‘An incredible moment’: Forge FC’s Noah Jensen reflects on professional debut in the Concacaf Champions Cup

The 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup gets underway in February, and two Canadian Premier League teams will be going toe-to-toe with some of the top clubs in the region. will be covering the tournament extensively, with in-depth guides on the CPL teams and their opponents, plus more on the whole tournament. For more of’s coverage of the Concacaf Champions Cup, click here.

Noah Jensen’s first steps onto the pitch as a professional footballer came on hallowed ground.

On Feb. 24, 2022, the then-22-year-old embraced teammate Garven Metusala and jogged onto the field at the soccer cathedral that is the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. His Forge team trailed 3-1 to Liga MX giants Cruz Azul in the 69th minute of their 2022 Concacaf Champions Cup round of 16 matchup. The Hamilton club were ultimately eliminated 4-1 on aggregate, but for Jensen, making his debut at the historic stadium is a moment he will never forget.

I would definitely say it’s not the most regular way to make your professional debut,” Jensen told “To play at the Azteca itself was just an incredible honour. I remember walking into the stadium they have plaques of all the teams and players that have played there before. Just the history of the stadium is incredible and to come on in that game, in front of 30,000 people, just an incredible moment for me and to start my career in that way.” 

After spending four years with the Oakland University Golden Grizzlies, Jensen signed his first professional contract with Forge on Feb. 15, 2022. Issues with getting him registered in time had held him out of the first leg, but he knew depending upon how the match played out in Mexico City in the second leg, he might get into the game. In the end, it was a teammate’s misfortune that afforded him that opportunity.

“I think it was actually Garven who picked up a small injury during that game and that gave me an opportunity to go on, so cheers to Garven for helping me out there,” said Jensen with a chuckle. “Football gives you a lot of crazy opportunities like that, and that’s definitely a story that I’ll tell for a long time is that I got to play 30 minutes at the Azteca in my first ever professional match.”

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Over the next two weeks, Forge and Jensen make their return to the Concacaf Champions Cup, starting on Wednesday, Feb. 7 at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton, and then the following Tuesday, Feb. 13 at the Estadio Akron. They face Chivas Guadalajara, one of the most storied clubs in Mexico, in the opening round of this year’s competition.

Jensen’s first Concacaf experience wasn’t just a great story, but an invaluable experience. Since that day, the now-24-year-old has never shied away from the biggest stage. He was fantastic when he started the 2022 CPL Final in Ottawa after captain Kyle Bekker was suspended, helping Forge to a 2-0 victory in the nation’s capital. He again started the 2023 Final, as Forge secured back-to-back championships in a dramatic extra time victory over rivals Cavalry FC.

“It definitely made them a little bit easier,” said Jensen. “I remember getting subbed on at the Azteca and everyone is just whistling at you. So thankfully when we played at Ottawa or when we played in Hamilton there weren’t people doing that. I think just having that experience under my belt, I know there’s many guys in our locker room that have had similar experiences throughout their entire career. Being able to not only hold that for myself but being able to share it with my teammates, especially some of the younger guys.”

Noah Jensen during the 2022 CPL Final in Ottawa (Photo: Audrey Magny)

Like the player, Forge as a club are also learning lessons from their first foray into the continent’s biggest club competition. Back in 2022, they were coming off a gruelling season in which they played a match every four days between the CPL season opener on June 27, and the final on Dec. 5. That was their lone loss in a CPL Final, 1-0 against Pacific FC at home just four days after travelling back to Canada after from Tegucigalpa, Honduras where they’d been eliminated from the Concacaf League by Motagua on aggregate.

This year, the side are not only coming off the high of winning the North Star Cup as CPL playoff champions, but now have a much better idea of what they will face at the highest level of Concacaf competition. Forge spent part of preseason down in Querétaro, Mexico at a soccer-specific facility which allowed them to get acclimatized to some of the challenges they will face against Chivas in the coming weeks.

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“We’ve got an opportunity to come down here in Mexico and to train at a beautiful facility that is going to give us a good opportunity to get acclimated with the climate, with the altitude and everything,” said Jensen. “I remember that when we played against Cruz Azul we trained at their stadium beforehand and we couldn’t even get through warmup without huffing and puffing, so I think this has definitely helped us. Playing some exhibitions down here has helped us learn more about the style of football down here, I think that we’re in a much better situation preparation-wise as opposed to when we were preparing for Cruz Azul in 2022.”

Experience has always been a central tenet of the Forge way. Having so many players on the roster who have consistently experienced high-pressure situations, especially in knockout fixtures, with the club has allowed them to maintain an almost zen-like cool even in the most hostile environments and matches.

“We have a lot of guys who have been in a lot of different situations, been a part of some big games and having that experience is something you can’t really measure,” said Jensen. “But it definitely gives us a good platform to be able to perform at a high level in a big game regardless of the circumstances.”

Noah Jensen during the 2023 Canadian Championship (Photo: Forge FC)

That undoubtedly manifested itself during the 2023 CPL Final against Cavalry back in October. After a cagey match between Forge and their biggest rivals went to extra time, Ali Musse looked to have won the match for Cavalry in the 101st minute with a lovely curling strike. Not only did Forge respond mere minutes later, through a world-class goal of their own courtesy of Béni Badibanga, but they then did something that has only happened in a handful of the thousands of cup finals played around the globe: Tristan Borges scored the Olimpico seen round the world for a come-from-behind win in extra time.

It is that incredible ability to step up in big moments that the club will be hoping is a difference maker in this year’s Concacaf Champions Cup competition. Getting to face one of the giants of the region, Chivas, will be yet another incredible experience for this group.

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“To have an opportunity to play against a club the magnitude of Chivas is an incredible opportunity, what they’ve done not only in their own league but in the Concacaf competition has been incredible,” said Jensen. “I think it just sets us up to have an amazing opportunity to really prove ourselves at this level and to go against a top-quality opponent like that is exactly what you want.”

They know they will be a heavy underdog, facing a team full of Mexican internationals, including Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernández, the greatest goalscorer in the country’s history. They are a team entering their sixth season up against a club who have won 12 Mexican first-division titles in 117 years of existence. Since their inception, however, Forge has been intent on writing new history in every competition they enter.

“We’re not just happy to be here, I think we know that we have an opportunity this year to really put our stamp on this competition and really show what we’re capable of doing playing against this top level of opposition,” said Jensen. “I know that before I was here that’s something that Forge has been consistently good at doing, showing up in these games and being able to prove that we belong at this level, so I expect nothing less from us on the 7th and on the 13th.”

The 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup begins Feb. 6, 2024. Forge FC will take on C.D. Guadalajara (beginning Feb. 7), and Cavalry FC will play Orlando City SC (beginning Feb. 21). The matches will be available to watch in Canada on OneSoccer.