Smyrniotis proud of Forge team despite Champions League exit: “We’ve been rewarded greatly by being in this competition”
Excerpts of the following story by Benedict Rhodes From February 25, 2022, Smyrniotis proud of Forge team despite Champions League exit: “We’ve been rewarded greatly by being in this competition” https://canpl.ca/article/smyrniotis-proud-of-forge-team-despite-champions-league-exit-weve-been-rewarded-greatly-by-being-in-this-competition.
Forge FC’s Concacaf Champions League debut came to an end on Thursday night with a 3-1 loss (4-1 on aggregate) to Mexican giants Cruz Azul. An early goal from Ángel Romero gave the hosts an early lead, before Rafael Baca made it 2-0 fifteen minutes later. Forge’s David Choinière pulled one back, the first goal scored by a Canadian Premier League club in Champions League action, but it wouldn’t be enough.
Juan Escobar restored the two-goal advantage in the 44th minute, and Cruz Azul held on to move onto the quarterfinals and a tie with CF Montreal. Forge’s first journey into the continent’s biggest tournament may have ended in defeat, but the club held their own for the most part against a very good team.
“I think we need a few deep breaths,” Smyrniotis said to begin his postgame press conference. “It’s a challenging match, at the end of the day we’ve played a world class team and I think that shows, but we also came out here and played our football. We stood on the ball and we did some good things out there, and that was important for us, but it’s always gonna be difficult when you get scored on in the fourth and the 43rd minute.”
Smyrniotis had positive reviews for his players and staff after the match. The magnitude of the occasion, and the feat of a CPL club playing in the Champions League at all, wasn’t lost on him. Forge have been the trailblazers in continental competition with four years now of representing the CPL across the region.
“I think for that brief moment you realize that as a group, as a club, we’ve done something special,” Smyrniotis said. “After three years of competing and doing things right, I think we’ve been rewarded greatly by being in this competition. After that, it’s always the thought of how you keep on going in this competition. We know that we were up against it with this club that we played today in Cruz Azul. Of course we enjoy this part of it, and I think that having that little taste from the players keeps on giving us the drive to go forward as we prepare for our season.
“We’re at a point now where we’ve gone for five weeks to play two matches, and we have six weeks until the season starts for us, so it’s a unique time. Overall, it’s fantastic. If you go back a few years to opening day and they told us that there’s a Concacaf League, and you can qualify through there for Champions League… once you tell me that, I’m always going to think big.”
For the rest of the story by Benedict Rhodes From February 25, 2022, please go to https://canpl.ca/article/smyrniotis-proud-of-forge-team-despite-champions-league-exit-weve-been-rewarded-greatly-by-being-in-this-competition.