May 20, 2024
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Forge FC Jassem Koleilat

Koleilat Ready To Give His Best For Forge: ‘They Won’t Settle For Anything Less’

By on April 7, 2024 0 1200 Views

The 2024 CPL season could prove to be a big one for Jassem Koleilat.

The 24-year-old managed to turn the short-term deal he signed with Forge FC this spring into a new, multi-year contract that could see him break through the professional first team ranks at a crucial stage of his career.

The former MLS SuperDraft pick spoke with us about the opportunity, revealing that after signing his short-term contract and riding the bench for a two-legged tilt against Chivas, he didn’t know for a time whether he’d be saying in the hammer.

Forge FC Jassem Koleilat
Photo Credit: Forge FC

“For me, it was kind of a waiting game to see whether or not I had done enough,” explains Jassem. “Thankfully, they’ve given me the opportunity, and now I’m just looking forward to doing my best and doing what I can for this club.”

The former LAFC2 goalkeeper had ridden the bench behind Christopher Kalongo for both legs against Liga MX giant Chivas, with his roster competition making what was just his third and fourth appearances for the side. Having been with Forge since 2021, however, Jassem knew the prospect of getting minutes ahead of Kalongo right from the get-go would be an uphill battle.

“It’s obviously a mature decision from the coaches and one that I completely respected. I did my job the best I could in the sense of being a good teammate and just like giving everything I can in practice with the guys,” added Jassem, who ultimately enjoyed being able to tick something like Estadio Akron off his destination list.

“I wish I could say I have ten years of experience and you can just throw me onto the field, but that’s obviously not the case – everything is earned. It start with showing performances consistently at training, and I think the way the coaches and the club approached it was very justified – if you about it logically, it’s hard for the staff to look at a keeper they’ve signed for a short-term deal and say ‘alright, we’re gonna play them in the biggest game that the club has had.”

Forge FC Jassem Koleilat
Photo Credit: Forge FC

With the club eventually signing him to a multi-year deal nearly two months later, there’s the sense that Jassem could challenge for big minutes this season, especially since Kalongo has tallied less professional appearances overall and the current status of Triston Henry remains a big question mark.

The 24-year-old – who stands at six-foot-two and tries to emulate his game from the ‘lanky greats’ like Oblak and De Gea – had actually trained with Forge ahead of his senior year at the University of New Hampshire, finishing the experience impressed at the level he saw Forge put in day-in and day-out. That put the CPL firmly on his radar, but after his senior year came the 2023 MLS SuperDraft, and away he went to the Golden State.

His time with LAFC2 was a humbling experience: having made waves in college, Kolielat suddenly found himself pushed hard to get minutes with a feeder team setup that often dropped down goalkeepers from its first team. While he was limited to seven MLS Next Pro appearances, the 24-year-old was actually one of the ‘older guys’ of the regular reserve team roster, and so he took on a leadership role there.

Forge FC Jassem Koleilat
Photo Credit: LAFC2

Koleilat found the experience of working with LAFC after the team had won Major League Soccer a year prior has helped him transition to Forge, who enter the season as the reigning playoff champions and, after four titles wins in five seasons, are definitely the flag bearers of Canada’s top flight.

“You head into the locker room at LAFC, and you just feel this same thing here at Forge,” says Koleilat. “It’s this kind of aura like ‘we know who we are, we know how good we are, and we’re just gonna show you how good we are’. It’s funny, because you just feel like it’s natural. You walk into the locker room and none of the guys ever talk like ‘oh, we won this many times’, but they give off this energy that it’s kind of the norm. They won’t settle for anything less, and you can see that.”

New Hampshire Jassem Koleilat
Photo Credit: New Hampshire Wildcats

It’s no secret that the environment curated by Forge boss Bobby Smyrniotis is one of high standards, but despite Koleilat’s relatively young age he has plenty of experience jumping into new situations.

While he holds Canadian Citizenship, he actually grew up in Dubai to parents who hold Czech and Lebanese heritage. They had lived in Montreal for about six years – which is where his citizenship comes from – with his soccer career getting its start after he left Dubai at sixteen to pursue his soccer aspirations in France.

That earned him two years with the Stade Lavallois reserves, after which he spent a season in the Czech Republic before jumping to the North American university soccer circuit, later winding up in the MLS pathway. It’s been quite a lot of jumping around, and getting settled into many new environments has helped Jassem acclimate quickly with Forge.

“You learn a sense of adaptation. I think the soccer adaptation is always difficult, it’s always the hardest thing. You have to adjust to different things tactically, the style of play, the coach’s demands. It’s natural for it to be difficult, because the demands are always different. But I think all these changes socially have helped me a lot. You know, you learn a lot of different characters, different personalities, different roles within the locker room, all these little things, and I think now it has helped me get to this point.”

What a point it is, too: Forge is now heading into a season where – not counting Triston Henry – both of its other goalkeepers have a collective eleven professional appearances split between them, so each will feel like they can fight for good minutes in a title-defense season.

Fans will find out next week whether Jassem or Kalongo will get the nod from Bobby Smyrniotis, with Forge hosting league rivals Cavalry next weekend to kickstart the club’s sixth Canadian Premier League season.

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