Forge FC fans breathed a sigh of relief earlier this week, learning that Daniel Krutzen will indeed be back at the club this year. With fellow centre-back David Edgar retiring at the end of 2020, reports in early February that Krutzen was on trial with teams in Sweden stirred a few concerns over what was to become of Forge's league-best defensive line. Krutzen told CanPL.ca this week that his two trials (one with a Swedish top-flight club, one with a second-tier side) went very well, but ultimately it didn't quite work out for various extenuating reasons. Krutzen's return to Hamilton means stability at the back for Forge, who won the CPL championship last year by allowing just one goal in the four games of the group stage and final of The Island Games in PEI. "I'm very excited," Krutzen said of returning to his CPL outfit. "I know what I have at Forge in the environment and the staff and my teammates, so I'm very excited to be part of that team again and continue to do big things with the club going forward, and write some more history -- with Concacaf, we're far from done in that international aspect of it, and of course three-peating in the league would be great too, so I would love to be part of that again." The past two years have been a fascinating rise for the Dutch defender (Krutzen informed CanPL.ca that, although he did grow up in Belgium, he was born in Brunssum, Netherlands, and thus carries a Dutch passport). After first coming to North America in 2016 to play college soccer for the University at Albany, the KRC Genk academy product flew under the radar for a while. He saw action for a couple of USL PDL sides during his time at college as well, but Krutzen's first real step into the professional game came at Forge. "We have to remember that when Daniel Krutzen came to this league he was a college player that really nobody knew about in the U.S., and in two years he’s become the best all-around defender in the CPL, for me, by far," Forge coach Bobby Smyrniotis said of him recently.
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Krutzen himself added: "It's impacted me as a player a whole lot; it's not easy to at first become a professional player, and then get a chance to get higher up in this line of work. (Forge has) given me the environment to grow and develop as a player and as a person, and I'll be forever grateful for these past few years, for all the guys that I've met and played with, for all the things that we've done as a club. I think it's been great so far these past two years." Now, Krutzen's development at Forge is poised to take another step forward. The 24-year-old looks likely to step into the shoes of David Edgar as a more complete leader at the back, and he's relishing the chance to take on that kind of responsibility for his club. "David was always the vocal one, the more present leader, and I think I might have a role in trying to fulfill that a little bit more this year," Krutzen said. "I see it as a challenge, I think I can handle that and I'm looking forward to do it as well." His first test is likely to be the Canadian Championship final -- still not yet scheduled, but the showdown with Toronto FC should come in the next two months. Krutzen, like his teammates, is eager for the game, although he pointed out that the real prize might be the automatic Concacaf Champions League qualification that eluded them in December's Concacaf League defeats. The two-time CPL champions have very lofty ambitions for the coming year. Fortunately, they'll have their best defender along to help them get there.