Chris Nanco and Kyle Bekker made history on Thursday, becoming the first signings in Forge FC’s history in reuniting with a familiar head coach in the Canadian Premier League.
Forge FC boss Bobby Smyrniotis knows both players well, having developed both during their time with the Sigma FC academy in Mississauga, Ont..
Bekker, 28, arrives with an impressive resume. The left-footed creative midfielder is best known for his time with Toronto FC, where he made 29 appearances after being drafted third overall in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft.
Additionally, the Oakville, Ont.-native amassed dozens of appearances with FC Dallas and the Montreal Impact before claiming an NASL title with the San Francisco Deltas. Bekker has appeared 18 times with Canada’s national team.
“Everyone involved with the CPL wants to make this league stand out,” Bekker told CanPL.ca. “Coming home and getting a chance to be part of this is an incredible opportunity.”
With Bekker, a Canadian soccer veteran, Smyrniotis believes he has a natural leader in his ranks from the start. It’s a responsibility Bekker is “fired up” to meet.
“It’s exciting on a personal level. It’s a role I’m ready to take on,” Bekker added. “Where I’m at in my career, and the experiences I have had, I want to be someone to look up to for the 10-year-old kids out there.
“I want to help change the narrative for Canadian youth soccer players. We have the talent, we just need the outlet.”
At 23, Nanco comes to the club following two developmental seasons with Bethlehem Steel, the Philadelphia Union’s USL affiliate. Nanco was chosen in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft (55th overall) out of Syracuse.
A right-footed attacker, Nanco is comfortable playing across a front three but prefers to play as a left winger — cutting in and using his pace to wreak havoc on fullbacks. He knows exactly what Smyrniotis wants out of him when it comes to training habits and on-field performances, too.
“I have a long history with Bobby, whether it be playing for him in the academy to League1 Ontario,” Nanco said, adding he started at Sigma at the age of 12. “He wanted me back then and he wants me now, so that’s a good sign.”
Bekker added: “We know Bobby and we know what he expects. There are going to be guys on the team with less experience. I want to make sure my teammates have the right mentality from Day 1.”
For now, the first three faces of Forge FC make up a solid, familiar core.
“I think they will set the groundwork for something that’s going to be successful over the next couple years,” Smyrniotis told CanPL.ca. “They’re going to be an instrumental part of the team at year one.”