6 questions ahead of Forge FC’s 2024 season

The 2024 season, beginning April 13, will be the sixth year of competition in the Canadian Premier League. To celebrate its arrival, we at have been asking the same six questions for each of the eight teams playing in the league from coast to coast.

To check out our 6 questions breakdowns for all eight teams, click hereTo see all of our season preview coverage ahead of the sixth year of the CPL, click here.

What can we learn from Forge FC’s 2023 season? 

If there were any questions around the force that is Bobby Smyrniotis’ Forge FC before the season began, there certainly were none after last season’s finale. Squad quality and tactical identity could be the beige description of their success, but there are always bound to be strengths and weaknesses in both of those categories.

An unexpected falter in the Hammers’ 2023 campaign was their struggles at Tim Hortons Field. Collecting only 19 of a possible 42 points at home does not fit the brand of Forge with only Valour having worse form at home. Part of those struggles could have to do with the team’s inability to convert in front of goal. Forge led the league in shots on target (143) but were ultimately third last when it came to converting those chances, scoring just 13.2% of them.

Forge’s defence and their ability to deal with adversity acted as a saving grace for the champions. The Hamilton side led the CPL with 10 clean sheets in the regular season. Despite that strong defensive record, they also conceded the first goal of the game on 15 separate occasions. However, Forge’s ability to recover from deficits was unparalleled, collecting 17 points from losing positions.

Forge FC Key Statistics

Who are three key players for Forge FC in 2024? 

FW – Terran Campbell

Falling just one goal short of the CPL Golden Boot, Terran Campbell has his own shoes to fill this season as well as those of the departed Woobens Pacius. Pacius scored ten goals of his own, combining with Campbell to score over half of Forge’s 39 regular season goals.

While he will still have help up front in Smyrniotis’ favoured 4-3-3 formation, Campbell will need to continue on what was already an impressive 2023 campaign.

MF – Alexander Achinioti-Jönsson

Finishing with the second most minutes played last season for Forge, Achinioti-Jönsson’s versatility to play both in the midfield or in a back three proved vital in Smyrniotis’ plans last season.

The Swede has been with Forge since the start, finishing top 3 in minutes played for the Hamilton side every season since 2021. While he may not have the flashiest of stats to show for it, his role in Forge’s back-to-back title victories cannot be overlooked and will be pivotal if they hope to make it three in a row.

MF – Kyle Bekker

How could the CPL’s longest-running captain not make this list? Bekker, 33, has made a combined 149 appearances for Forge FC in all competitions, just 13 shy of his own manager. Coming off of his highest-producing season to date, four goals and eight assists, the veteran showed no signs of slowing down last season. Along with the impressive contributions in the attack, Bekker played 2,333 minutes in 2023, his most since 2019.

Kyle Bekker celebrates a goal scored in the 2023 Canadian Championship (Photo: Forge FC)

What does Forge FC’s 2024 schedule look like? 

Aside from a three-game homestand between April 27 and May 7 (one Canadian Championship game), Forge have a very flip-flop schedule in terms of home and away fixtures. Their longest stretch of games in one place is the aforementioned three-game homestand. Besides this, there are only two occasions when Forge is at home in Hamilton for seven days or more.

One positive note for Forge fans based in Hamilton, the team doesn’t have a single game that kicks off later than 7 p.m. EST. They are also debuting a School Day match on Tuesday, May 7, which will be played at 11 a.m. and allow students from the local community to attend the match.

How did Forge FC approach the off-season? 

After minimal turnover last off-season, Forge has had a busier last few months. Despite losing key figures in Woobens Pacius, Aboubacar Sissoko, Rezart Rama, and Manjrekar James, there weren’t any apparent holes in the side’s two legs against C.D Guadalajara in the Concacaf Champions Cup.

Having signed only one first-team player during the off-season last year (Manjrekar James), Forge clearly looked for more experienced options this year signing Daniel Parra on loan from CF Monterrey in Liga MX, Nana Opoku Ampomah from Fortuna Düsseldorf in Germany, and the return of Elimane Cissé in midfield.

What are three key storylines heading into the season? 

The most obvious storyline, can Forge FC make it a three-peat?

In the CPL’s short life to this point, there is no debate around who the dominant force has been. With four league titles in their first five years, Forge now has the very early chance to three-peat as champions in just their sixth season.

Three peats are a rarity and the mark of a true dynasty. Even in a league’s early stages, putting together back-to-back-to-back titles is the tallest of asks. The craziest part is it seems very possible with this current Forge FC side.

Manchester United, Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers, and Forge FC. It could happen.

Can Forge’s backline hold strong without James and Rama?

Allowing just 32 goals in the 2023 regular season, the Hammers’ backline played a vital role in their title defence. Big parts of that defensive success were defenders Rezart Rama and Manjrekar James, both of whom cracked Forge’s top three in minutes played, the latter leading in the category.

With both leaving to new leagues, Forge’s defence has a brand new, and youthful, look. We’ve already gotten a sneak peek of what to expect through Forge’s Concacaf Champions Cup matches against C.D Guadalajara. Against very tough opposition, the backline held their own, but did appear to lack true experience.

Without a veteran presence, who will step up into Rama and James’ remains one question, the bigger question being whether or not the side will be able to continue their stellar defensive form.

Two games played, two Christopher Kalongo starts; is Kalongo the new number one in Hamilton?

Going back to the aforementioned Concacaf Champions Cup matches, an instant storyline was the omission of Triston Henry from the squad. The two-time CPL Golden Glove award winner missed both Concacaf ties and his availability for this season still remains unclear.

In the meantime, young goalkeeper Christopher Kalongo has been filling his shoes. At 22 years old, Kalongo looks set to start the season in between Forge’s posts after starting both matches against Chivas. However, with those continental appearances alone Kalongo has matched his total minutes from last season.

Forge did add goalkeeper Jassem Koleilat to their mix this off-season, but at 24 years old himself it doesn’t appear he was signed to be the immediate number one.

Forge FC celebrate with their fans. (Photo: David Chant / CPL)

What are the keys to success for Forge FC in 2024? 

With Bobby Smyrniotis at the helm for another season, it’s difficult to envision anything other than some sort of silverware in Forge’s near future. But that’s not to say their work isn’t cut out for them.

Forge are going to have to weather the oncoming storm this year as they have achieved somewhat of a ‘final boss’ figure in the CPL’s short history. However, as the successful ‘goliaths’ of the league, they have never been a team to make too many changes. While teams like Atlético Ottawa and Cavalry FC have gone out of their way to bring in plenty of positive reinforcements this off-season, Forge have appeared happy with what they have for the most part. That’s not to say what they have isn’t impressive. What it does mean is that Smyrniotis’ identity and tactics will have to remain to a tee during the entirety of the 28-game campaign, something they struggled with in 2023.

Between May 31 and June 20 of last season, Forge collected only one of a possible fifteen points over a five-game stretch. Those twenty days saw them lose to York United, Pacific, Valour, and Vancouver respectively. Falling thirteen points shy of Cavalry’s first-place finish, that brief loss of form proved detrimental to their CPL shield hopes.

The final key to success for Forge is fortifying their form at Tim Horton’s Field. Last season saw them have their all-time worst home record, winning just four of their fourteen matches in Hamilton. Forge were able to get the job done when it mattered most at home last season, but improvements will be needed on home turf if they hope to aim for more.