Forge FC enjoyed a particularly busy Friday morning, bidding farewell to star striker Emery Welshman who was recalled and released by his parent club FC Cincinnati, before adding Canadian international David Edgar to their roster.
Edgar, who last played for Hartlepool United in England, joins the Canadian Premier League midway through the Fall campaign, bringing with him 42 senior international caps for the Canadian men’s national team.
And, while the loss of Welshman may be a bit tricky for head coach Bobby Smyrniotis to now work through, the addition of Edgar to the Forge backline may just be a net positive for the Hamilton-based outfit.
Smyrniotis has never really struggled to find options across his attacking front three, after all.
Between Chris Nanco, Kadell Thomas, David Choiniere, Anthony Novak, Marcel Zajac, and Tristan Borges, Forge has been rather top-heavy all season, capable of finding the back of the net fairly consistently throughout the Spring portion of the campaign. With Kyle Bekker pulling the strings in the No. 10 hole with a joint league-leading four assists, Forge has gone on to score 25 times thus far this season, just one goal fewer than Cavalry.
Those efforts have Borges joint-top of the league’s goal-scoring ranks, too.
Forge’s attack is so dynamic that the team has also had little problem finding different solutions when new obstacles have been presented to them, either. In fact, Smyrniotis’ ability to switch things up on the fly, at least on the front foot, played a huge role in a turnaround second half against Antigua GFC on Thursday night, where some key tactical changes saw Forge overturn a deficit and pick up a late 2-1 win.
After the match, Smyrniotis’ players credited that exact flexibility – coupled with an astute half-time pep talk – for inspiring victory against an unknown foe.
Welshman played a big role in allowing Forge to be so potent on the attack, though. He put up three goals and two assists for his efforts while on loan, but also helped dictate the tempo of the attack, turning quickly and pressing the opposition, leading the line in the absence of Novak, and offering versatility across a number of roles, wherever he was needed.
So, while his absence will be noted, the onus now falls on the rest of Forge’s dynamic attackers to fill in for Welshman, both on the field and in the stats tables.
All that being said … Edgar offers a solution where Welshman – and, really, the rest of Forge’s squad – might not have found one.
For all of Forge’s effectiveness on the front foot, a permeating area of concern emerged throughout the Spring campaign. Sure, Forge’s backline has been among the more steady in the CPL, and have certainly conceded fewer goals than many of the club’s peers – Forge has conceded just 13 times in league play thus far, compared to Pacific (26) and HFX (25) – but the goals that Forge does concede tend to be preventable, the result of mistakes in assignments, or breakdowns of the backline, entirely.
Smyrniotis has previously mentioned a desire to build out of the back, telling reporters back in May: “I do like attacking football, (the players) like scoring goals, but everything starts with the defensive end. Everything has to start with a clean sheet, and I think we’ve made it a bigger focus.”
Since then, though, Forge has conceded preventable goals, ultimately coming to a head against Cavalry FC, where set pieces and defensive frailties proved the difference in both their Spring season encounters, and in the Canadian Championship.
This is where Edgar comes in.
The vastly-experienced centre-back, 32, brings with him playing experience in the English Premier League with Newcastle United, while also playing for English outfits Swansea City, Birmingham City, Huddersfield Town, Sheffield United, and, of course, with Burnley, where he featured around 100 times.
He’s also suited up for the Vancouver Whitecaps and the Ottawa Fury, and has experienced the trials that come with playing soccer in North America, too.
But, more than that, Edgar offers height and presence to a backline that looked a little, well … short, at times. At 6-foot-4, Edgar is a commanding presence. He’s also a leader, with a commendable read on positioning and organization, thus giving Forge a natural captain at the back, which this young backline didn’t necessarily have in the past.
So, while the loss of Welshman may throw some question marks into the air regarding Forge’s new attacking lineup, the addition of Edgar helps solve the bigger problem at Forge. Smyrniotis can be pleased with this bit of business, now wrapped up, and we’ll see how Edgar looks as soon as possibly August 8, when Forge heads down to Guatemala City to play Antigua GFC in Leg 2 of the CONCACAF League – the sort of journey that Edgar has enjoyed countless times playing for Canada, too.