Tristan Borges’ move to Belgian club OH Leuven may be a massive milestone for the Canadian Premier League, but over at Forge FC, the departure of the league’s top scoring MVP also leaves a significant hole in Bobby Smyrniotis’ starting XI.
Forge captain Kyle Bekker said as much, telling CanPL.ca: “If I’m a young kid coming back, whether it’s my first or second season, now you’ve got to be excited. You see that this door is wide open. But, for us as a team, as Forge FC, there’s now a void that needs to be filled.”
Indeed, there is, so with that in mind, here are a few options that Smyrniotis could be considering for the 2020 CPL season:
If you’re looking for a replacement in goal production, then Ben Fisk could be just the guy for Forge FC. The 26-year-old winger and attacking midfielder brings a level of versatility to the frontline, sure, but he also brings the ability to score goals and tally assists, something that not every option available can boast.
Fisk’s first season in the CPL may not have lived up to his high personal standards; he was used in rotation with Victor Blasco, Zach Verhoven, Jose Hernandez and Noah Verhoeven at times throughout the campaign. At Forge, he’d find himself similar competition for spots, sure, but with Bekker feeding him from midfield, Fisk could prove even more potent up top, as the Tridents lacked a killer No. 10 in the hole.
Pacific FC hasn’t locked down Fisk for the 2020 season, so if Forge comes knocking, might Fisk answer?
Like Fisk, Marco Bustos brings a strong attacking instinct to any front line, and is capable of racking up goals and assists in spades throughout a regular season. Unlike Fisk, Bustos would do so with an element of flair, fleet-footedness, and trickery more closely resembling Borges – perhaps moreso than any other player in the league.
As such, Bustos is the most like-for-like option on the board for Smyrniotis to consider. His quality is known in the league, of course, but is still hard to stop. If Bustos is looking top leave Valour FC, there’s nowhere greener than the home of the champions. While his future has been the topic of much debaterecently, his ability to succeed has never been a doubt.
He’d be the smartest choice for Smyrniotis … if Forge can even lock up his signature in the first place.
Jacob Shaffelburg or Jayden Nelson
It may be a bit bold, but bold is the domain that Bobby Smyrniotis likes to operate in, and a loan agreement between Forge and Toronto FC to bring in one of the Reds’ talented youngsters would certainly be a bold move for both outfits.
Generally speaking, there would be more than a few options for Forge to consider coming out of the TFC Academy ranks. Perhaps the Reds would be agreeable to a Ryan Telfer-esque loan, which could see winger Jacob Shaffelburg bring his head-turning debut season performances to the Canadian Premier League. At 20 years old, the Nova Scotian could certainly use consistent minutes as a starter in a competitive environment, though, if Greg Vanney is keen on him, perhaps he’d garner those minutes in MLS.
Looking further into other options unearths a player who many people aren’t quite talking about … yet. Jayden Nelson, recently called up to the Canadian national team, is just 17 years old, but there are whispers that the Toronto FC II man from Brampton is considered to be one of the top prospects ever produced through the TFC Academy. Third-tier USL League One action might be fine, but if he’s ready for the big time, perhaps a loan to Forge and a breakthrough season is more in line with his rising star.
Why even look elsewhere?
Here’s the other truth that Smyrniotis must confront: Forge FC already has plenty of capable players within its ranks, and could turn to one of them to fill in for Borges, whether it’s a combination of Chris Nanco, David Choiniere, Kadell Thomas … hell, even right-back Jonathan Grant could operate higher up the field.
Bekker agrees with this particular option, offering that Borges’ departure “presents an opportunity for younger kids to take the bull by the horns and take on that role, if they want it.”
Still, it’s hard to replace 13 goals and five assists, especially when considering that Forge’s front line was already reduced in ranks through the departure of Emery Welshman midway through the 2019 campaign. So, fresh faces will be required up top regardless of their role as starters or bench options.
Perhaps Sigma FC 2019 standout Leaford Allen is ready to step up in 2020 to supply some goals. The striker popped in 10 last season in L1O, after all. Or, perhaps young Jace Kotsopoulos, who joined Forge from the CPL-U SPORTS Draft, and returned to the University of Guelph, is ready to step into the first team again.
In any case, Smyrniotis has nothing but options everywhere he looks. Talk about a selection headache.