Samuel Keen To Keep Growing With Forge: ‘I Deserve To Be Here’
When Forge FC re-signed Dominic Samuel to a multi-year deal, it retained services of one of the league’s most consistent defenders – and perhaps one of its most collectively under-sung ones, too.
“It feels great,” he said of his return, “this place is home to me. I’m familiar with everything, and it always feels good to be with the guys. It’s a successful club that I know very well.”
The Canadian defender has made 83 appearances for the hammers throughout the last three seasons, with last year’s campaign seeing him seamlessly step into the centre-back spot left vacant by David Edgar. It’s a role he filled superbly, helping the side concede the least goals across a regular season campaign that saw him feature in all but two games.
“That’s what the coaching staff were expecting of me,” he said, “I just wanted to be able to impress and stay as consistent as possible. Personally, I wanted to step up to the challenge and show everyone that I deserve to be here and in that spot. I think I did that.”
After finishing top in regular season standings, Forge FC dispatched league rivals York United in the playoff semi-finals en route to its third consecutive CPL Final, though it ended with Pacific FC hoisting the North Star Shield despite Forge finishing the match with twice the expected goals and 70% possession.
“We were so close,” reflects Samuel, “that last game left a very sour note to a very successful season. We went further in Concacaf than we ever did, and were top of the table trading with Pacific and Calgary for the last four or five games. This season is redemption for us.”
Samuel’s own game has grown during his time in the hammer, with the defender absorbing a lot from teammate-turned-coach David Edgar. The 2019 and 2020 campaigns saw the veteran help solidify the backline whilst pulling strings ahead of him, and Samuel was taking notes all the while.
While Samuel has shown clear year-over-year improvement in that regard, he says that increasing his influence from the back is a top ambition for him in the 2022 CPL season and beyond.
The Forge FC roster has seen some shuffling this year, with new arrivals like Ashtone Morgan, Aboubacar Sissoko, Alessandro Hojabrpour, and Terran Campbell set to shake things up. While the full shape of the backline isn’t set in stone as of yet, Samuel hopes to remain in the middle of it – though he’s proven to be comfortable out on the right flank, too.
“I do love playing on the flank and the wings, which gives me a little bit more freedom,” he admits, “the middle is where I’m most comfortable, and I can lead and direct things from there. If it were up to me, I’d stay centre-back for sure – but if I do end up playing on the wing, it’s no problem for me.”
Wherever he ends up deployed this season, he’ll expect to be a key starter in the ambitious city. Preparations for the club’s fourth season are already well underway by virtue of a Champions League debut set for under two weeks time. Samuel has played a big part in the club’s continental success so far, completing fifteen Concacaf League appearances over the last three seasons.
With Forge reaching the semi-final stage of the continental competition last year, the club is now set for a Champions League match against Liga MX giant Cruz Azul in just under two weeks time. He’s eager to jump into it.
“I feel like out of all of the Concacaf League matches and the teams that we’ve played throughout the years, this is the big test. This is the massive game. I know all the other guys are excited. You hear all the things about playing at the Azteca, being in Mexico, and how hostile it is. Cruz Azul is a massive club, they’re a top club in Liga MX. I’m up for the challenge, and I’m ready to prove that we can compete as we have been throughout the last few years.”
The match won’t be the only club first that Samuel has been a part of: he was there for the Forge’s first-ever match, it’s first-ever continental game, and it’s first-ever league win. “I feel honoured to be part of making history with this club,” he says, “I’ve had a lot of fun doing it, and I hope to continue to do so throughout my career.”
It’s a career that Samuel has launched through no small amount of dedication: as a teenager he’d commute several hours on public transit to be with the Sigma Academy, eventually playing for the Southern New Hampshire University between 2012 and 2015 whilst earning League1 Ontario defender of the year honours.
His first professional opportunity came right out of college through a trial invitation from the New England Revolution. While he didn’t land a pro contract back then, he got significant insider look at how a professional club operated.
“I saw how things worked, where the level was, and saw where I need to be in order to be successful in my career. It was a massive thing for me.”
Samuel then signed with the Rochester Rhinos in 2016, taking everything he learned from his short stint with New England to acclimate himself to the professional level. He made 26 appearances in the club’s title defense, trying to stay as consistent as possible and earning plenty of trust to close out matches.
The club’s playoff loss was his final appearance in New York, after which Samuel returned home to deal with a few family matters. He returned to League1 Ontario action with Sigma FC to stay sharp and keep his footballing aspirations alive.
It was here where Dominic Samuel tested the limits of athletic dedication, working long shifts at a lumbar yard to make ends meet before capping his evenings off with training sessions that sometimes occurred as late as 10:00PM.
“It was excruciating,” Samuel told Marty Thompson about that period, “there’s no point of me going back home to Scarborough, right? Younger teams would be training before so I would just wait in the car and grab a bite to eat or something – Bobby would see me and say something like ‘what are you doing?’”
His strong ties with Sigma FC would eventually pave way to his opportunity in the Canadian Premier League, where having a longstanding history with his Sigma squadmates proved a big advantage. Forge won back-to-back titles in the league’s first two seasons, with Samuel playing a big role in both of them.
“At Forge, we’ve all known eachother for ten years plus, and while we’ve gone to our respective clubs and universities, but coming back we still all know eachother and we know what works for each individual. The chemistry is always there, and I feel like that gives us an edge over other teams: we come in and we know what to do and how to do it, and we just have to execute.”
Samuel has put in the work to not only just play back home, but exceed rising expectations there each year. In Forge’s first three years of play, only team captain Kyle Bekker has made more appearances than Samuel, who is an oft under-sung core piece of the squad.
“I’ve worked my ass off to get here,” he says, “if you asked me seven years ago if this is where I’d be, I’d laugh. I’d say no way. Something like this couldn’t be a thing, even if you hope for the best. I look back and go ‘whoa’, this is amazing. This is incredible. I never would have thought I’d be about to play one of the biggest teams in Liga MX, or be a two-time CPL champion.”
Samuel pauses for a moment, taking in the memories.
“I think it’s a little bit surreal, but I’m loving every moment of it,” he concludes, “I hope that feelings like this never fade away.”