MIAMI, Florida – Forge FC of Canada are eager to produce some more magic in the Scotiabank Concacaf League.
A year ago, in the 2019 SCL, the first-year club eliminated Antigua GFC in the Preliminary Round before exiting the competition in the Round of 16 against Concacaf giants Olimpia of Honduras, but not without winning their home leg, 1-0, against the Catrachos.
The experience of participating in their first Concacaf competition is a feeling Forge won’t soon forget and they are hungry for more in the 2020 edition.
“Last year we were a brand-new team. We played that first round against Antigua and we were 4-5 months old as a squad and what we did last year I felt was fantastic for our group. It gave us the realization that we know we’re a good team and we can compete on the continental stage,” said Forge FC Head Coach Bobby Smyrniotis in an exclusive interview with Concacaf.com.
“That’s what I tell our players: that you always want to play continental football. They make for special nights and magical memories in an organization and we had two of those last year, at home against Antigua and scoring in the 90th minute and then beating Olimpia, who I think is one of the top clubs in Concacaf. We went out in that round, but what we did went a long way toward cementing who we are and what our DNA is in the Canadian Premier League,” added Smyrniotis.
If there was one major takeaway from Forge’s 2019 SCL experience, it was learning what it takes to compete on the road in Central America.
“Playing in Central America is very difficult, it hasn’t been the most kind to national teams, but also club teams like Toronto FC, Vancouver, Montreal… It’s never an easy contest. It’s a different atmosphere but it’s something that I relish and I enjoy and if you are a player in this game, that’s what you want. The second thing I would say is that playing in the CPL, we know a lot of the players, a lot of the coaches, we know what teams are going to do. We went into a competition last year where we went into the unknown, where we had to do a lot of advanced scouting, a lot more homework on players and who we were playing,” said Smyrniotis.
In the 2020 SCL, Smyrniotis’s squad will be up against an SCL debutant in Municipal Limeno of El Salvador, who will be returning to domestic action this weekend for the first time since March, making them a bit of an unknown for Forge.
“We know this is a one and done game so we have to be prepared as possible. When the draw came out, we started building our file on them, but they have had some turnover in their squad and their last game was back in March, which is different than us because we just finished our league. We’re looking forward to seeing what they look like over these next two games and I think this will give us a good indication of who they are,” said Smyrniotis.
Less than a month after winning the 2020 CPL, Forge are looking to replicate the success of past Canadian teams and transcend in Concacaf competition.
“If I look at it personally, that first game [in 2019] against Antigua was our first game in the competition and it was a midweek game. There was a good crowd, the game finishes and we won 2-1 and I just turned to myself and said, ‘We’ve done something special here for our organization and for our fans. We’ve opened up everyone’s horizons to something outside of our borders.’ I think that’s something important. This game is global, it’s everywhere and our region is different and distinct with different styles of football. I had that same feeling after Olimpia, that we had done something that nobody expected us to do and that is going to grow the game here. It gives our supporters more hunger for this competition because these are competitions that you want to be a part of as a club,” said Smyrniotis.
With a top-six finish in the SCL, Forge would also qualify for their first ever Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League, which would be a tremendous achievement for a club that didn’t even play its first game at any level until 2019.
“It would be massive. We’ll go one game at a time, but the beauty of this competition is that it allows you to dream bigger and go to the highest level. It’s something that we would be happy to have and in this type of format anything is possible. We’ll focus on one opponent at a time and if we can make a step every year, that will be success,” concluded Smyrniotis.