They are two different kinds of football. But Pacific FC can thank the Ottawa Redblacks for having to wait two weeks to play the Canadian Premier League championship game Dec. 5 at 1:30 p.m. PT at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton against Forge FC.
The Redblacks’ upset of the Montreal Alouettes in the final regular-season game means the Hamilton Tiger-Cats will host the CFL Eastern Conference semifinal against the Als on Sunday at Tim Hortons Field, which pushed back the CPL soccer championship game to the following weekend in the Steel City.
Top-seed Forge FC defeated fourth-seed York United 3-1 in the CPL semifinals Sunday in Hamilton. Island-based third-seed PFC defeated second-seed Cavalry FC 2-1 in extra time in the other semifinal game Saturday in Calgary.
“Some say a long break works against you,” said PFC head coach Pa-Modou Kah. “But we had two weeks to plan for the semifinal against Cavalry FC, as well, and that was what we needed in such a condensed season.”
Two-time defending champion Forge FC has been the flagship of the CPL since the national pro soccer league’s inception in 2019 and is vying for the three-peat.
“We focus on ourselves and not on the past or history,” countered Kah.
Forge FC’s success, meanwhile, has given it a far denser schedule than other CPL franchises. The Hammers will play two games before the CPL final against Pacific FC. As defending CPL champions, the Hammers are also in the CONCACAF League and have reached the two-game semifinal stage of that 22-team competition, and play Club de Fútbol Motagua on Wednesday in Hamilton and Dec. 1 in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
Since the four semifinalists and top-two losing quarter-finalists in the CONCACAF League are guaranteed passage to the CONCACAF Champions League for 2022, Forge FC has become the first CPL club to qualify for the CONCACAF Champions League. It is the top club competition in the region and is CONCACAF’s equivalent of the UEFA Champions League.
Kah said just how tiring the schedule is for Forge FC is the Hamilton club’s worry and of little concern to him: “We don’t focus on the opposition. We focus on ourselves and what we can control — our commitment, our preparation and our unity to hopefully make the Island proud.”
If they win the 2021 CPL championship game, PFC will also see many games added to the schedule in 2022 with travel to Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean in the CONCACAF League.
Beginning next year, the CPL champion will receive an automatic berth directly into the CONCACAF Champions League, starting with the 2023 competition, without having to go through the preliminary play-in CONCACAF League.
Meanwhile, the other Canadian team in the 2022 CONCACAF Champions League with Forge FC will be CF Montreal. The Quebec club defeated Toronto FC 1-0 in the all-MLS Canadian Championship final Sunday to lift the Voyageurs Cup before about 12,000 fans at Stade Saputo. CF Montreal outlasted Forge FC in an 11-round shootout while Toronto FC beat PFC 2-1 at BMO Field in the Canadian Championship semifinals to advance to the final.