Forge FC’s danger-man is now Oud-Heverlee Leuven’s.
Tristan Borges is headed to Belgium after Forge sold the 21-year-old to OHL, who competes in the Belgian second division, but is fighting to earn promotion to the country’s topflight.
For those in Canadian Premier League circles, Borges’ European move comes as no surprise. He was the darling of the league’s inaugural season right up to last November’s year-end awards ceremony where he captured Player of the Year, Best Canadian U-21 Player, and the Golden Boot, having previously hoistedthe North Star Shield.
He was at the centre of Forge’s success in their CPL Championship campaign. Every key moment of their championship run, Borges was there.
What does Borges do and how does he do it? Why did a club set to play for promotion to the Belgian First Division A want him so badly?
CanPL.ca examines the reasons why the reigning league MVP is off to Europe.
Fits a European style of play
Not to say Borges could play for FC Barcelona one day, but, y’know, he operates like he already has.
As a technically-gifted footballer, Borges is coming into his prime years. His most impressive traits – his passing, and moving with speed, dribbling, and a wicked left foot – are at an all-time high. He fits the mold of a European footballer, which would give most clubs a good reason to take such a risk on a player from a new Canadian league.
He’s not a foreign entity in Europe, either. The young attacker spent two years with SC Heerenveen’s youth team before moving to Forge a year ago.
His wand of a left foot
Borges was a spectacular finisher for Forge in 2019, as evidenced by his league-leading 13 goals. The Torontonian could score from just about anywhere: long-range blasts from outside of the box, masterful chip shots, and even off corner kicks. He was the best pure finisher in the CPL, the kind that will win games for you in a pinch (in Borges’ case, four game-winners).
What else could you ask for from a forward like him?
Versatility in attack
Borges also offers versatility as an attacker, covering both wings, as an attacking midfielder, and further back in a more traditional central midfield role.
Straight-forward left-winger? Borges can do it. Inside forward up the right side? That can work. Borges can expect extra playing time by platooning in multiple roles.
Consistency as a young player
Consistency is one of the hardest things to grasp as a young player in a professional environment. Borges managed it better than any other CPLer in 2019 – and his goal total shows it. Borges was typically one of the youngest players on the pitch but it didn’t seem that way. Perhaps that’s why he won the best under-21 player award.
Think about Finals 2019. Forge’s danger-man had one half-chance in Leg 1 – space at the top of the box. With a defender in front of him, Borges simply lifted the ball up, looping his shot into the top corner. Here was a 21-year-old, in his first professional final, pulling off something audacious like that.
That is, ultimately, what Oud-Heverlee Leuven sees in Borges – an ability to have an influence at a young age. That’s a difficult task for any young player regardless of skill.