PANAMA CITY – 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 quarterfinals.
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 quarterfinals. Arcahaie advanced when Belize’s Verdes FC pulled out of their preliminary-round match due to positive COVID-19 tests,.
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.”
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.
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 quarterfinals on but COVID-related delays prompted CONCACAF to reduce the number of games.