Never, under any circumstances, should this Forge FC team be counted out.
They required every last second of the game to do so, but the CPL champs took all three points from their Saturday meeting with Pacific FC, taking the spoils with a 97th-minute winner courtesy of captain Kyle Bekker.
After an energetic back-and-forth football match, which saw a combined 35 shots taken by the two clubs, Forge — playing their fourth game in ten days — have climbed back to the top of the league table. The 2-1 win with a goal at the death, while not necessarily what a coach would plan for heading into things, was certainly worth its weight in gold in terms of entertainment value and drama.
Forge coach Bobby Smyrniotis was thrilled with the quality of the game itself, and he pointed out the importance of a match like Saturday’s being broadcast nationally on CBC.
“I think the greater community of soccer fans was able to watch this, they’re able to see the quality of this league. I think it was a fantastic game between two teams that play soccer, put the ball down,” he said.
“When you just look at the quality of play in the game, it was a great game to be broadcast across the country.”
One might’ve expected Forge to be sluggish toward the end of this contest, having run such a gauntlet after 10 months away from competitive games. That wasn’t the case, though; indeed, with the score tied in the second half, they pressed harder.
“They’ve got the will and desire of champions, that’s exactly what it is,” Smyrniotis said of his group.
“They wanted to push for it. They didn’t want to settle for the draw. We kept on getting ourselves forward and I thought we did a good job in those last 10 to 15 minutes of the game in creating opportunities. We got what we want — the situation in the box with our numbers — and you get rewarded for it if you do it enough times.”
Smyrniotis had an extra helping of praise for Bekker, who (along with Triston Henry, Kwame Awuah, Daniel Krutzen, and David Edgar) has played every single second of Forge’s Island Games campaign so far, and was a ferocious engine in midfield for all 360 minutes.
“He’s a machine,” Smyrniotis said. “We’ll usually have a quick chat, and I know exactly when he answers in a certain way that he’s feeling good, and if he answers in a certain way he’s not feeling good. Right now, he’s doing great. He’s ready to go, he’s ready to fight and he’s ready to lead that team on the field.”
Bekker was lethal with his distribution on Saturday, delivering four key passes on top of the goal he scored.
For his part, he attributes some of his side’s never-say-die attitude to the chemistry and shared experience they have, stemming from their championship campaign in 2019.
“It’s hard to win championships, anyone who’s ever played at a high level will tell you that,” Bekker said.
“You can go a career and never lay in a final, so for guys to get that experience early on, and for some guys in their first year, it’s massive. It gives you that edge in situations like this where you don’t really stop believing.”
Smyrniotis agreed with his captain, highlighting Forge’s determination in generating chances toward the end of the game. On an afternoon where they had nine attempts in the final 20 minutes of the 90, they certainly didn’t look out of gas.
“When you have that in your blood it runs deep.” he said. “I think that’s one thing that the guys showed today, because we played an excellent Pacific squad. … You can sit there and think about the time that you get scored on in the 95th minute, or you can just move on, knowing that the script will always flip if you’re doing things the right way.”