Hamilton Forge FC David Edgar, left, and Kyle Bekker, right, challenge Calgary Cavalry's Nico Pasquotti during Canadian Premier League soccer finals action in Calgary, Alta., Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019. When David Edgar and his Forge FC teammates left Oct. 20 for El Salvador, the first step on their CONCACAF League journey, it was an open-ended itinerary. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Forge FC ready for showdown in Honduras, the latest stop in CONCACAF League adventure

Forge FC ready for showdown in Honduras, the latest stop in CONCACAF League adventure

When David Edgar and his Forge FC teammates left Oct. 20 for El Salvador, the first step on their CONCACAF League journey, it was an open-ended itinerary.

Two wins and a loss later, the Canadian Premier League champions have added stamps in their passports from Panama, the Dominican Republic and now Honduras.

Forge takes on CD Marathon on Tuesday in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa in a Scotiabank CONCACAF League play-in game that guarantees the winner a berth in the CONCACAF Champions League, the confederation’s elite club competition.

“It’s been some journey,” said the 33-year-old Edgar, a lanky centre back who is playing his last game before retirement.

“There’s a big book to be written on this whole journey, when it’s all over,” added Forge head coach Bobby Smyrniotis.

“I think we’re (currently) two weeks away from home and I’ve lost count of days, of where we are and where we’re travelling,” he added. “So I commend my players and my staff for all the hard work that they’ve put into this. It takes sacrifice for everyone to be away from home.”

Forge had to keep winning to extend its Central American adventure.

A loss to CD Municipal Limeno in their preliminary-round game Oct. 22 and the Canadian Premier League champions would have headed straight home. A win and their travels around Central America continued.

Edgar, who has been around the soccer block, had stayed at the same hotel and played at the same stadium while on national team duty in El Salvador. But it was all new to some teammates as the team left Canada for the capital of San Salvador via Mexico City.

“You’re flying in there, a lot of the boys, with the unknown,” said Edgar. “You’re also flying in there not knowing whether you’re going for three days or two weeks.”

For Edgar, that meant packing for two weeks.

“Because you’re going to win. Especially here at Forge, that’s always been your mentality — it’s one game to play another game, to play another game, to play another game. And now we’ve got another chance to get into the Champions League.”

Not that packing is hard when you’re part of a soccer team.

“It’s fairly easy,” he said. “You’ve got your track suit, your shorts, your T-shirts. And we’ve got the best kitman in the league (equipment manager Joe Hanley) so he makes sure our laundry is done when we need it.”

A soccer team on tour tends to spend much of the time in its hotel other than training or playing. Especially these days.

“Never mind the fact that sometimes you’re in some quite dangerous places — you don’t really want to step out or you’re told not to,” Edgar said. “And the fact that we’re in the middle of a world pandemic where you don’t really want to be doing those things in the unknown.

“But the places we’ve been too have been very very well quarantined, I guess you could say. Well looked after, very hygienic. They’re taking the pandemic very serious in this part of the world. We’ve been following the rules. There hasn’t been much stepping out at all.”

The team spent just two days in San Salvador, with Edgar saying the facilities “were what we needed to get the job done and move on to Panama.”

Ten-man Forge downed Limeno 2-1 thanks to an 83rd-minute goal by substitute Anthony Novak, setting up a trip to Panama for a Nov. 3 round-of-16 game against Tauro FC in Panama City.

The team hotel there, complete with rooftop pool and treatment room, overlooked the Gulf of Panama.

“A beautiful hotel … It had everything we needed,” said Edgar. “Panama was beautiful.”

The hotel also had a Greek coffee shop. “So the coaching staff loved that,” said Edgar, referencing Smyrniotis.

The team trained in the heat on artificial turf at a local team’s facility.

“It was a long time but the boys are used to each other,” added Edgar, whose team spent some six weeks in a Charlottetown bubble en route to winning the Island Games on Sept. 19.

As a veteran, Edgar is happy chatting with roommate Kyle Bekker and fellow veteran Maxim Tissot, both longtime friends. He has also spent a lot of time reading, given he’s preparing for life after playing by taking coaching courses.

For those wanting more action, backup goalkeeper Baj Maan has organized FIFA soccer video game tournaments.

“The boys like their games,”: said Edgar. “They bring their (gaming) systems.”

Another 2-1 win, this time on the back of Daniel Krutzen’s stoppage-time penalty, and the Forge travelling party headed home where players and staff served their 14-day quarantine ahead of a Dec. 1 quarterfinal in the Dominican Republic against Haiti’s Arcahaie FC.

For Edgar, it was precious time with his wife and daughters aged two and seven. Even if it was in a new house, with some unpacking to do.

“Which is part and parcel of what we’ve been doing. It’s been here, there and everywhere,” he said.

He worked out in the garage and in front of TV during team Zoom sessions.

“Nothing can replicate being on the field and that quarantine is hard,” he said. “It’s hard for everyone. But when you know you have an important game coming up, you’re itching to get back on the field.”

The team then flew south to the Dominican Republic, taking up residence in Punta Cana on Nov. 21 before making the 170-kilometre trip to the capital of Santo Domingo the day before facing Arcahaie.

Arriving early in the Dominican proved to be good call. It snowed in Hamilton and lockdown restrictions tightened.

Still it was more time away from home.

“It is a grind. It’s a tough ask. But the one thing about this group is you just put things in front of them and they’ll do the right thing,” said Edgar.

“We just have to go day by day,” added midfielder David Choiniere.

On the plus side, they stayed in a nice oceanside resort in Punta Cana with an adjacent grass training field. Edgar even managed to get nine holes of golf in.

He was surprised at the subsequent bustle and hustle of Santo Domingo, noting it took them an hour and 15 minutes to make the six-kilometre trip to training. Their hotel, however, was tucked away.

