‘It’s our duty to win’: Smyrniotis, Wheeldon Jr. react to Forge’s playoff win over Cavalry FC

Forge FC are headed to their fifth CPL final, and will look to win the trophy in front of their home fans for the first time, as their 2-1 win over Cavalry FC on Saturday also confirmed they will host the 2023 final.

The match did not eliminate Cavalry FC, but does make their road to the 2023 final longer, as they now much face Pacific FC in the semifinal on October 21. They will host that match at ATCO Field.

Here is what Forge FC head coach Bobby Smyrniotis as well as captain Kyle Bekker, and Cavalry FC coach and defender, respectively, Tommy Wheeldon Jr. and Daan Klomp had to say after the match.

Bobby Smyrniotis, Forge FC 

On reaching a fifth final, which Forge will host

“It’s an excellent feeling. It’s not something that is easily accomplished. It’s a hard thing to win. It’s a hard thing to play in these big games and everything comes down to margins. Today was about margins, two very good teams out there playing good football. I think although maybe the fans leave disappointed it was an exciting match. It keeps on showing the growth of this league. As for us, we are going to enjoy a couple of days right now to rest some bodies and then prepare for another big one. These games are always special, you sometimes can go your whole career as a player or maybe a coach and not have the opportunity to play in these so you can’t take them for granted. We are looking forward for the opportunity to try to win one in front of our home crowd.” 

On how they stay motivated throughout the years

“The toughest challenge that we have had as a coaching staff, and even as players from the start of the year is to keep everyone hungry and motivated, it’s a tough thing to do. Maybe that’s why Michael Jordan stopped after three years, took a year off, and went after it again. It’s tough to keep on going and keep players at the highest level and I think that’s what we have seen this year is a little bit the ups and downs of what we’ve had in the season, but it’s go time. We know these ones are one and done. We didn’t think of this game as you come here, you lose you get another chance, it was more of a one-and-done type of game for us with no thought process into what’s next.”

On why this is such a good rivalry

“I think going into it we are two teams that really want to win. And winning is not easy. It’s like I talked to the Cavalry staff before, congratulating them on a fantastic season and what they have done to this point with the regular season topping the championship at that end, because again it is not easy. A lot goes into it, and I think that is a little bit in the DNA of the clubs. So when you have that as your DNA when that DNA kind of clashes you get classics out of it, game after game and that’s what we’ve had.” 

On the long wait for the CPL Final

“Honestly I hate days off. I think it lowers attention a little bit. But with a long season and tough games and some of the guys coming into this game with small knocks and so on it is important, especially on these flights home where we miss a few hours. So we will take those few days off and slowly get ourselves prepared, and we will see as of Saturday who the next one is going to be. Usually, I’m a guy who doesn’t like days off but I’ll take these two weeks as opposed to 2021 and 48 hours arriving back from Honduras to play Pacific.”

On the club’s winning identity

“I remember starting with the club before we had any players, and Forge was going to be this team that wins. We didn’t have any players, I don’t think I was announced as the coach but for some reason, I don’t know what it was, and that continued, we build that into who we are. That’s our expectation. It’s also why as a team when things go very well we don’t get too excited, and when things don’t go your way we don’t get too down based on results. The long game is important. Slowly you build that in and players coming into the club know you’re not just here to play entertaining football but it is our duty to win. We have built that in. That is something that has become contagious within the group. We obviously have I believe it is six or seven players from the original squad, that helps, and it helps once every new player comes in to be a part of that. So I think it’s all of those little things, and of course culture. Culture is the most important thing in sport, is the culture you build with your staff and where you set your standards.” 

On another outstanding Kyle Bekker performance

“As a coach, you thoroughly enjoy it, you thoroughly enjoy watching it and you love the fact that he is in your locker room. He is able to transmit the messages that we want to give to the group on a player level. His influence on the team is very big off the field and of course, it’s on the field in these big matches and we’ve seen this again today.”

Kyle Bekker, Forge FC 

On why the group has developed such a winning mentality

“Losing sucks. Honestly, we have a bunch of guys in there who have been on a lot of losing teams in their career. It’s difficult, and when you have the chance to win, when you are a part of that people feed off of it, you want more of it. Once you get a taste of it you just want to keep going so I’ve been on the other side many times and this is better so, you just keep going.”

On celebrating in front of the fans after his goal

“I think it’s just part of it. These fans are fantastic, they have a great atmosphere here and it is fantastic to come here and play. Just speaking of being a Canadian kid, having grounds like this and seeing how important it is to that next generation it’s fantastic. So it is a credit to everyone in Calgary, they show up, they are loud, they give it a home field advantage to the team and it’s awesome. So the other side of it is they have to be able to take it too. It’s just part of it.” 

Tommy Wheeldon Jr., Cavalry FC

On the match and his side’s performance

“Listen from the neutral’s point of view it is probably a really good playoff game to watch. From our point of view, just disappointed with the manner of the first goal, especially after we had had the breakaway with Musse and a couple of chances and I thought we had started the match really well. But momentum in playoff games that’s what it’s all about. Bit of momentum, bit of magic, bit of mistakes and I think there was error on the second one and that probably sparked a response. And I thought we were terrific. Sergio Camargo’s hit the bar. Ali Musse, I think the fans celebrated his free kick and unfortunately that one wasn’t in. Great set play worked, Joe Mason scored and we kept peppering them and peppering them and they bent but they didn’t break. So I thought it was a really good playoff game but we will lick our wounds and move on to next week.” 

On his side now getting a second chance

“I think it’s not an elimination game. Would we want to play in the final and host it, absolutely, that was our goal. We didn’t get it, so we have to recalibrate and we have to adapt and overcome the scenario that’s ahead of us. I think last time we lost, we were leading 2-0 against Valour and then they score three goals…but the response that our lads had is exceptional, we have to do that again. If we want to still complete our mission of winning the double, championships are won on the road it seems in this league.” 

On how the Cavalry players were feeling after the match

“I think they were a little bit sullen. I think they were a little bit just looking at it and thinking ‘what got away from us today’ and they hated that first goal. That’s the one that changes it, and then that second goal, Kyle Bekker’s quality. When they came to our place, and we scored three, that second goal gives you insurance and usually these are one-goal games. We’ve come back and had a right go. And like I said Sergio’s is an inch or two it’s in, if Ali Musse’s is and inch or two it’s in. Same with if Marco punches that ball away, it’s fine margins. But I liked our response near the end.”

Daan Klomp, Cavalry FC 

On his side’s performance

“I think we played a pretty decent game, especially the first 15-20 minutes we definitely dominated the game, up until the goal. Like we said in the locker room it took us too long to react and get back to ourselves after the goal. I blame it on myself for not lifting up the team and but yeah we started pretty good, then that one moment, then the second half I think we created enough chances to get back into it and then Joe Mason with a great header putting us back and lift the hope for all the fans in the stadium and just unfortunate to not make the equalizer in the last 5-10 minutes.” 

On the first goal they conceded

“The first goal is definitely something that can’t happen to us. Especially the way we have been playing the last months I would say, I think it is not good for us to concede on a set play, I think we are too good for that but especially the way the set play happened is something that is frustrating.”