Forge FC ‘keeper Triston Henry on eyeing 3rd CPL title at home, Smryniotis’ influence: ‘He’s the Pep Guardiola of Canada’

Someone will pen a book about Forge FC one day.

It writes itself, in many ways, starting with a core of main characters as passionate Canadian footballers from the outer reaches of Toronto – goalkeeper Triston Henry, alongside a “genius” in Bobby Smyrniotis and his fellow Sigma FC academy graduates in Kwame Awuah, Dom Samuel, Kyle Bekker et al. follow their longtime coach to football glory from relative obscurity.

The next chapter in this book will close Sunday in Hamilton when the hometown side hosts Pacific FC in the 2021 CPL Final (4:30pm ET/1:30pm PT live on OneSoccer). A win from Forge would earn them their third Canadian Premier League title in as many years.

Henry, 28, has backstopped Forge as many times as he did for Sigma in League1 Ontario, becoming a big game player for Smyrniotis in the pro game – most recently earning man-of-the-match honours against Motagua in the 2021 Concacaf League semi-final second leg on Wednesday.

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“We know that the stakes are for these big games – we always rise to the level,” Henry expressed as he looked to balance two of the biggest games in his career in a week’s time. “The standard is for just to win no matter who we’re playing again. So that’s really what it is.”

Sunday will bring Forge’s 40th match – and Triston’s 34th – in a hectic 2021 season that’s seen a season compressed in a five-month sprint. Hamilton has weathered that storm in spectacular fashion, starting with the opening Winnipeg bubble sans a proper pre-season.

“The way the team has come together in a time like this – where we’ve played every three days since July… We know that we need literally every single person on the roster. It really brought us together on away trips… We became really close.”

Triston Henry on his way to a clean sheet against Atletico Ottawa in September. (Matt Zambonin/Freestyle Photography/CPL)
Triston Henry on his way to a clean sheet against Atletico Ottawa in September. (Matt Zambonin/Freestyle Photography/CPL)

Then there’s the case of Coach Bobby, who was recently featured on Kristian Jack’s ongoing Beyond the Pitch series where the Hamilton gaffer prophesied about football in a must-listen before Sunday’s game. His quiet demeanor behind the scenes is a tempting leadership style that seemed to suit the dense passage that was Forge’s 2021 season.

“We say that he’s the Pep Guardiola of Canada – he’s a genius, man,” Henry revealed of the Forge dressing room. “It’s hard to describe him off the pitch – he’s quiet, not the kind to go around and yell at us and stuff like that. He says a lot by not saying much at all, to be honest.”

“I’ve played for him for a long time of course, back with Sigma,” Henry added about his longtime coach. “There’s no one in the locker room that thinks they’re better than the team.”

This closing of a chapter will also come in friendly confines – Tim Hortons Field, just south of Barton Street. After three seasons of massive wins away from home, including the 2019 and 2020 CPL championships and several Concacaf League triumphs down south, here’s a chance to deliver silverware at home for one of the most passionate football-supporting cities in Canada. Henry knows these fans, including the Barton St. Battalion group, better than most.

“It’s truly amazing the support we have in Hamilton,” Henry said. “It’s made Tim Hortons Field a fortress and we love playing in front of them. We would not be the team we are without those fans.”

Well, when the book is written, how will this section conclude?

It looks like Triston, one of the main characters in this twisting tale of Forge FC, already has the ending written in his head.