“Nothing to complain about,” he said of the team hotels during its travels. “My time at Forge, we’ve always been well looked after. The CPL has done wonders in looking after the teams in the (Island Games) bubble and helping us here.”

Tied 1-1 after regulation time, the game against Arcahaie went to a penalty shootout that the Haitians won 4-2 to book their 2021 Champions League ticket. That set up Forge’s showdown with Marathon, beaten by Costa Rica’s Deportivo Saprissa in another quarterfinal.

Forge left Santo Domingo for Tegucigalpa and the crucial play-in match.

The 22-team CONCACAF League is a feeder tournament, sending six teams to the 2021 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League.

Originally slated to run from July to November, the CONCACAF League was postponed due to the pandemic. The competition, which eventually started in October, is scheduled to run through Jan. 28.

Edgar says the experience of playing in Central America will benefit the Forge players for years to come.

“It creates a resilience, … You’ll remember these moments,” he said.

“I’m telling them every day — soak it in, savour it,” he added. “Literally it is my last game on Tuesday. So savour these things, remember them. Because they’re going to hold you in good stead for the future.

“Football, it’s got a cruel way of levelling itself out. As a group we’ve done everything to a professional standard and to a high standard. (Losing to Arcahaie) was hard. It was hard to take. But we know how to dust ourselves off and we know how to put the work in. That’s what we’ve been doing.”


Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 8, 2020

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press


Just Posted

Red Deer musician Curtis Phagoo is glad the Alberta government is investing $2 million to help the province’s live music industry, but he would have liked the criteria to be expanded, so the money could be used as relief to cover revenue shortfalls. (Contributed photo by Cory Michaud.)
Red Deer musicians welcome $2-M in grants to help live music, but would have preferred a relief program

The money is for future projects and can’t be used for retroactive expenses

There were six additional deaths across Alberta reported over the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 1,926 since the beginning of the pandemic. (File photo)
Alberta’s health care system under ‘significant stress,’ says AHS president

The province’s health care system is currently under more stress than at… Continue reading

The Red Deer Rebels have acquired goaltender Connor Ungar from the Brandon Wheat Kings, the team announced Monday. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer Rebels acquire goaltender Connor Ungar, forward Liam Keeler in separate trades

The Red Deer Rebels have acquired goaltender Connor Ungar from the Brandon… Continue reading

(Advocate file photo)
Man charged following police chases last summer is sentenced

Alexander Michael Talbot sentenced to 22 months in prison

COVID-19 test kit. (Black Press Media file photo)
Red Deer businesses can order COVID testing kits from the Chamber

Kits are being provided through a partnership with the Alberta government

Mayor Rick Bonnett. (Screenshot)
WATCH: Ponoka council calls on gov’t to support rural small businesses

Ponoka council is calling on the provincial government to increase funding to… Continue reading

Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Liberals silent on nature of Fortin probe or who will replace him on vaccine campaign

OTTAWA — The Liberal government is scrambling to reassure Canadians that the… Continue reading

A woman attends a vigil in front of the hospital where Joyce Echaquan died in Joliette, Que., on Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Hospital staff testify today at Quebec coroner’s inquiry into death of Joyce Echaquan

TROIS-RIVIÈRES, Que. — Medical staff from a Quebec hospital where Joyce Echaquan… Continue reading

Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on February 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Ottawa looking for 2,000 new energy auditors to get home retrofit program going

OTTAWA — The federal government is looking to train 2,000 more people… Continue reading

A person waits outside a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Sunday, May 9, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Ontario opens shots to 18+, Quebec opens drive-thru, as COVID vaccine efforts expand

Quebec is opening a drive-thru vaccine clinic at its busiest airport and… Continue reading

Calgary Flames players celebrate the team's overtime win against the Vancouver Canucks during an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, May 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Lindholm OT winner gives Flames 6-5 win over Canucks despite blowing four-goal lead

VANCOUVER — In a game with little to play for besides pride,… Continue reading

In this photo taken on May 13, 2021, Russia's performer, Manizha, smiles during an interview after rehearsing at the Eurovision Song Contest at Ahoy arena in Rotterdam, Netherlands. For many, the stage and global television audience of millions is a chance to express messages of inclusion, strength and positivity. Manizha has a message of strength for women in her song whose lyrics include the lines: "Every Russian Woman. Needs to know. You're strong enough to bounce against the wall." (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
Eurovision Song Contest returns despite coronavirus pandemic

ROTTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) — Pounding beats? Check. Uplifting lyrics? Check. Huge, backlit… Continue reading

Serena Williams of the United States returns the ball to Italy's Lisa Pigato during their match at the Emilia Romagna Open tennis tournament, in Parma, Monday, May 17, 2021. Serena Williams earned her first victory in more than three months by beating 17-year-old qualifier Lisa Pigato 6-3, 6-2 in the first round of the Emilia-Romagna Open. Williams accepted a wild-card invitation for the Parma tournament after losing her opening match at the Italian Open last week. (AP Photo/Marco Vasini)
Serena Williams posts 1st victory in more than 3 months

PARMA, Italy (AP) — Serena Williams earned her first victory in more… Continue reading

In this Oct. 21, 2014 file photo, people pass an AT&T store in New York's Times Square. AT&T will combine its media operations that include CNN HBO, TNT and TBS in a $43 billion deal with Discovery, the owner of lifestyle networks including the Food Network and HGTV. The deal announced Monday, May 17, 2021, would create a separate media company as households increasingly abandon cable and satellite TV, looking instead at Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Facebook, TikTok and YouTube. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)
AT&T, Discovery join media brands as cord-cutting encroaches

NEW YORK (AP) — AT&T will combine its massive media operations that… Continue reading

Most Read