The CPL champions have retained their captain. Forge FC announced on Tuesday that Kyle Bekker, the Canadian Premier League's reigning Player of the Year, has re-signed with the club for 2021. "We are extremely happy to have our captain sign his new contract and commit to our club for the foreseeable future," Costa Smyrniotis, Forge's Director of Football, said in a media release. The 30-year-old midfielder was one of Forge's first-ever signings back in late 2018, and since then he's suited up 49 times for the Hamilton-based team en route to two consecutive CPL championships and a pair of impressive runs in the Concacaf League. At The Island Games in 2020, Bekker started all 11 games for Forge, scoring four goals in an MVP-calibre campaign. According to Bekker, it was an easy decision to come back for 2021. "I think my intention was to always come back and hope that we can get something done, which I have full confidence, full belief in," he told CanPL.ca on Tuesday. A native of Oakville, Ont., Bekker was reunited with Bobby Smyrniotis upon arriving at Forge, having played for the coach near the beginning of his career at Sigma FC. Since then, Bekker has featured for a number of different teams across North America, including MLS sides Toronto FC, FC Dallas, and Montreal Impact.
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Before first signing in Hamilton, though, Bekker had bounced around from club to club for a few years. For him, the stability he's found at Forge is a key part of the reason he's so happy to stay with the CPL champs. "That was a main part in me coming back in the first place, I think that was definitely an opportunity that it always provided in the end," he said. "If looking back on it, you said this was how the first two years were gonna go, I don't know if I really would've believed you. But that was definitely the goal and what we were working towards." Bekker has also played for his country on plenty of occasions, with 18 Canadian national team caps to his name. He made his debut in a 2013 friendly against Denmark, and he has since appeared for Les Rouges a number of times, including at two Concacaf Gold Cup tournaments. This is the first roster announcement Forge have made this off-season, since ending their Concacaf League campaign in December. The club will surely have plenty more news to come as they build their roster, particularly with their first match of 2021 likely to be a Canadian Championship final clash with Toronto FC this Spring. Although Forge has already achieved plenty in two years with Bekker, the captain is anxious to help take the club even higher. "I know on paper it seems like it's been a bit of a crazy story, but we at the club feel we have so much more to do on the bigger picture," he said. "How do we continue to sustain that success, how do we blow it up in terms of ingraining ourselves in the community to solidify the best fanbase in the league, how do we continue to drive forward and be that gold standard that keeps pushing the game forward in this country and be that club that's represented the league so well on a Concacaf level? "Just keep being the team that's raising the bar, setting new heights and new goals and then going out and achieving them." Now that he's had time to mull over Forge's exit from the Concacaf League -- ending with heartbreaking losses to Arcahaie FC and CD Marathón -- Bekker indicated that his team can't wait to get back to that particular competition. "Early on I can't lie, we came away from it a little bittersweet about the whole situation. We know it was a great run, but the way that it ended it didn't really sit too well with us," he said. "We feel like we kind of dropped the ball a little bit." He added: "When you look back on it you have to be very proud of what we achieved, the way in which we did it -- we never once played a home game, we never once played in front of our fans, we were travelling for significant amounts of time for one single game... The experience that it's provided, I think is pivotal. It's something that you can't really match, and I think it'll drive us forward to try and have even more success." Bekker is the first domino to fall in what should be a busy few months for Forge in terms of roster construction. With other CPL sides arming up around them, the reigning champions will be keen to stay out in front of the rest of the league. Keeping their captain and best player around for another year is certainly a good first step.