A lot has changed since the last time CanPL.ca spoke to Forge FC coach Bobby Smyrniotis. But, to be fair, most aspects of life in Canada look a lot different since late May.
Smyrniotis still has some unfinished plans to complete since the spring and the days of self-isolation. He has yet to complete his roster as laid out to CanPL.ca two months ago just before training restarted, when he said the club was targeting one attacker, one midfielder, and one defender.
But those players are coming in very soon, according to the Forge coach.
“We’re going to be adding players – and we’ll be announcing them in the coming days,” Smyrniotis told CanPL.ca this week.
“We’ve had a handful of guys in training with us. We’re looking into domestic products and we have some we’ll bring (in).”
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Smyrniotis mentioned that a few international players – one signed, one ready to come in on a loan deal – likely won’t be able to join the side for the 2020 season. Forge currently has 19 players on its roster, 17 of which are returnees from their North Star Shield-winning squad in 2019.
“That’s all up in the air – these are players we’d like to have but it doesn’t look like it’ll happen,” Smyrniotis said. “We’re looking into domestic products and we have some we’ll bring forward. We have a belief in Canadian players that won’t stop here.”
Several CPL clubs have been hampered by the Canadian ravel restrictions that have left some international players stranded in their home countries. Cavalry FC look set to compete without Jose Escalante while FC Edmonton, York9 FC, and Atlético Ottawa will lose players in 2020.
Paolo Sabak, Forge’s lone international newcomer, arrived in Canada from Belgium after taking back-to-back COVID-19 tests, only to then stay in self-isolation for over two months.
Smyrniotis has been impressed with Sabak since the Belgian youth international has been allowed to train with Forge: “He’s been excellent since he’s got here and I think that has to do with his joy just being on the pitch.”
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The defending CPL Championship-winning coach adds that preparing for the 2020 season has been challenging – a start date remains unknown and socially distanced training remains in effect.
“You’re trying to work with a two-week lead-in before you’re ready to go – it’s tight but it’s doable,” Smyrniotis stated. “You have to think, from a physical aspect, teams are going to be far from full capacity. We can get them 80-85 per cent of the way there. It’s hard to be fully ready when you can’t get friendlies in or simulate matches.
“It’s also been good to see what’s happening with MLS and seeing what those games are like, just to see what they’ve been able to do with the physical demands and what they have been able to piece together in a short time.
“You draw from what is happening around you and try to prepare your players with what you can control. That’s the most important part.”
Smyrniotis has been closely watching the “MLS is Back” tournament, trying to find out what he can learn and possibly use from it should the CPL return to the pitch with a tournament of its own in 2020.
“With MLS, it’s the heat. A lot for these players – for those who have been in Orlando in the summer know it’s hard to breath even at night,” Smyrniotis said.
“But, we have seen good attacking teams be exposed on the defensive side. That’s something we’ve focused on – we want to be defensively organized. We know this won’t be a 28-game season.
“A few defensive lapses and you put yourself in a hole and in a short tournament, that’s no good.”