‘Responsibility to keep pace’: Forge turnaround spurs Spring decider

HAMILTON – To quote Steve Carell’s character Michael Scott in ‘The Office’, “Well, well, well, how the turntables …”

Though that quote is clearly a verbal mishap for Scott, its sentiment seems fitting for Forge FC, who mounted a turnaround 2-1 victory over Valour FC at Tim Hortons Field on Saturday evening, despite conceding a goal within the first minute of action.

This result over Valour gives Forge the win in the CONCACAF League race between the two teams and FC Edmonton.

It also keeps the Hamiltonian side in the Spring sprint, blocking Cavalry FC from tying up this opening stanza during their Wednesday bout with HFX Wanderers FC and instead forcing the Calgary-based outfit to try and finish up their campaign next Saturday against, coincidentally, second-placed Forge – a rematch between the two top teams in the league this season.

Their previous meetings were defined by dramatic late finishes, where Cavalry scored in the dying seconds to stay undefeated during May 12th’s match, and keep a blemish-free record during their lone tie on June 4th. The heartbreak for Forge was imminent after both of those matches, but now Forge head coach Bobby Smyrniotis figures it’s about time something went his team’s way.

“After that loss to Cavalry, someone asked me how I felt and I said, ‘This is the game of soccer, and at some point, it’s going to turn and we’ll have that (kind of result) for our team,’ Smyrniotis recalled after Saturday’s tilt. “That’s the beauty of this game – you don’t know where it’s going to come from. It’s unpredictable.

“There could be a goal in the first 30 seconds and a couple of goals in the end, but keeping a positive outlook on the game is what helped. Our guys had their head in this one and our result was a by-product of that.”

Smyrniotis’ example was exactly how this game unfolded. An early goal by Marco Bustos gave Valour FC a 1-0 lead just 30 seconds into the match, which the Winnipeg-based outfit held all the way until the 84th minute, when rookie attacker Jace Kostopoulos knotted the game.

It was only a few moments later – four minutes, in fact – when Tristan Borges’ corner kick led to a Valour own goal, ultimately handing Forge FC the lead – and a lifeline in the Spring portion of the 2019 CPL season.

Kostopoulos was nearly lost for words after playing the hero in his CPL debut, telling reporters: “It’s one of the best feelings I have ever had playing this game. For it to come in my debut and to help us qualify for the CONCACAF League … it’s just an amazing feeling.”

Smyrniotis offered similar sentiments, choosing to focus less on the idea that his team’s Spring sprint has been salvaged, and more on the fact that Hamilton will now represent Canada in the CONCACAF League.

“We aren’t really thinking about what’s happening in the other matches but for us … we have a responsibility to keep pace with the top,” Smyrniotis said. “As well, we’ve solidified our spot to represent our league in the CONCACAF league.”

But, that eventual meeting with Antigua GFC in CONCACAF League action is now secondary. Instead, Forge must switch focus to Cavalry for their next game on Saturday, against their “original spoilers,” Cavalry FC.

Perhaps Forge will have the chance to spoil Tommy Wheeldon Jr’s perfect 6-0-0 CPL record, too.