July 14, 2024
  • July 14, 2024
Forge FC Kyle Bekker

Forge Captain Wants To ‘Spark Something Special’ In CanChamp Semi-Final

By on July 10, 2024 0 656 Views

The reigning Canadian Premier League champions now find themselves just two semi-final legs away from booking their ticket to the Canadian Championship Final in what would be just the second time in club history.

In their way stands Toronto FC, the proverbial MLS giant who narrowly beat Forge on penalties to lift the Voyageurs Cup at Tim Hortons Field two years ago in a belated but historic cup final.

The Hamilton-based side has picked up two straight league championships in the time since while also showcasing themselves in continental competition and Canada’s domestic cup: a proverbial contender, this year they’ve knocked out CF Montreal en route to tonight’s opening semi-final leg against TFC.

Forge FC Kyle Bekker
Photo Credit: Canadian Premier League

Forge Captain Kyle Bekker has been a key component in the CPL side’s sustained success. A former TFC player himself, the midfielder has seen his club keep plugging away since the last time these two sides met. Forge has enjoyed domestic success while putting in more shifts in big-stakes games like a two-legged affair against Chivas Guadalajara in the Champions League this year – a tournament TFC did not reach.

“We’ve put ourselves in a position to as a young club to be in these situations for these big games,” Bekker told us ahead of tonight’s cup match. “They’re the games that, as a player, you dream about playing in as a kid.”

The captain reveals that the Voyageurs Cup is something that the club has put firmly on their radar this season, noting that the lack of success they’ve had in the cup despite strong performances have left a bit of a sour taste. They’ve come a spot kick away from hoisting the trophy before, and they’re hungry to put themselves within touching distance again.

“I think we’ve shown that we can be bold and brave enough to go out and do it. This is one that I think would definitely be very special. Obviously, we got a big task in front of us, but we’re going to take it 45 minutes at a time and and hopefully we can do something special this year.”

The Forge captain doesn’t deny the caliber of TFC players coming in to the hammer will put forth a tough hurdle, even if the MLS side itself is in the the midst of a slump.

“There’s no denying what is expected of that club. No matter what the type of season they’re having in their own league, their expectation every year is obviously to be playing in a in a Final of the Canadian Championship, and this year is going to be no different – so we have to respect that, we have to expect that they’re going to come out looking to win and impose themselves. We’ve got to be excited for that. I mean, as a young club with a ton of young players who are looking to put their stamp on on the professional game… what better opportunity?”

CS Saint-Laurnet Oussama Boughanmi Jonathan Osorio
Toronto FC’s path to tonight’s match included two semi-professional sides. (Photo Credit: Toronto FC)

While the Forge social media team took some shots at Toronto FC for being ‘American-ized’ with less impetus to play Canadians, both Bekker and a few other Forge players like Jordan Hamilton had once developed with tonight’s adversaries. One to watch is Kwasi Poku, who’s transition to a forward position has proven successful: not only is he the CPL’s Player of the Month, but he helped Forge surpass Montreal in the quarter-final with a second leg matchwinner.

“I’m sure it surprised quite a few people,” said Becker on Poku’s positional switch. “But I mean, I think it speaks to the coaching staff to put the trust into and put them into that position and let them go and be successful. He has a ton of attributes that I think allow him to be quite dynamic across the pitch.”

Squaring up against TFC will mean extra for Poku, whose cup final spot kick against the MLS side two years ago struck the bar and ultimately handed TFC a 5-4 shootout win.

Forge FC Kwasi Poku
Photo Credit: Jojo Yanjiao Qian

“I think the runs he’s making and what he can do on and off the ball, in terms of setting up a press for us, has been fantastic, and it’s just a matter of becoming more and more clinical and really putting your stamp on it. He’s scored a bag of goals since he’s been put in that position, which is great. I think you’re gonna see a guy who has more confidence, and all of us would just like to see him keep growing and growing.”

Toronto FC will enter tonight’s match in the midst of a nine game winless streak in league play and six straight losses. Bekker believes that means his former side will come in extra hot and hungry, however.

“The reality is there’s going to be a fire lit under their ass, and there’s going to be an expectation to go out and get a result. We have to be mindful of that. They might come out of the gates like a bat out of hell, and that could be imposing for a younger team and that could put us back foot.”

Forge FC David Choiniere
Photo Credit: Jojo Yanjiao Qian

The hammers are in a slump of form themselves, recording just two league wins since besting Montreal. They’ve slumped to fifth in league standings, though they’re one result away from restoring themselves to second with a game in hand.

The reigning league champions are a team who, regardless of adversary, stay true to their playstyle and have always put forth a fearless approach regardless of their opposition. Head Coach Bobby Smyrniotis said Forge doesn’t look at anyone else as giants, considering themselves a big club. For Bekker, he says they’re approaching the cup match as they do all games – by believing in what they’re doing, and acknowledging that these are the kind of games they want to be in.

“These are the moments that you dream about, and for a group of guys who all say that they want to play at the next level, what more can you ask for?” posits the captain. “Regardless of the form TFC is coming in, they’ve got world class players on the other side, so they can spin a game at the snap of a finger – we’ve got to be aware of that. If we give them an inch they can take advantage of it.”

Toronto FC Kyle Bekker
Bekker back in his TFC days. (Photo Credit: Toronto FC)

Like the quarter-final stage against CF Montreal beforehand, the semi-final is a two-legged affair in the current Canadian Championship format. The domestic cup has seen a variety of formats over the past few years, and while some appreciate the one-and-done format of knockout football, Bekker is partial to the two-legged system that was last seen in 2019.

“I like home and away because we’re opening so many new doors to professional games in the country. It provides a unique opportunity for these local markets to see teams like Montreal, TFC, and Vancouver when they come to town and the names they can bring with that,” explains Bekker.

“The more and more doors that we open, the better. I’d like to see this competition keep getting bigger and bigger. There’s something special about that FA Cup vibe when you’re getting a team in the Premier League playing a fourth division team. There’s something special about it.”

Forge have the honour of opening the two-legged semi-final tonight. The match kicks off at 7:00PM at Tim Hortons Field, with fans able to tune in on OneSoccer, fuboTV, and Telus Optik TV. Attendees should brace themselves for a rainy night, though it could prove to be a historic one.

“I’m hearing it might not be the greatest weather,” says Bekker, “but hopefully that will stand off and allow fans from both TFC and the Forge faithful to come out in numbers and have a good night.”

Header Image Photo Credit: John Jacques

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