanaian winger Nana Opoku Amboma will also be unavailable while Forge awaits their work permits.
Chivas chose to leave Roberto Alvarado, Victor Guzman, Eric Gutierrez and Gilberto Orozco at home.
“I don’t even think they know who’s missing, who’s here, who’s not,” Smirniotis said of his players. “It’s something we don’t really discuss because we know we’re going to play a very good team.”
Forge FC signs players
The winner of the Forge-Chivas team will play either Mexico’s Club America or Nicaragua’s Real Estelí in the round of 16.
The revamped CONCACAF tournament, featuring 27 teams and five rounds, will crown the confederation champion, with the winner representing CONCACAF in the new and expanded FIFA Club World Cup.
Joining Forge on the field are the Vancouver Whitecaps and Calvary FC.
Forge qualified by winning the CPL title last year. The Whitecaps joined the field by winning the Canadian Championship while Calgary’s Cavalry earned their entry by finishing first in the CPL regular season.
With BC Place Stadium already booked, the Whitecaps host Mexico’s Tigres ONE at Starlight Stadium in Langford, BC on Wednesday. Due to the weather in Alberta, the Knights will also open the tournament in Langford on February 21.
The winner of Whitecaps-Tigres will face the victor of Cavalry-Orlando in the round of 16.
Forge, a four-time league champion, is no stranger to CONCACAF competition.
They lost to Mexico’s Cruz Azul in their first trip to the CONCACAF Premier League club tournament in 2022. Forge also competed in the now-defunct CONCACAF League, a feeder tournament to the then CONCACAF Champions League, in 2019, 2020 and 2021. They reached the semi-finals in 2021, losing to Motagua Honduras on away goals.
The team also announced on Wednesday that it had signed midfielder Zain Bruno on a development contract, and goalkeeper Jassem Koleilat on a short-term contract. Both players will be available for the CONCACAF Champions Cup.
Bruno, 17, comes from Sigma Club. The Brampton, Ontario, native will be added to the Forge roster as a development player while Koleilat, 24, comes from LAFC 2. The Prague, Czech Republic, native will be added to the Forge FC roster on a short-term contract.
(Tags for translation)CONCACAF