Forge Prepared To Do The ‘Little Things’ Right Against Tauro FC
Canadian Premier League side Forge FC is representing Canada in the Concacaf League for the second year running, and for the second year in a row now finds itself in for a tough match in the Round of 16.
The reigning CPL champions are set to face Panamanian side Tauro FC, who have six Champions League appearances under their belt and two Concacaf League runs. As the most successful club in Panama, they’re expected to be one of the top six clubs in the Concacaf League.
After a ten man Forge FC left it late to dispatch Municipal Limeno in the preliminary round, Forge boss Smyrniotis didn’t mince words on his media call last night: the hammers are in for a challenge.
Tauro is a quality team. They’re a team that has a lot of experience playing in this competition. They’ve had success in this competition. They’re a team that is two weeks weeks into their season, and obviously with friendly matches coming before that. They’re a dynamic team, a very tough team to break down. We look forward to a very big challenge tomorrow in Panama.Bobby Smyrniotis
The club arrived in Panama the day after its win in El Salvador, training in the nation’s capital under humid weather. Bobby says the training environment has been comfortable, and that the bubble nature of their successful Canadian Premier League season prepared them for the long continental travels required in the 2020 Concacaf League.
A recent change in the tournament’s structure now means every stage of the knockout competition will be a single leg tie, and as the lowest seed in the competition Forge FC will be the away team for each of them should they progress beyond Tauro FC, which is no easy task.
For Bobby, he wants his side focus on the simple things in a game that he expects will be defined by small moments that can creep up on a team.
This is a game of moments. For both teams it’s important, there’s no two legs. It’s one leg and you move on. The little moments are very important for our team. It’s something that we’ve done very well in knockout matches over our two years experience as a team and obviously our experience in this competition now over last year and this year helps us out.Bobby Smyrniotis
While CanPL editorial staff member Charlie O’Connor-Clarke confirmed that Zajac, Cela, and Balbinotti were all on the injury list for tomorrow’s knockout match, Smyrniotis was focused on the additions to today’s match squad that it didn’t have against Limeno: both Kwame Awuah and Chris Nanco are labelled as fully fit and ready to go, though the club will also be without Jonathan Grant following his second yellow against Municipal Limeno just under two weeks ago.
Awuah – who missed the tournament’s opening fixture by route of a post-game suspension following last year’s defeat to CD Olimpia – is a big returning player for the reigning champions. He featured in all but one match in this year’s CPL bubble tournament, scoring one of the goals of the season against FC Edmonton.
This will be Awuah’s fourth Concacaf League match, with the 24-year-old former NYCFC draft pick stating that the club is keenly aware of the challenges facing them at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez tomorrow:
Obviously, we know Tauro’s history in the competition and in the Champions League as well – they have a lot of good quality players. Limeno had quality players as well. There is more history with Tauro, of course, and we’re aware of that. I think the most important thing is trying to play our game to try to pull out a win in Panama. We know it’s going to be a tough challenge.Kwame Awuah
The Hamilton-based side made for some additional history against Limeno, earning the first away win for a CPL side in continental competition. The fact that the pandemic has forced the hosting teams into closed door affairs may have benefited here, especially given with how unsettling that home support can be.
While Awuah said Forge’s game plan involved them playing their own style, Smyrniotis stated that the current condition of the pitch in Panama City was less than ideal, conceding that it will impact the way both teams typically like to play:
Then we look at the external factors, both teams like to play football and like to do things. I think there are some challenges with the pitch and stadium conditions, and everyone has been working very, very hard at it, but that may have a little bit of a factor in how both teams are able to play.Bobby Smyrniotis
With that, the club gaffer returned to his suggestion that the game will go down to the particulars: doing the little things correct on each play of the match. It’s a principle that fans saw this month employed against CD Limeno, and it’s something that Bobby stuck with even after the side went down to ten men.
We were very good playing with ten men because we kept things simple. We connected the simple things and we did the little things correct, and that’s what is important for tomorrow’s match as well: it’s just doing the little things correct, keeping a good flow to our game, and then that will give us success on the pitch.Bobby Smy
Last year, the club bowed out of the Round of 16 on a 4-2 aggregate loss to CD Olimpia, who made it to the semi-finals before being knocked out by eventual winners Deportivo Saprissa. Should the side make it beyond tomorrow’s single leg tie, they will have two routes to qualifying for the Concacaf League: either by winning the following quarter final match, or if they lose, they can still qualify by way of a play-off match against another team that loses in the quarter-final stage.
In essence, Forge FC are two games away from potentially becoming the first non-MLS Canadian side to qualify for the premier continental competition for North America. Even so, Awuah stated that the Concacaf League is a great path to both showcase Canadian talent and boost the profile of the fledgling domestic league, too.
I think it’s important step for Canadian football in general, and it looks good on the league, for us to be able to compete at this high level. It looks good for the players that are playing for the club, and the club, the organization, and everything at the head of the club. We’ve all done the work in the past two years as a league and as a team, and I guess we’ve been showing it for the past two years in the competition as well.Kwame Awauh
The words ring true with what David Choiniere said last year when he revealed that the opportunity for continental football was one of the big reasons he signed with Forge FC. At the moment, the 23-year-old Quebecer has three goals from four games in the Concacaf League, making him the club’s top scorer in the continental competition.
Win or lose in tomorrow’s match, Bobby revealed that the squad will finally be due for a spell at home after spending the last 17 days in Central America: the club has booked a flight home on Wednesday morning, returning to much cooler weather than the 29 degrees they’ve been training under in Panama.
It’s also worth remembering that even if the result doesn’t go Forge’s way tonight, the club has another route to the Champions League by way of a Voyageurs Cup Final against Toronto FC. The date and location for this single leg tie has yet to be announced by the Canada Soccer Association.
Forge FC will kick off against Tauro FC tonight at 8:00PM EST at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez in Panama City. Canadian fans can tune in to TSN3 to watch the match.