‘Lucky to have him’: As Forge FC builds out roster, Bekker credits Smyrniotis’ vision

TORONTO – When building a roster, or doing just about anything else, it is always best to first come up with a plan.

Bobby Smyrniotis did just that when handed the reins of Forge FC, breaking his acquisition strategy into three parts.

“We’ve brought back some good Canadian professionals, guys who have played some years at a very good level,” began Smyrniotis, putting Kyle Bekker, Chris Nanco, and Kwame Awuah in that category. “Caps with the national team, good experience and a mix of ages.

“The next phase is a lot of good content from a Canadian aspect, who have familiarity to me and Sigma FC,” he continued. “Guys with upside that can move up.”

“The third phase is internationals,” added Smyrniotis, mentioning Bertrand Owundi Eko and Alexander Achinioti Jonsson as the first two. “Guys who played games in different environments.

“So far, so good. We’re happy where things are at. Everything is moving along the way we like. We’re building with some very solid players.”

Goalkeeper Quillan Roberts and striker Emery Welshman squarely into that first category, while Senegalese midfielder Elimane Oumar Cisse and Dutch defender Daniel Krutzen add neatly to the third.

The second is a touch more malleable.

Tristan Borges, 20, with his SC Heerenveen and Toronto FC Academy experience, and David Choiniere, 22, who joined recently from the Montreal Impact, fit somewhere between the first and second. As do Dominic Samuel, Jonathan Grant, and Giuliano Frano, all Sigma products with USL experience.

More squarely in the second are Marcel Zajac, Monti Mohsen, Triston Henry, and Kadell Thomas, who bring a mix of League1 Ontario and collegiate experience.

Those previous relationships will be key for Forge FC.

“(Familiarity) is an important thing when you’re building a squad,” Smyrniotis explained. “As a coach you know players, in and out, the best you get with them, the limitations.”

It will also help instill the ethos with which they want to go about their business.

“We’re going to have a very dynamic team. Teams are not going to want to play us,” Bekker said. “If we can get things right, we can be very successful.

“If we approach with humility and respect in what we’re doing every single day (and) the group buys in, we can make teams worry about us and not worry about them. I’m looking forward to being a part (of it).”

Forge FC head coach Bobby Smyrniotis.
Forge FC head coach Bobby Smyrniotis.

Smyrniotis points to the players already signed for hints of what Forge will look like in action.

“You can see in the style of players we’ve signed that football is very important to us,” Smyrniotis outlined. “Guys need to be good on the ball, be able to play, and then bringing different dynamics into the team.

“Those who know me know I like all the good things in the game, but with discipline and organization.

“From a formation aspect I have a beloved 4-3-3, but I always say it’s a picture at the beginning of the game,” Smyrniotis continued. “There is a lot of movement in the way we play. That number changes and each line changes based on the situation in the game: Creating numerical advantages in different parts of the field and putting ourselves on the front foot.”

As Bekker suggested, the plan is to make the opposition handle them rather than the other way around.

“(We) focus on ourselves for the majority. That’s how we train and how we prepare,” Smyrniotis stressed. “Not so much on the opponent. They’re a small part of what we do. We’re a team that is always going to look to breed confidence in ourselves, go about our business from that aspect.”

And in their coach, Bekker sees a bit of a not-so-secret weapon for their “exciting” group.

“All of that stems from Coach Bobby. I can’t say enough good things about the guy; I have all the belief in him in the world,” Bekker said. “He’s pivotal for us. We’ve seen what he is able to do on an academy level, the talent he has been able to turn out, the opportunity he has provided.

“(People) don’t know how lucky we are to have a coach like him and be working under him. He could step into any level and be successful.”