HAMILTON – What do Forge FC and Cavalry FC have in common?
Canadian Premier League Finals 2019 opponents?
Yes, but not what we’re looking for.
Canadian soccer teams? Inaugural CPL teams?
Yep, go back even further …
Two CPL teams based on … pre-existing clubs?
It’s the elephant in the room, in some respects, at Finals 2019 ahead of Leg 1 in Hamilton.
First-year pros from Sigma FC and Calgary Foothills pushing Forge and Cavalry two teams with cores pulled from previous organizations, with League1 Ontario and USL PDL experience leading them to two games from Canada’s first domestic professional league title in decades.
Forge head coach Bobby Smyrniotis was quick to praise those former Sigma players he coached that have made the jump – and go all the way – in the CPL’s Inaugural Season.
“We have a lot of players playing in this league this year who last year nobody knew about, and this year are household names,” Smyrniotis told media. “We can look at a few of them here from Forge, and a guy like Kadell Thomas who, without the CPL, maybe is not gonna have an opportunity to play in the pros.”
Thomas, who it was announced will be available for Leg 1 after a jaw injury, is joined by former Sigma standout Tristan Borges, who stood before media as the frontrunner for the CPL golden boot.
“And then you have guys who I think are gonna be fantastic going forward like Tristan Borges, who last year was out of his youth deal in Heerenveen, back playing at Sigma in League1 for half a season, and here he is, for me the MVP of the league this year.”
That’s not to say there isn’t some experience in either camp; Kwame Awuah of Forge has New York City FC time under his belt, while Cavalry’s Sergio Camargo won the 2017 MLS Cup with Toronto FC, albeit as a reserve player.
Kyle Bekker, unlike many of his first-year pros, has also been here. Thousands of MLS, USL and Canada men’s national team minutes under his belt, he sees the first-year.
“There’s lots of experience in our young locker room,” Bekker told reporters. I think we’ve seen a lot of young guys come out of their shells and grown a lot in the last few months.”
For Tommy Wheeldon Jr. and his Calgary Foothills-heavy squad, a championship finals with, with quite a bit of travel included, is nothing new.
Wheeldon posed with his Foothills players during open practice on Friday – part of the journey to this penultimate stage. Here they had been, carrying one of the CPL’s best teams all the way to the Finals.
“That’s their third final in four years, so you kinda get used to it,” Wheeldon Jr. said of his PDL experience. “I think it’s helpful.
“What we’ve done in, a very fragmented country, if you’re not with the three MLS sides, you have to find another way. Credit to Bobby and his guys from Sigma and that’s what we did out west.”
Two hungry teams that have traveled a long way, figuratively and literally, all the way to a professional final.