Forge FC’s coach picked up options on six CPL Championship players on Wednesday, including David Edgar, Johnny Grant, Giuliano Frano, Klaidi Cela, Kadell Thomas, and Anthony Novak – while releasing three, including Quillan Roberts and Bertrand Owundi.
Every full-time player from Forge’s 2019 roster has been accounted for, with a total of 17 returning year-over-year, completing what the Forge gaffer considers a “strong core” he was looking to keep from the start of the club’s inaugural season.
“When we built the team last year before the season, it was all under a two-year-plan,” Smyrniotis told CanPL.ca. “One thing I didn’t want was a lot of turnover. I believed in the guys that we’ve brought in last year and, for at least a two-year period in this league, we need a very strong core.”
Forge announced the return of 12 players last month – including Tristan Borges and Kyle Bekker – as a group of players on two-year deals. Wednesday’s batch were on one-year contracts with a second season club option – including alternate captain Frano and fullback Grant, who featured in Forge’s two-legged takedown of Cavalry FC to take the North Star Shield.
“One thing that’s for sure in this league, as we saw in 2019, is you need a healthy crop of players across the board that are all going to play a role,” Smyrniotis said. “Depth is very important to me.”
Smyrniotis’ two-year deals showed commitment to several first-year pros on his squad – including youngsters Thomas and Novak, who combined for nine goals – with hopes for an improvement for 2020.
“We see in a successful season there are guys like Kadell [Thomas] and Anthony [Novak] coming off this year that can only improve. We’re pretty good in offensive production, but we do want more, but we also want guys that can fit. They can bring more to the table,” Smyrniotis said.
Edgar, meanwhile, shows a different kind of commitment. The 32-year-old Canadian men’s team veteran joined Forge last August and helped backstop a team that surged towards a first-year title.
“He came in with a great mentality, both on and off the field. The way the season ended, with the championship, helps a lot with going into 2020. Everyone knows the standard and, with him as a senior player, he needs to help set the standard. He’s got a lot of football in him,” Smyrniotis offered.
Roberts, Owundi depart club after title-winning run
Wednesday also saw a pair of high-profile releases from the defending champions as goalkeeper Quillan Roberts and defender Bertrand Owundi both saw their options declined.
Owundi amassed over 2000 minutes across the Canadian Championship, Concacaf League and CPL in 2019. Roberts, a former Toronto FC and LAFC ‘keeper, largely played behind former Sigma FC starter Triston Henry in goal.
For Smyrniotis, the goalkeeping decisions was one he knew he’d have to make.
“We brought in two ‘keepers who could be starters in this league,” Smyrniotis said. “Roberts was great throughout the season; his attitude, the way he went about things in training, and being prepared for the games he played in. He gave us exactly what I want in my team. His ambition is to play, and play a lot. Obviously I respect that and every player should want that.
“Coming off a successful season, you’re always going to lose some pieces.”