Forge FC made history yet again on Tuesday night at Tim Hortons Field, as they triumphed over Costa Rican side Santos de Guápiles, 3-0, to win this 2021 Concacaf League quarterfinal tie 4-3 on aggregate — booking themselves a ticket to the semifinals, as well as a place in the 2022 Concacaf Champions League.
Despite playing twice within the last week, Forge deployed a very strong starting XI — quite similar to their lineup against CF Montreal last Wednesday, the only change being Garven Metusala coming in at centre-back to replace the suspended Dominic Samuel. Santos, likewise, entered the game with a squad similar to Leg 1 of this tie, making just one change from that team (Michael Umaña in for Michael Barquero at the back).
The hosts looked to take control from the very outset of the contest, getting on the front foot quickly. They created a handful of early chances and spent much of the first half around the Santos goal, but the finish continued to elude them — until the 29th minute, that is.
Just before half an hour had passed, Alexander Achinioti-Jonsson and Kwame Awuah teamed up to win the ball near the left touchline and put it forward to Mo Babouli, who sent a hard pass horizontally across the top of the Santos penalty area. Omar Browne, coming in from the right side, beat a Santos defender to the ball and — with his first touch — unleashed an absurd left-footed strike that caught the bottom of the crossbar near the left goalpost and caromed down into the net to bring Forge within one goal of Santos’ aggregate lead.
Coming out of halftime, Santos seemed to have some renewed energy in the first 10 minutes, but Forge managed to weather a brief storm (thanks in part to some missed opportunities from the visitors) and resumed their role as protagonists in the contest.
Soon enough, Forge found their coveted second goal. In the 65th minute, Browne again made his way into the box with the ball as his teammates assembled in transition. The left-footed winger curled a wonderful cross in with his right boot, which sailed over traffic and found Mo Babouli at the far post for a smashed finish off a volley.
With the lead in place, Forge coach Bobby Smyrniotis made a few changes to his side, bringing Joshua Navarro, Maxim Tissot, and David Choinière into the contest to replace some of his tired attackers. The extra energy paid off immediately, with Kyle Bekker finding Emery Welshman in the box, which in turn led to a pass across goal to the substitute Navarro, who scored the tap-in to make it 3-0.
Even with the convincing lead, Forge continued their march forward right until the end of stoppage time. At last, though, referee Armando Villarreal blew his whistle for fulltime, much to the relief of the Tim Hortons Field faithful.
With that, Forge became the first Canadian Premier League club to qualify for the Concacaf Champions League, making yet another piece of history in their club’s remarkable three-year history.
29′ — Omar Browne (Forge FC)
65′ — Mo Babouli (Forge FC)
82′ — Joshua Navarro (Forge FC)
40′ — Yellow: Alexander Achinioti-Jonsson (Forge FC)
51′ — Yellow: Luis Paradela (Santos de Guápiles)
59′ — Yellow: Elimane Cisse (Forge FC)
61′ — Yellow: Kevin Ruiz (Santos de Guápiles)
63′ — Yellow: Tristan Borges (Forge FC)
67′ — Yellow: Everardo Rubio (Santos de Guápiles)