Steel and Mettle: Inside Forge FC's quest for three trophies in 2022
TORONTO – In the Canadian Premier League universe, saying something is unique or rare for Forge FC is almost a given.
They're the league's most successful club and have more firsts to their name than the rest of the seven teams combined. Just over a month and a half removed from their maiden Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League voyage, the two-time league champions still have their eyes set on three trophies in 2022.
For head coach and technical director Bobby Smyrniotis, the return to "normalcy" in their schedule is something that will be welcomed with open arms.
"I think we’re going into Year 4, and what we’ve seen the last couple of seasons is not a 'regular' preparation for a season or periodization between games and really having a congested schedule," Forge told OneSoccer. "You look at Forge last season with its 40 matches over 150-some-odd days, it’s quite crazy when you look at it. So we’re looking for a little more sense of normalcy."
Normalcy for the Hamiltonians means competing for silverware. Despite bowing out of the CCL in the Round of 16, there are still three trophies up for grabs: the North Star Shield, and the Voyageurs Cup... twice. They'll have to enter the first round of the Canadian Championship squaring off against PLSQ side CS Mont-Royal Outremont, while June 4, 2022 has been unveiled as the long-overdue date for the 2020 Canadian Championship Final, to be played at Tim Hortons Field.
"We want to be able to take the team to a different level," Smyrniotis said. "We want to be able to increase the football that we play, the quality we bring to the pitch with having some new pieces in the team this year, but most importantly, part of our DNA is to compete for championships and compete for anything that’s put in front of us."
GOAL 🔨— OneSoccer (@onesoccer) February 25, 2022
DAVID CHOINIERE 🤝 Scoring in Concacaf
An excellent response by @ForgeFCHamilton vs. Cruz Azul in this #SCCL22 battle, as Choiniere scores to bring the aggregate score to 3-1
Two to go for the #CanPL side 👀
WATCH 🔴 https://t.co/7JFAUhgjL6 pic.twitter.com/1H94k9os1k
Despite losing a few key pieces like Elimane Cissé and Mo Babouli, Forge has filled those roster holes with veterans of Major League Soccer, CPLers from clubs around the league, and products of the League1 Ontario and Sigma FC pipeline with young players given pro minutes on the big stage immediately, with Kwasi Poku and Noah Jensen debuting in Champions League.
"The most important thing is we have a clear identity on how we play and how we do things in different phases of the game," Smyrniotis described, when asked how he's able to trust young players in big moments. "I think for new players stepping in, it’s not the most difficult thing; I keep the game quite simple, but there are certain things that we need."
"If you’re a player that has the technical ability, if you’re a player that’s tactically astute, doesn’t matter if it’s your first game or your 50th game, you can step in and play."
In a salary cap league, having a system that allows young Canadian professionals to feel comfortable and succeed, especially on such an accomplished club, is one of the many ways Forge sets the bar as high as they do.
Talk about an IMPACT SUB 🤯— OneSoccer (@onesoccer) October 30, 2021
Sebastian Castello comes off the bench, runs onto the field, and scores a cheeky goal with his FIRST TOUCH 💥
It's 4-1 for @ForgeFCHamilton vs. @HFXWanderersFC#CanPL 🇨🇦 | 📺 TELUS ch. 980 | 🔴 https://t.co/hishXepRT3 pic.twitter.com/wbseNmShvb
Success has been in Forge's DNA from Day 1, with Smyrniotis ensuring that every member of the organization is aware of that responsibility – and is motivated to exceed that expectation, too.
"With the infrastructure, the ownership group and everything we have behind us, it’s the one thing I reiterate to our players: it’s our obligation to push ourselves and to always be our best and always challenge for trophies," added Smyrniotis. "We’re in the business of sport, the business of entertainment, and I think it’s important when our supporters or the casual fans come out, that they’re just having an all-around good time with the product that’s on and off the field, especially at Tim Hortons Field."
Forge will have, at minimum, 15 matches at home this season with the potential for five more depending on their results in the CPL season and Wednesday's Canadian Championship draw. Forge and their supporters expect one of those matches to be their second opportunity to lift the North Star Shield at home. If we've learned anything from this group, it's that they don't often let two opportunities pass them by.
It will be up to the rest of the league to try and slow them down.
Forge opens their title defence on April 10th at Starlight Stadium in a 2021 CPL Final rematch against Pacific. Each Canadian Premier League and Canadian Championship match is available live on OneSoccer.
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