After failing to win the North Star Shield for the first time in back-to-back titles in 2021, Forge FC heads into 2022 to return to the top of the stack.
Bobby Smyrniotis’ team was the best team of the regular season, finishing first overall with the league’s best defensive record. Their 16 wins were the most in the league, but they were also one of just four teams to lose ten or more of their 28 games. Triston Henry and Baj Maan combined 11 clean sheets in CPL action, leading Forge to concede just 24 goals in 28 games –– six better than second-closest team (Cavalry FC at 30) and about half as many eighth-placed Atletico Ottawa (47).
The Hammers beat 905 Derby rivals York United in the playoff semi-finals before losing 1-0 to Pacific FC in the CPL final at Tim Hortons Field after one of their new signings – Alessandro Hojabrpour – scored.
They were the first CPL team to take the field in 2022 when they competed in the CONCACAF Champions League in February, but they were beaten 4-1 by Mexican giants Cruz Azul in the opening round. The visitors won the first leg 1-0 at Tim Hortons Field and the second leg 3-1 at Azteca – David Choinière scoring Forge’s only goal.
Forge will be the first team to wear the CPL’s all-new Legacy patch, symbolizing the number of North Star Shields they’ve won – a tally they’ll look to extend in 2022.
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- 2021 CPL regular season record (WDL): 16-2-10 (1st overall and 2nd in the playoffs)
- goals scored: 42 (including playoffs)
- goals against: 26 (including playoffs)
- goal difference: +16
- Top Scorer: Mo Babouli and Woobens Pacius (7)
- Canadian Championship: Lost on penalties to CF Montreal in semifinals
Arrivals and Departures
As has been the case every season, Forge FC have retained a large part of their roster from a year ago. There are few big departures from the club, but they recruited well.
Mo Babouli, the team’s top scorer a year ago with 10 goals in all competitions, joins Muaither SC in Qatar’s second division. Star left-back Kwame Awuah has swapped CPL for MLS Next Pro and signed for St Louis City SC 2, Maxim Tissot has joined Atlético Ottawa and Joshua Navarro’s loan from Pérez Zeledón has come to an end. Elimane Oumar Cissé has also left the club.
Hamilton is coming to some very strong signings, both inside and outside the league.
Within the league, Forge brought in Terran Campbell and Alessandro Hojabrpour from reigning champions Pacific FC. They have also signed Canada international defender Ashtone Morgan, who was last at Real Salt Lake and also spent a decade with Toronto FC, and former HFX Wanderers midfielder Aboubacar Sissoko, coming from Indy Eleven.
Tristan Borges’ loan has also been extended, meaning the 2019 Player of the Year remains on loan from OH Leuven in Belgium.
For the full list of ins and outs see The 2022 off-season roster tracker from CanPL.ca.
mark your calendar
The season of Forge kicks off on Sunday, April 10th when they travel west to take on champions Pacific FC at Starlight Stadium in a replay of the 2021 finals. They then return home for a game against 2019 final opponents Cavalry FC before hosting fellow Alberta club Edmonton FC a week later.
The first 905 derby of the season takes place away at York United on May 6th and the first home derby of the season on August 20th. They play York twice more in the 2022 regular season, on July 8 at York Lions Stadium, before the penultimate game of the season at Tim Hortons Field on October 1. They end the regular season with a home game against HFX Wanderers on October 9th.
For Forge FC’s full schedule for 2022, click here.
Planned XI by Forge FC:
(4-3-3): Triston Henry; Ashtone Morgan, Daniel Krutzen, Dominic Samuel, Jonathan Grant; Kyle Bekker, Aboubacar Sissoko, Alexander Achinioti-Jönsson; Tristan Borges, Terran Campbell, David Choinière
For the fourth straight season, Triston Henry is likely to be Forge FC’s first-choice goalkeeper. The 2020 CPL Goaltender of the Year has scored in both North Star Shield victories in 2019 and 2020 and is the all-time league record holder for goals against. Baj Maan, who looked solid in limited opportunities last year, as well as another youngster in Christopher Kalongo, will be pushing Henry for the starting job this season.
He will face a new left-back for the first time since Kwame Awuah left the club for St Louis City SC 2. Forge replaced him with Ashtone Morgan, a highly experienced Canada international with nearly 200 appearances between the Toronto FC and Real Salt Lake organizations. Alongside him in central defense will likely be Daniel Krutzen and Dominic Samuel, with Jonathan Grant at right back – a trio who have all played many games for Forge since the inaugural 2019 season.
Krutzen may not be ready for the start of the season after picking up an injury that ruled him out of the 2021 final but will be a key player in 2022 when he is fully fit again. Garven Metusala was one of the best young defenders in the CPL in 2021 and was rewarded with a call-up to the Haitian national team. He’s a more than capable replacement – and could even challenge the other two for starting minutes in 2022.
Few CPL players have played more games than duo Kyle Bekker and Alexander Achinioti-Jönsson. In fact, Bekker has played all but four games in the CPL – 26 of 28 games in 2019 and 2021, as well as all 10 games in 2020 and all three finals. Achinioti-Jönsson has been right there in most of them, as well as games in other competitions where he played just four games fewer, and this duo will not be broken up any time soon. Bekker, the club’s captain, is the only player to have been nominated for all three player of the year awards so far, winning in 2020.
— Canadian Premier League (@CPLsoccer) December 23, 2021
Joining them in midfield in this predicted starting line-up is new signing Aboubacar Sissoko. After playing for HFX Wanderers during their run to the 2020 CPL Finals, Sissoko played for Indy Eleven in 2021 but is returning to Canada with Forge FC. To the surprise of many, he played directly for Forge in the CONCACAF Champions League earlier this year, so it’s possible he’ll play there sometimes this season, but he’s known as a central midfielder. New signing Alessandro Hojabrpour will also fight for third place in midfield.
At the helm, new Forge recruit Terran Campbell is expected to be the first-choice striker after joining the club from Pacific FC. With 23 goals (former Edmonton FC forward Easton Ongaro has scored 25), Campbell is second all-time in the CPL goals list with 23 and is likely to be joined by Tristan Borges, who is back on loan at Forge FC for the 2022 season . Borges was the league’s best player in 2019 and although he didn’t regain that year’s goalscoring form on his return to the league in 2021, he was one of their key playmakers, finishing second in the league on six assists. He is fifth all-time in CPL goals and second in assists and will be important to Forge’s success in 2022.
After meeting David Choinière at the Azteca in the Champions League, CONCACAF Mr CONCACAF is hoping for another successful season with The Hammers, who play as Borges on the opposite wing. Forge has a strong attacking force that also includes players like Omar Browne, Emery Welshman and Woobens Pacius, all of whom can be rotated into the line-up without sacrificing scoring quality, meaning that Bobby Smyrniotis’ side could have another big season in store.
Key players: Alexander Achinioti-Jönsson
He may not have all the headlines or accolades in the Canadian Premier League, but Alexander Achinioti-Jönsson is undoubtedly one of the best players in the league. Achinioti-Jönsson, a defensive midfielder often found in defence, thanks to his versatility, has been a reliable and consistent member of the squad since joining ahead of the inaugural 2019 season.
With 82 appearances for Forge FC in all competitions, he tops the all-time list for both Forge FC and CPL across the league. A strong defender and one of the better passers in the league, he’s critical to everything Forge does. Specifically, it was his goal against HFX Wanderers that saw Forge win the 2020 CPL Finals and repeat as champions.
Achinioti-Jönsson was 15th in last season’s CPL50and was rewarded by Forge with a multi-year deal in January for three years of strong performance.