Smyrniotis credits ‘superhuman’ Forge FC for emerging from six-game run atop standings

Mission one is (almost) accomplished for Forge FC.

They sailed to a fairly comfortable 2-0 win on Sunday against Atlético Ottawa to reclaim the top spot in the table, and now they’re looking at almost a full week off before they play their final match of the first round at The Island Games.

Rest is a luxury in the CPL bubble right now; Forge has come through the grinding 18-day stretch in which they’ve played six games, having won three and earning two draws.

Coach Bobby Smyrniotis was proud of the way his side held firm on Sunday despite the natural exhaustion.

“There’s a lot of tired bodies, tired muscles out there,” Smyrniotis told reporters after the game.

“(It’s) not easy for football players to play six games in the days that we’ve played. Our guys are superheroes, they’re superhumans for being able to go out there and perform, and I give credit to all the teams that are here, because this isn’t an easy task on players.

“It doesn’t matter which way you look at it, for them to be able to go out there and put the quality on the pitch that the league is displaying is fantastic.”

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After losing to York9 FC on Wednesday, it was imperative that Forge respond with strength against Ottawa before heading into their break. Ultimately, they weren’t too troubled by Atlético, who managed just four shots on the afternoon. Forge was out-possessed in the game, 53 to 47, but it seems the CPL champions were content to give up the ball a little bit in order to conserve energy and stay organized defensively.

“The game was under control for most of the period,” Smyrniotis pointed out. “There weren’t that many great opportunities; sometimes you’re gonna give up possession to create space. For us, a team that likes to possess a lot, sometimes it can’t be the be-all and end-all based on what your players are feeling like.”

Forge definitely isn’t unscathed from their first six games in PEI. Jonathan Grant has been out since early in the tournament, and Klaidi Cela suffered an ACL injury in the past week. Even on Sunday, they lost Chris Nanco in the early stages after a bright start, as the winger felt “a pop in the hamstring,” according to Smyrniotis, forcing Kadell Thomas into action.

So, with the team fairly battered and exhausted, the Atlético Ottawa fixture was an exercise in game management, particularly after Daniel Krutzen’s 35th-minute goal from a corner kick. Forge, perhaps, weren’t as dynamic in the final third as they’ve been in the past, particularly in the early stages of the second half, but David Choinière’s moment of quality for a late second goal was all they needed.

“We’ve managed the game smart against a team that was desperate,” Smyrniotis explained. “And I think, yeah, we could be a little more incisive in that final part of the field in the second half, (but) it came late.”

Forge will hope to be already assured of their place in the second round by the time they take the pitch next Saturday against Valour FC. Regardless, it should be a more sprightly outing for the club after the much-needed week of rest.

“The team’s holding up well, but it’s obviously nice to get a couple days to relax,” Krutzen admitted. “Also mentally, maybe step out of it for a day and then get back into training after that.”

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