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Forge FC captain Kyle Bekker still learning and winning under coach Bobby Smyrniotis

Coach Bobby Smyrniotis and captain Kyle Bekker have been a winning combination at Forge FC with four Canadian Premier League titles. Smyrniotis, right, embraces Bekker following their victory in the Canadian Premier League soccer final against the Calgary Cavalry in Calgary, Alta., Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Coach Bobby Smyrniotis and captain Kyle Bekker have been a winning combination at Forge FC, with four Canadian Premier League titles to date.

The two have known each other close to 20 years with Bekker joining Smyrniotis at Sigma FC at the age of 14. Bekker says the learning continues under Smyrniotis.

"Me at 33 years old, I've been in this game for a bit," said the veteran midfielder from Oakville, Ont. "Every single day I come in, there's still stuff to learn. And I think as long as you have that attitude, for a young player especially, you can come in here and you can just learn so much. There's so many different ways to go out and play football and win a football match and put your brand on it, which is exciting."

Bekker says Smyrniotis' secret to success is simple.

"It's his footballing brain," he said. "It's how he dissects games. It's how he sees things and then goes out and implements them in his tactics and his strategy.

"Just simply how he sees and views football. And I think that's something that kind of separates him from the rest of the pack … The beauty in this game is there's more than one way to do this. There's (the) super-prepared (coach), there's the motivator, the culture, the identity. There's all that stuff. And then there's the footballing side, which can be dissected a million different ways."

"He just has one of the best footballing brains that I've ever worked with personally." 

Bekker is also learning off the field, becoming a father for the first time with son Benjamin arriving 10 months ago during the 2023 season.

"He keeps me on my toes. He keeps me young," Bekker said happily.

And also keeps him on an even keel. Bekker admits he had trouble in his younger days putting a poor performance or tough training session behind him.

His son provides perspective on such.

"You can kind of shed it, then it makes you realize how lucky you are that for two hours a day you get to go out and play soccer. It's a pretty decent job I would say."

Bekker shows no signs of slowing down. He finished second in the league in assists last season with seven, adding three goals. He finished the campaign tied for first in the league with 51 chances created. 

He led Forge to the CPL title in 2019, ’20, ’22 and '23, was the CPL’s Player of the Year in 2020 and a finalist in 2019, 2021 and 2023.

Taken third overall in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft by Toronto FC out of Boston College, Bekker went on to play 58 regular-season games for Toronto, FC Dallas and the Montreal Impact from 2013 to 2016.

He helped the San Francisco Deltas to the North American Soccer League championship in 2017 before spending 2018 with North Carolina FC in the United Soccer League. Along the way, he won 18 caps for Canada

Bekker and Chris Nanco, who announced his retirement last month, were Forge's first ever-signings back in November 2018.

The Hamilton club opens the 2024 Saturday at home to Cavalry FC in a rematch of last year's championship game.

It will be Forge game No. 150 for the skipper. Bekker has made 122 league appearances plus eight in Canadian Championship play and 19 in CONCACAF cup competition.


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This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 12, 2024

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

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