Forge FC remains very busy with matters on the pitch even though the Canadian Premier League off-season is in full swing.
The CPL champs are set to kick off their 2020 Concacaf League campaign on Thursday in El Salvador when they face Club Deportivo Municipal Limeñoin the preliminary round of the tournament. Should Forge prevail, it will meet Tauro FC of Panama in the round of 16 in the first week of November.
Among those Forge players who will travel to Central America for another kick at the Concacaf can will be goalkeeper Triston Henry. The former Sigma FC product started all four games for Forge’s 2019 Concacaf League run, including a 0-0 draw with Antigua GFC in Guatemala and a 4-1 road loss to Olimpia of Honduras.
The 2020 Golden Glove nominee recently spoke to CanPL.ca about preparing for this year’s continental competition in the aftermath of Forge winning their second straight CPL Championship.
“It’s difficult – we know the game is coming up but it’s not close enough where you feel like the game is here,” Henry said. “You just have to train yourselves mentally to know that we have something coming up every day to stay tuned in and be ready to go. It’s an odd time but we’re getting through it.
“The mentality is good. We’ve experienced this before, going down (to Central America) and the closer it gets to the game the bigger it will feel. Once we get video on the team and change our game we want to play against them, it will feel a lot more real. Nothing can really shake us at this point. So we’ll be ready.”
Henry explained that intensity in the team’s training sessions has picked up in the past week, as coach Bobby Smyrniotis has stressed the urgency of a big match in the middle of Forge’s off-season.
While Forge’s last game was the CPL Finals on Sept 19, Municipal Limeño kicked off its domestic season this month with a loss and a draw. Getting game film on the Salvadorian side to study hasn’t been easy.
“Some of the video looks like it came from 2005,” Henry said with a laugh, specifically recalling some squint-worthy video sessions from their 2019 campaign.
Henry and the other 15 returnees from Forge’s Year 1 squad can rely on the experience of playing in Central America in Thursday’s tilt. For the 27-year-old goalkeeper, last year’s match against Olimpia, which came behind closed doors, will prove useful with the COVID-19 pandemic forcing Thursday’s match in San Salvador to take place with no fans in attendance.
Thursday’s match will be held at Estadio Cuscatlán, El Salvador’s 53,000-seat national team stadium – the largest in Central America.
“Olimpia was a totally different feeling in that empty stadium… very eerie,” Henry said in comparing the typical raucous Central American crowds to an empty bowl. “Something I’ve never experienced. You hear everything, the echo, it’s hard to describe.”
Henry stands as the CPL’s all-time leader in clean sheets (14) after recording five shutouts in 10 matches in PEI. Henry also finished second in saves (23) and save percentage (73 per cent) amongst goalkeepers who played more than one match at The Island Games. Backstopping Forge to another championship showed the team’s tough mentality, according to Henry.
“It was great from the beginning we knew no matter what we’re faced with that we’re gonna get through it. We were able to put that mentality down,” Henry said.
“We started it off right, probably didn’t get some of the results we wanted that turned into ties. We progressed really well, especially with the rotation that we’re able to do on keeping guys fresh.”