All season long, CanPL.ca reviewed key performers from each Canadian Premier League match, giving due credit to a trio of players who impressed over 90 minutes. Now, we offer this one last look at standout performers for Forge FC to bring a close to an exciting inaugural CPL campaign.
How do you rate a team of champions?
It’s the question that inevitably arises after a team pulls off the heroic and claims the glory, doubly so in a season steeped in history such as the Canadian Premier League’s inaugural campaign. Forge FC, “Forever First” as it were, has written its name in the Canadian soccer history books, after defeating Cavalry over two legs in Finals 2019.
But, how do you rate a team of champions? Do you look at the star players, and rank them as such? Or, do you turn your gaze to those key individuals who quietly do the dirty work behind the scenes, but make a difference over the long term?
In a team with so many top performers, distinguishing among them may not be quite as fair as one might hope; so, with that in mind, let’s not forget that a team of champions is born from the collective, not the individual – especially for Forge.
Now, all that being said, here are three Forge FC players who stood out over the course of the entire 2019 CPL season (team highs reflect only players who featured in at least half of their team’s matches):
3 Key Performers for 2019
1. Tristan Borges
Position: Right winger/attacking midfielder/left winger
Appearances (Starts): 27 (22)
Minutes played: 1,974
Goals: 13 (team, league high)
Assists: 5 (team, league high)
Shots on target: 37 (team, league high)
Min/Goal: 151.85 (team high, 3rd best in league)
Pass accuracy: 79.35%
The best player on Forge FC is also the best player from the 2019 Canadian Premier League season. Tristan Borges, 21, made Canada his stomping ground this season, dominating on multiple metrics, including goals and assists, the only metrics that count in soccer.*
Beyond the stat sheet, Borges’ contributions in big matches can’t be overstated. He scored the winning goal in Leg 1 of Finals 2019 against Cavalry, after all. But, more than that, he was an ever-present attacking force, buzzing about the Forge front line with the sort of tenacity and hunger you’d expect from a young player who knows he’s talented and has the confidence to do something with that talent.
Borges was the league’s vision come to life: An unknown quantity, toiling abroad, returning home and becoming a star. A spot in the Canadian men’s national team is seemingly inevitable for this young man on the rise, especially now that Alphonso Davies is a left-back again.*
What they said: “He’s a bloody good player. You want to keep him and Bekker from having the ball as much as possible and let the centre backs have it in their half. We just wanted to keep the ball away from him,” – Tommy Wheeldon Jr., Cavalry FC.
2. Daniel Krutzen
Position: Centre Back
Appearances (Starts): 28 (27)
Minutes played: 2,471 (team high)
Duel success: 58.76%
Possession won: 155
Pass accuracy: 84.96% (team best)
Clean sheets: 12 (team, league high)
Daniel Krutzen isn’t exactly a headline grabber. His is a quiet, effective sort of style, one that doesn’t garner plaudits nearly as regularly as he deserves. For, when looking at Krutzen’s body of work in 2019, one thing is clear; there are very few comparable defenders in the CPL, and fewer who deserve higher praise than the 23-year-old Belgian.
He’s a leader not because he blocked shots and spared his team’s blushes every single game, but because he was so regular in his performance that he was always in the lineup for each of his team’s successes, regardless. It all raises the question: Is there a finer defender in the CPL?
If there are, perhaps you’d find them at Forge; a hat-tip to Kwame Awuah and Dominic Samuel, both of whom were also stellar in 2019.
What they said: “He’s indicative of the types of players we have on the team that can play some different roles. He’s an important player and it’s always good when you can shift things around to make you better and also to counter what the opponent is bringing to you,” – Bobby Smyrniotis, Forge FC.
3. Kyle Bekker
Position: Attacking midfielder/No. 8
Appearances (Starts): 28 (27)
Minutes played: 2,444
Assists: 5 (team, league high)
Shots on target: 18/63
Passing accuracy: 81.81%
Possession won: 164 (team high)
Big chance created: 10 (team high, 3rd in league)
Kyle Bekker came to Forge FC looking to correct a story gone wrong.
Highly touted during his days leading up to being drafted by Toronto FC in 2013, Bekker’s future in the sport seemed solid; a Canadian with NCAA experience and a wealth of talent, plucked by his hometown club, slotted into the starting lineup right away – and speaking of which, he was called into the Canadian men’s national team before he ever played a professional minute of soccer.
From there, a move to FC Dallas, then the Montreal Impact saw Bekker’s role reduced until he brought his MLS journey to a close in 2016, signing for the San Francisco Deltas, then North Carolina FC. Bekker went from being one of Canada’s top attacking prospects, to the bottom of the midfield fringe at the national team.
Now? Bekker is back, better than ever, more mature and confident in his play, and more committed to his cause. One of Bekker’s biggest drawbacks at Toronto FC was his inability to track back and cover; for Forge, he recorded a team-leading 164 regained possessions, whether through tackles, blocks, interceptions, or recoveries. Want to talk full circle? Bekker’s here, now, and Herdman’s choice in the middle has just gotten a little tougher, too.
What they said: “Bekker has been important to everything we do from an attacking aspect. If he’s not on the assists he is the pass before the assist and I think we miss that and how he gets things moving forward for us and just opening up channels of the opponent … it’s very hard to read,” – Bobby Smyrniotis, Forge FC.