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Cavalry head to CONCACAF Champions League as Pacific FC stumbles against Forge

PFC back in action Saturday hosting Vancouver FC
Pacific FC midfielder Ayman Sellouf fends off the mark of Forge FC defender Aboubacar Sissoko during CPL action in Hamilton on Saturday. FORGE FC

Cavalry FC of the Canadian Premier League will meet the big boys of Major League Soccer and Liga MX in the 2024 CONCACAF Champions League.

The Calgary club captured the CPL regular-season championship Saturday with a 1-0 victory over York United, which combined with Pacific FC’s 3-1 loss to Forge FC at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton, assured Cavalry FC the CPL Shield and CONCACAF Champions League berth that goes with it.

The CPL playoff champion will earn the league’s second spot into the Champions League. PFC has clinched one of the five playoff berths but fell into third place, two points behind second-place Forge FC. The Page playoff system — familiar to curling fans — heavily rewards the first- and second-place teams.

“The top two is the best way to go [in the Page system] and that’s why this game was so important. We gained a lot from today,” said Forge FC head coach Bobby Smyrniotis, who Sportsnet labelled as one of its top-five choices to replace John Herdman as Canada coach on the road to the 2026 World Cup.

“It was tense past 70 minutes [with Forge holding a 2-1 lead] because both teams realize what these points mean. But here’s the thing, there are still two games left.”

PFC will play those at Starlight Stadium next Saturday in the B.C. derby against seventh-place Vancouver FC, which has been eliminated from playoff contention, and at Calgary on Oct. 7 against Cavalry FC.

Saturday’s match-up featured the only teams to have won the CPL playoff title over the first four years of the CPL with Forge having won three and PFC the other.

Striker Djenairo Daniels opened scoring for PFC at just three minutes Saturday but it took Forge FC only two minutes to level through Rezart Rama. The winner was scored by Woobens Pacius at 35 minutes. Jordan Hamilton added the insurance in injury time at 96 minutes.

“Take away the first five minutes, it was good,” Smyrniotis said of his Hammers’ effort on the night.

There was a lengthy delay in the first half following serious looking injuries to Malcolm Duncan of Forge and PFC’s Kunle Dada-Luke following a collision. Both players left the game in ambulances as the teams were sent to their dressing rooms for 30 minutes. Dada-Luke, according to PFC, has a minor concussion. Smyrniotis said Duncan was “good and in stable condition.”

The Hammers lead the all-time series over PFC 12-4-2 but one of those four Tridents’ wins was the most important in team history — the 1-0 win over Forge FC at Tim Hortons Field in the 2021 CPL championship game.

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