Hamilton

Mexico's Chivas Guadalajara knocks Hamilton's Forge FC out of CONCACAF Champions Cup

Mexico's Chivas Guadalajara knocked Forge FC out of the CONCACAF Champions Cup on Tuesday, edging the Canadian Premier League champion 2-1 in the second leg for a 5-2 aggregate win in their first-round tie.

Chivas will play either Mexico's Club America or Nicaragua's Real Esteli FC in the next round

Erick Gutierrez of Mexico's Guadalajara celebrates his goal against Canada's Forge FC, during a CONCACAF Champions Cup soccer match in Zapopan, Mexico, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024.
Erick Gutierrez of Mexico's Guadalajara celebrates his goal against Canada's Forge FC, during a CONCACAF Champions Cup soccer match in Zapopan, Mexico, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024. (Alfredo Moya/Associated Press)

Mexico's Chivas Guadalajara knocked Forge FC out of the CONCACAF Champions Cup on Tuesday, edging the Canadian Premier League champion 2-1 in the second leg for a 5-2 aggregate win in their first-round tie.

Forge substitute Kevaughn Tavernier scored a consolation goal in the 93rd minute, hammering a shot through traffic from just inside the penalty box. A moment to savour for the 17-year-old Canadian youth international.

Trailing 3-1 after the opening leg last Wednesday at Tim Hortons Field, Forge needed to score three goals and concede none to overtake the iconic Mexican side — with the degree of difficulty growing if Chivas scored at home.

Chivas did just that in the eighth minute when goalkeeper Chris Kalongo was unable to hang onto Antonio Briseno's downward header off a corner and a sliding Erick Gutierrez knocked the ball home.

Kalongo, a 22-year-old with just a handful of Forge appearances under his belt, had made a fine diving save off a low shot from Jesus Sanchez to produce the corner.

Jose Castillo padded the lead in the 62nd minute after he was put in behind the Forge defence. Kalongo stopped Castillo's first shot but not his ensuing header off the rebound.

Chivas moves on to the round of 16

Forge played some good football, when Chivas let it have the ball, but lacked finishing until stoppage time.

"We're champions of the Canadian Premier League four out of five years for a reason. We have an identity, we stick to that identity," said Forge coach Bobby Smyrniotis. "We respect every opponent including this big opponent that we played today here in Chivas Guadalajara. But we wanted to play our football and I think our players did an excellent job at that.

"And hopefully some Mexican fans here see there's quite a bit of quality in the Canadian Premier League and in this club."

Chivas outshot Forge 16-9 (9-5 in shots on target) and had 59 per cent possession. But Forge had eight corners to Chivas' two.

Chivas now plays either Mexico's Club America or Nicaragua's Real Esteli FC in the round of 16. They meet Wednesday with Club America looking to rebound from a 2-1 loss on the road.

The Vancouver Whitecaps visit Mexico's Tigres on Wednesday. Their first leg in Langford, B.C., ended in a 1-1 tie.

The other Canadian side taking part is Calgary's Calvary FC, which opens its first-round series against MLS's Orlando City on Feb. 21 in Langford.

The revamped CONCACAF competition, which features 27 teams and five rounds, will crown the confederation club champion with the winner representing CONCACAF at the new, expanded FIFA Club World Cup.

It was 17 Celsius at kickoff at Estadio Akron, at an altitude of some 1,500-plus metres, with rain starting to fall some 15 minutes in.

Chivas started with panache, stroking the ball around and building an early lead.

Chivas finished the game with 10 men after substitute defender Raul Martinez had to leave in the 73rd minute after he fell awkwardly in a collision with Jordan Hamilton. Chivas had used all its substitutes.

Cowell, a U.S. international. led the Chivas attack in the first leg, scoring two goals and setting up another. Marin scored the other Chivas goal while Campbell replied for Forge.
Garven Metusala of Canada's Forge FC, left, and Isaac Brizuela of Mexico's Guadalajara battle for the ball during a CONCACAF Champions Cup soccer match in Zapopan, Mexico, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024.
Garven Metusala of Canada's Forge FC, left, and Isaac Brizuela of Mexico's Guadalajara battle for the ball during a CONCACAF Champions Cup soccer match in Zapopan, Mexico, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024. (Associated Press/Alfredo Moya)

Timing of the game was 'not in our favour,' coach says

The Chivas games were Forge's first competitive outings since Oct. 28, when it edged visiting Cavalry 2-1 after extra time to win the CPL title. While Forge's regular season doesn't kick off until April 13, Chivas is six games into the Liga MX Clausura — sitting seventh at 3-1-2 after defeating Juarez 2-1 Saturday.

"Of course the timing of the event is not in our favour," said Smyrniotis. "But that's nothing we use as an excuse. You'd rather be here than not be here. We're here because we've won a championship."

Smyrniotis made three changes to his starting 11 with Malcolm Duncan, Jensen and Tristan Borges coming in for Dominic Samuel, David Choiniere and the injured Kwasi Poku.

Newly acquired Senegalese midfielder Elimane Cisse and Ghanaian winger Nana Opoku Ampomah weren't available as Forge waits on their work permits.

Chivas which left several players at home for the first leg, made three changes with Gutierrez and Ronaldo Cisneros among the additions.

While known for relying on Mexican talent, Chivas started Cowell, a 20-year-old California-born forward acquired last month from MLS's San Jose Earthquakes for a reported US$4 million, and Spanish-born goalkeeper Whalley. Both have Mexican citizenship through their family ties.

Chivas won the CONCACAF tournament in its last appearance in 2018 when it defeated Toronto FC via penalty shootout in the final. Forge lost to Mexico's Cruz Azul in the opening round of 16 in 2022, in its first trip to CONCACAF's top-flight club competition.

Chivas came into the game with a 7-1-1 record against Canadian opposition in Champions Cup play.

Founded in 1906, Chivas has 4.2 million followers on Twitter and 3.3 million on both Instagram and TikTok. Forge, which started play in 2019, has 12,200 on Twitter, 27,900 on Instagram and 19,000 on TikTok.

Forge qualified for this year's tournament as CPL champion. Chivas booked its ticket as the 2023 Liga MX Clausura runner-up.

Forge also competed in the now-defunct CONCACAF League, a feeder tournament to the then-CONCACAF Champions League, in 2019, 2020 and 2021. Forge reached the semifinals in 2021, losing to Honduras' Motagua on the away goals rule.

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