Although the Voyageur’s Cup is set to continue in September, no Canadian Premier League teams advanced to the finals. Due to this, as of mid-August, there remained only a single route to the 2020 CONCACAF Champions League for a CPL side: the 2019 CONCACAF League.
2019 CONCACAF League – Round of 16
The round of 16 drew to a close last night, with Forge FC playing in Honduras against Olimpia.
The first leg, held in Hamilton, saw a depleted Olimpia battle a fully-stocked Forge. A number of Olimpia’s players were missing either due to Visa issues or call-ups to the Pan America Games. As a result, the opening leg was Forge’s chance to take an early lead in the series.
I predicted Forge would need at least a 3-goal advantage to have a real chance at advancing:
Sadly, they squandered the opportunity and only squeaked out a 1-0 victory. Although this would provide a numerical advantage in the 2nd leg, it wasn’t nearly enough to provide much of a cushion in an extremely hostile stadium.
Luckily for Forge, the 2nd-leg was moved from Olimpia’s home stadium to a closed-door match in Estadio Olímpico Metropolitano in San Pedro Sula. Despite being an empty stadium, San Pedro Sula haunts Canadians as the site of a massive 8-1 loss in 2012.
Will Canadian’s haunted memories be balanced out by the elimination of a hostile crowd of up to 37,325 Hondurans? Well…
Olimpia pounded Forge, 4-1, ending any dreams of a Canadian Premier League team qualifying for the CONCACAF Champions League in their first season. Was the result unexpected? Of course not. Olimpia is a very experienced team with Champions League experience, a full squad, playing in their home climate.
The champions now move on to play Guatemala’s Comunicaciones (GUA3). Comunicaciones have been playing since the preliminary round, defeating higher-seeded sides the whole way. As a result, they were highly underrated in both CONCACAF League ratings and our own elo-ratings.
This next round will see a return to Doroteo Guamach Flores. If that sounds familiar, it should. Forge faced Antigua here in the preliminary round, managing a 0-0 draw.
As you may recall from July, the stadium, which opened in 1950, has a seating capacity of 26,000, with a 105 m x 71 m grass pitch. It is the largest stadium in Guatemala, and the 7th largest in all of Central America.
Olimpia are favoured to win over Comunicaciones, but as we’ve seen many times this year, anything can happen on the pitch.
The winners of Olimpia vs Comunicaciones will advance to face the winner of Saprissa (CRC3) and Independiente (PAN2).
Forge, like Cavalry in the Voyageur’s Cup, must take solace in the knowledge that they’re a very new team, in a very new league, and they performed far better than expected at this level of play. Many claimed the team would be eliminated in the preliminary round, but instead it came down to the 2nd leg of the round of 16 to knock them out of the tournament.
Next year there will be another opportunity for the Canadian Premier League teams to fight for entry into the Champions League. This time, they’ll be a little more prepared for the competition they’ll face.