‘It still replays in my head’ Forge FC’s Jordan Hamilton on 2018 Concacaf Champions Cup Final vs. Chivas

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.

Jordan Hamilton trudged across the stage, his left hand loosely gripping the ribbon portion of a medal he did not particularly want. He shook hands with the Concacaf delegates, but his stare was a million miles away.

As he concluded the formalities, Hamilton stepped off the stage, past an arch that read “2018 Champions,” and joined the smattering of disbelieving Toronto FC teammates who stood in stunned silence.

Moments earlier their incredible run in the Concacaf Champions Cup had come to an end in potentially the most painful way possible. Over 180 minutes in the 2018 Final, nothing could separate them and Liga MX side Guadalajara — forcing a penalty shootout to decide the champion.

With Jonathan Osorio’s earlier effort having struck the underside of the crossbar and bounced out, Toronto captain Michael Bradley stepped up to the spot needing to score to keep the shootout going. Instead, he sent his strike well wide of the top right corner and into the crowd, prompting Chivas goalkeeper Rodolfo Cota to pump his fist and let out a roar into the Zapopan night as Estadio Akron erupted in celebration.

Asked what he remembers most about that April 25, 2018 night, Hamilton rephrases the query.

“I think the question is ‘What don’t I remember?’,” Hamilton told”To this day I can’t even watch that shootout. So yeah, it was a tough day for sure.” 

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Hamilton had come into the match in the 57th minute, replacing Nico Hasler. Then just 22 years of age, he had been prepared to participate in the decisive penalty shootout, but with it ending in four rounds, he never got the chance.

“I was supposed to be the fifth taker and then I think Mike took the responsibility and we all know what happened,” said Hamilton. 

Those memories have stayed with him, even after he left Toronto FC for the Columbus Crew in 2019, through his time with Indy Eleven in the USL Championship, and even overseas to Ireland with Sligo Rovers.

Five years later, Hamilton is preparing for a rematch with that familiar foe. Now with Forge FC of the Canadian Premier League, on Wednesday, Feb. 7 at Tim Hortons Field, and again on Tuesday, Feb. 13 at Estadio Akron, his club will face Chivas in the first round of the 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup. For Forge, it is an opportunity to test themselves against one of the best teams on the continent. For Hamilton, it’s personal.

Jordan Hamilton points to the Forge bench after scoring a goal this past season (Photo: Forge FC)

While it can at times be painful to look back at what could have been in April 2018, Hamilton’s experiences are proving to be an asset in the Forge dressing room ahead of their upcoming clash. The 27-year-old attacker has been approached by several teammates inquiring what it’s like to go up against Chivas.

“First of all, I let them know that they are beatable,” said Hamilton. “We aren’t playing against FC Barcelona, so that’s the first thing I let them know. And the second thing is that every single player who is on the field, from the first 11 to the three to five guys that get subbed in have to be on their A-game because if you aren’t they will exploit you.”

One other lesson that Hamilton and his Toronto FC teammates learned the hard way against Chivas in the 2018 final is the importance of the home leg. Toronto lost at BMO Field 2-1 in the first leg of the final, which meant they travelled down to Mexico needing at least two goals to keep themselves alive. They accomplished that, forcing penalties with a 2-1 result of their own, but who knows if they could have avoided the pain of penalties by taking care of business at BMO.

For Hamilton, using the advantages that they have at Tim Hortons Field is critical to any sort of success they will have in this round. Forge spent large parts of preseason down in Querétaro, Mexico, training and have already seen the potential benefits inclement weather might have against Chivas.

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“For me, that’s the only game that matters right now, the home game at Tim Hortons Field in front of our fans and the weather obviously,” said Hamilton. “The weather here in the preseason hasn’t been so great and the Mexican teams we have faced haven’t been so comfortable, and we all know Canada is a lot colder than Mexico so we need to be ready and I think we are. We’ve had a great preseason, everybody has trained well.”

The word out of camp is that the team is feeling significantly more prepared for this year’s Concacaf Champions Cup then their initial foray into the competition, which came in 2022 against Liga MX side Cruz Azul and resulted in a 4-1 loss on aggregate.

“Coming down here we did a very similar preseason when I was on Toronto FC for that Champions League run, we were in a similar training compound, sleeping right beside the field, focused,” said Hamilton. “So it’s been paramount and the competition we’ve faced has been of immense quality so it has been a really good test to see where we’re at.”

Hamilton knows what a well prepared team looks like better than most. Wherever the Scarborough native has gone in his career, winning has followed. He was part of the 2017 Toronto FC side that won the MLS Cup, Supporters’ Shield and Canadian Championship (which he also won in 2016 and 2018). He added another MLS Cup after joining Columbus Crew in 2020. Since joining Forge in 2022, the club has won back-to-back CPL playoff championships.

Asked what has set those teams apart, and what he looks to contribute when he joins a club and locker room, it boils down to a group putting the collective before the individual. When Hamilton scores goals, for example, he can often be seen pointing toward the bench.

“It takes a team for a goal to be scored, it’s not just the striker putting the ball in the net,” said Hamilton. “It’s the guys every week in training. It’s the guys who are in the suite, pushing the starting 11, it’s the guys who are the one who get subbed off and being that vote of confidence when they come off and give you a hug and shake your hand and say ‘Come on, let’s go!’. It’s all about the brotherhood in the championship teams I’ve been a part of and it’s definitely the most important thing.”

Photo: David Chant / Canadian Premier League

Despite the two CPL titles, Hamilton still believes there is more that he can accomplish personally within the league. He has come into this campaign eager to prove himself in a way that he hasn’t been able to in his first two years with Forge. The 27-year-old got off to an excellent start to the 2023 season, scoring three times, and adding an assist, in his first seven appearances of the campaign. But an injury to his left foot derailed the latter part of his season, coming off at halftime during a 4-0 win over York United on July 9, which was his last start of the season.

“It’s no secret I haven’t had a chance to really put what I should be putting out in the CPL,” said Hamilton. “This year I’ve come in even hungrier than last year.”

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Adding to that appetite is certainly the fact that this season for Forge begins on Feb. 7 at Tim Hortons Field,with Hamilton’s first opportunity to play in the Concacaf Champions Cup since he scored for Toronto FC in a 1-1 draw against Independiente in 2019. That was another special day for the striker, but nothing so far has lived up to that night at Estadio Akron.

“Playing in a Champions League final, every touch of the ball in that game still replays in my head,” he said. “Could I have done this to score, could I have done this to score? I always joke with my close friends that if I had scored in that match maybe I’d have a statue outside of BMO Field or something like that. It’s a huge game to be a part of and to be on that field it was a crazy experience.

“Wish we could have won, but that’s how football goes sometimes.”

Over the next few weeks, Hamilton and Forge will be doing everything they can to make sure this time the ending is different.

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.