Bekker, Forge embracing Concacaf League stage: ‘It’s easy to get excited for’

There are few things in football more dramatic than an international night under the lights.

Although the stadium will be missing fans, that’s still what Forge FC have in store for Thursday night when they take on Club Deportivo Municipal Limeño at El Salvador’s Estadio Cuscatlán behind closed doors to begin their 2020 Concacaf League campaign.

“As a player these are the games you want to play,” Forge captain Kyle Bekker told ahead of the team’s flight to San Salvador.

“You want to test yourself against these competitions and do well, and put yourself on a bigger stage.”

He added that, after Forge’s CPL championship win in September, the club has slowly ramped training back up to its current level, with this next challenge now visible on the horizon.

“Travelling to play a game, it adds a little bit more of the excitement around it,” Bekker said. “And a competition like this, it’s easy to get excited for.”

A knockout match in one of Central America’s toughest venues — empty or not — is a hell of a stage for a young club such as Forge, with an even bigger one beckoning in the Concacaf Champions League.

BROADCAST ALERT: Forge FC vs. Municipal Limeño, Thursday Oct. 22 at 8pm ET on TSN3

Bekker is quick to admit how much he’d love to help Forge get into the top six of this Concacaf League, and by doing so qualify for the continent’s premier club competition. He’s had a brief taste of the Concacaf Champions League before, although he wasn’t a travelling member of the squad for the Montreal Impact’s 2015 run to the tournament’s final.

“It’s only gonna be a benefit for every player as an individual, the team, the club, and as a whole the league will succeed from us having success in this as well,” Bekker stated.

“When you’re a kid you want to play in these international competitions, so the fact that we have the opportunity to do it is fantastic.”

The Forge veteran and CPL Player of the Year nominee is relishing his side’s fortune to be able to play in the Concacaf League both last year and this year (with another campaign already secured for 2021).

The experience from 2019, he explained, isn’t one that he or his teammates will soon forget.

“You almost get that feel of what you’ve grown up watching in the Champions League, and you see these unreal nights in the packed stadiums, and the lights, and all that stuff. You get that feeling that there’s a different buzz in the stadium,” Bekker offered.

“That’s what these competitions bring you, they give you another perspective of how another country just eats, sleeps, and dies with this stuff. It’s fantastic to be a part of it.”

Certainly, the atmosphere would be a little more impressive in San Salvador had its 53,000-seat stadium not been forced to shut its doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That said, a slightly less hostile environment could work in Forge’s favour.

Although the CPL champions know very little about Municipal Limeño — save for a few pieces of footage the coaching staff were able to secure — they’re not particularly worried about facing the unknown.

They did so successfully against Antigua GFC last year, and (to an extent) they did so at The Island Games against Atlético Ottawa, plus other much-changed CPL sides like Valour FC and HFX Wanderers. The mystery around their opponents has allowed them to focus on their own tactics, suggesting they plan to take hold of this match early on.

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