From officially coming online to inking a respected Canadian coach to signing a pair of players who are among the most experienced we’ve seen agree to CPL deals, Forge FC made plenty of noise in 2018.
But before coach Bobby Smyrniotis turns his attention to roster building and the Barton St. Battalion build one of the league’s top supporters’ groups, take a look back at a transformative year for Hamilton-area soccer.
- July 12: Forge officially joins CPL
It was certainly worth the wait.
In front of crowd at Tim Hortons Field, and with the Barton St. Battalion behind the podium, Forge FC was unveiled as the CPL’s sixth team, and the second Ontario-based CPL side.
The extravagant announcement culminated with speeches from CPL commissioner David Clanachan and co-founder Bob Young.
“The Forge perfectly represents both Hamilton’s industrious history as well as the region’s ambitious commitment to continuous advancement. Our soccer club will mirror the fine qualities of our eclectic city as Forge FC integrates into the heart of the Hamilton community,” Young said.
Officials confirmed the club will play its home games at Tim Hortons Field. The club’s identity was also unveiled at the announcement.
Barton St. Battalion supporters’ group step forward to bring ‘intimidation factor’ to Forge FC matches.
This evening from 6pm-7.30pm is the #ForgeFC Co-Founders event at Tim Hortons Field prior to the Ticats game.
The Battalion will be there, with scarves for sale, to discuss how our group operates moving forward to #CanPL kickoff in April.
Look forward to seeing everyone! ⚒️ pic.twitter.com/mYa5gxzSb0
— Barton St. Battalion (@BartonBattalion) August 23, 2018
- Oct. 1-2: Open Trials in Hamilton
- Hamilton Trials player watchlist
- Oct. 1: Smyrniotis named head coach
Forge FC named Bobby Smyrniotis as its first head coach on Oct. 1, becoming the seventh CPL club to add a head coach in 2018.
Smyrniotis is best known for developing a talent pipeline at Sigma FC, a GTA-based academy that has produced the likes of Canadian internationals Cyle Larin (Besiktas) and Manjrekar James (FC Midtjylland), along with Kwame Awuah (New York City FC), Richie Laryea (Orlando City) and Emery Welshman (FC Cincinnati).
Not long after, the CPL’s #GotGame Open Trials rolled through Steeltown.
Two hundred players. One dream.
The @CPLsoccer’s #GotGame Open Trials have kicked off in #HamOnt! ⚒#ForgeFC #CanPL pic.twitter.com/4gjp5D3MG5
— Forge FC (@ForgeFCHamilton) October 1, 2018
- Nov. 13: CPL-U SPORTS Draft
- Forge nabs Kotsopoulos in 1st round
- Nov. 14: CPL acquires League1 Ont.
- Nov. 22: First look at Tim Hortons Field
- Nov. 29: CPL clubs unveil signings
- Bekker, Nanco join Forge FC
On Nov. 29, Kyle Bekker and Chris Nanco became an answer to a long-awaited question for Hamilton soccer fans: Who is going to play for Forge FC?
Bekker and Nanco both spent time at Sigma FC, Smyrniotis’ academy project.
Of the 10 inaugural players named, Bekker, 28, is the most established in the North American game. The former Toronto FC and Montreal Impact midfielder has 18 caps with the Canadian national team. He returns to Canada following stints in MLS, the NASL and USL.
? A player who's story reflects everything #CanPL stands for.
Kyle Bekker was #ForgedHere.
? > https://t.co/jSuJ5fdOYr | #ForgeFC pic.twitter.com/fm9ymmNad6
— Forge FC (@ForgeFCHamilton) December 2, 2018
Nanco, 23, reunited with Smyrniotis after six years in the U.S., after playing four years at Syracuse before being drafted by the Philadelphia Union and suiting up for their USL outfit, Bethlehem Steel. Smyrniotis expects the speedy attacker him to play as a striker, on both wings and as an attacking midfielder.
Forge FC selected Guelph’s fourth-year forward Jace Kotsopoulos third overall in the inaugural CPL-U SPORTS Draft. Smyrniotis and co. finished their draft by selecting Montreal’s fourth-year midfielder Aboubacar Sissoko (12th overall) and Mark Mandekic, a second-year midfielder from the University of Toronto.
Along with player news, supporters were also treated to more news about Tim Hortons Field in November. CanPL.ca’s feature highlighted new renderings of the stadium and gave more details about what Hamilton fans can expect on opening day.
Forge FC coach Bobby Smyrniotis on the jump from L1O to the CPL and constructing his roster ahead of 2019 pre-season:
“I’m just starting to build a concept of a squad and a philosophy for the club,” Smyrniotis said of his first months on the job.
“It has been trying to put together an overall plan for the season, what the squad would look like and targeting potential players in several markets.”