Forge FC’s Mo Babouli recited some hype-up, pre-game locker room-style lyrics when speaking to the media after his club’s historic 2-1 road victory over 13-time Panamanian champions Tauro FC on Tuesday night in the Concacaf League.
It makes sense, considering he just left Forge’s locker room moments after arguably the biggest win in club history… and the biggest in the Canadian Premier League’s short two-year history.
“The fact that we can make history is incredible,” Babouli began. “That’s the least I could say right now – there are a lot of emotions going on. For me as a person and obviously for the team.
“I’m excited – for a young group only together for a couple years to come out here into a different country and play the way that we’re playing right now is very exciting.”
Babouli gave Forge a breakthrough goal in the 11th minute vs. Tauro, marking a promising first 15 minutes from the Hamiltonians. David Choinière’s spirited run and cut-back on the right side eventually put the ball on Babouli’s feet on the edge of the six-yard box.
While Tauro equalized a few minutes later via danger-man Edwin Aguilar’s brilliant strike, Forge’s upper-hand in the match stayed. A rattling header off the crossbar from Alexander Achinioti-Jönsson ended the first half, while Tauro’s goalkeeper went down injured, ushering the way for their teenaged backup to take his place.
Substitute Chris Nanco forced a brilliant save from the young ‘keeper in the second half and for a long time it looked like the match would go to a penalty shootout. But then Anthony Novak drew a foul inside the box, and Daniel Krutzen converted an injury-time penalty to seal a dramatic win for Forge.
A late surge against Club Deportivo Municipal Limeño from El Salvador in the previous round led to another Forge winning goal, something Babouli attributes to his side’s patient attacking play.
“We knew it was gonna be difficult but once again we try to possess the ball and be patient with our attacks, we knew it was gonna be tiring,” Babouli said.
“It shows a lot of character for a team. Once again, that’s young, two years to come to a country that we’re not used to playing in.”
Forge will return to action in the quarter-finals against either Jamaican side Waterhouse or Arcahaie of Haiti, who will play their round of 16 match on Thursday. Forge can advance to the Concacaf Champions League with a quarter-final win, or in a play-in match involving the two losers from the quarter-finals.
In other words, Forge is just one win away from competing in North American club soccer’s top tournament.
Babouli led Forge to the upset over the favoured Tauro side in just his 13th match with the club, having signed with team in the build-up to The Island Games in PEI. He’s been under a lot of pressure during his short time in Hamilton. But it hasn’t fazed him.
“It’s a lot of pressure for us now, but we love the pressure. We play better under it, I think,” Babouli stated. “It’s something a lot of people haven’t done in their playing careers. So, what we take one step at a time, one game at a time, you know we’re not thinking too far.”
But, admittedly, it’s hard to stop yourself thinking about this Forge team and how many more dents they can make.