In this series, Steven Sandor examines the projected starting lineups of each Canadian Premier League club ahead of the 2019 CPL season.
There’s no doubt that Forge FC has the potential to be the most explosive side in the Canadian Premier League; this team already showed hints of being an overwhelming attacking force in the preseason camp in the Dominican Republic. Yes, people around the league are whispering about what Forge could be, and coach Bobby Smyrniotis are on everybody’s shortlists when it comes to picking preseason favourites.
Now, all Forge has to do is, well, live up to the hype.
After years of being an understudy with Toronto FC and then more understudy time with LAFC, it’s time for Quillan Roberts to step into the limelight. He’s going to get the chance to show all of Canada that the time he’s spent waiting in the wings will give him the poise of an accomplished veteran when he finally gets the chance to be a true No. 1. And, heck, he can score from his own side of half, which he did against England in the 2011 U-17 World Cup.
Keeping with the theme of “understudies stepping into the limelight,” it’s also Kwame Awuah’s time to transform his potential into performance. He spent a lot of time on the bench at NYCFC over the last couple of seasons. In his limited time in MLS, he was used in midfield, but expect to see him in more of a dynamic, left-sided role in the CPL. Big things are also expected from Cameroonian centreback Bertrand Owundi Eko’o, who was on the books at Minnesota United last year. He’s pulled on the famous green jersey of the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon, and he’ll be one of the internationals to watch in the CPL — as well as one of the international under the most scrutiny.
If you’ve saw Kyle Bekker win an NASL title with the San Francisco Deltas, or saw him in a USL All-Star campaign for NCFC in 2018, you’ll know he bears very little resemblance to the young Kyle Bekker who we might remember from Toronto FC and the Montreal Impact. He’s expected to be an MVP candidate in this league, and will be the engine who drives Forge. Then, add Tristan Borges to the mix; he’s represented Canada at the under-17 and the under-20 levels, and returns to this country after playing in the youth ranks at SC Heerenveen. Expectations are huge for this group, to not only create goals, but to provide many from the midfield as well.
The attack promises to be a three-headed monster of Chris Nanco, a former draft pick of the Philadelphia Union who played regularly for the MLS parent club’s USL affiliate, Bethlehem Steel. Anthony Novak, who we might remember as a goalscorer in last year’s Canadian Championship with Oakville and Emery Welshman, who came out of Toronto FC’s system and has experience in both NASL and USL. The thing is, no player in the lineup needs to be a 15-goal kinda guy; this is a team that can have different players beat you every weekend.