Alexander Achinioti-Jönsson left his native Sweden for Forge FC earlier this year in the pursuit of something different in his footballing life – something more.
A pre-season trip to the Dominican Republic certainly fits that bill.
Coming from Scandinavia where pre-season trips aren’t quite as exotic, Achinioti-Jönsson kicked off his Forge tenure with exactly the sort of variety he was hoping for.
But did he ever expect to be in the Caribbean playing football?
“Oh, no way,” Achinioti-Jönsson laughed, when asked that very question by CanPL.ca. “No, I did not.”
The 22-year-old came to the brand new Hamilton-based club with over 100 appearances in the top two tiers of Swedish football under his belt. He anchored the midfield for Superettan (Swedish second tier) side IFK Varnamo in 2018, scoring six goals and posting one assist in 32 appearances.
Sure, he brings pedigree from his native country, and the experiences that go along with that. But he saw a pattern forming during his time in Sweden, one he wanted to break.
“In Sweden, it’s such a small pond,” the midfielder began. “The same players go around the same leagues, that player drops out of the first tier, then you play them again, that sort of thing.
“I wanted new teams, new players I didn’t know, a new environment around me.”
He’s found exactly that in Hamilton.
Part of embracing that new environment is learning a few new lessons, too. Forge FC head coach Bobby Smyrniotis said his new midfielder was at a very good football age when he signed in late January.
“They look at a soccer a bit differently over there than we do over here. You’re drilled quite a bit defensively at a young age in Sweden. But with the coaches here, we’ve been working mostly offensive parts.
“We’re working on what to do when we have the ball, and that’s the part I need to work on and get better at.”
Forge has put that offensive prowess into action during the league-wide pre-season stint in the Dominican, winning a pair of friendlies and dropping hints about how they could play this season; keeping possession and playing out of the back as much as possible.
“I’ve never been part of a team that wants to play out of the back as much as this team,” Achinioti-Jönsson said. “If we’re under a tonne of pressure, we still want to play out of the back.
“It’s what every player wants in the end — play the ball on the field as much as possible. It’s a good landing spot for me.”
A tall, agile midfielder, the former Under-19 Swedish international brings even more versatility in the middle of the park for Forge, a club that is now a mere two weeks away from kicking off the first Canadian Premier League season.
It’s a role that isn’t lost on Achinioti-Jönsson, either.
“You can pick and choose with us,” he said of his team’s midfield. “You have me, a little bigger, I can get into the box for headers and defend. You have Tristian Borges and his left foot, his quickness and lateral movement, and Kyle Bekker’s feet …”
He added, with a laugh: “I still don’t know if Kyle’s left-footed or right-footed.”
Achinioti-Jönsson concluded: “We have some great variety. No player is like the other and that’s a great thing.”