Forge FC – Match Report vs. Cruz Azul (25/02/2022)

Match Summary:

Cruz Azul cruised to a relatively comfortable 3-1 victory over Forge FC in the second leg of their CONCACAF Champions League tie. Forge spent the majority of the game defending. Cruz Azul controlled the possession throughout the game and was a lot more dangerous in the final third. Forge played in a 4-5-1 and showed a certain degree of pluckiness but ultimately they were well outclassed by their opponents. 

Ratings:

  • A1 – Very good, could play higher
  • A2 – Strong potential to play higher
  • B1 – Good, strong player at level
  • B2 – Potential to be strong player at level
  • C – Average for the level, re-watch
  • D – Below average in this match

Garven-Michée Metusala

  • Nationality: Canadian 
  • Age: 22
  • Date of Birth: December 31st, 1999
  • Current Club: Forge FC
  • Career: Montreal Impact Academy, Dawson Blues, Concordia Stingers, Etoiles de L’est, CS St-Hubert, CS Fabrose, A.S Blainville, Forge FC
  • Position: Centre Back
  • Preferred Foot: Right

Metusala was under constant bombardment the whole game so observers were able to see the full complement of his strengths and weaknesses. Overall I think he showed a lot of things that suggest he could eventually step up to a higher level. He looked very confident with the ball at his feet. He looked smooth when dribbling and was able to step around pressing opponents or use his strength to shrug off their challenges.

His passing mostly looked good but there was one instance where he hit a driven pass directly into a Cruz Azul player, triggering a break that was ultimately squandered. Since he was under near-constant pressure he had lots of chances to show what he was capable of defensively. Mostly he did well, winning most of his headers and generally being well-positioned to interrupt opposing attacks. However, two weaknesses were frequently exposed.

Firstly he was very hesitant to step forward from the defensive line to make defensive plays. When the ball was coming to him he did well but he was reticent to try and intervene a little higher up the pitch. The couple of times he did step forward he did well so perhaps this was down to the nerves of playing at the Azteca, definitely something to watch in the future.

The other situation was he struggled to react to looping balls that went over his head. Cruz Azul’s first goal was a result of this as were a few dangerous chances. He didn’t look the most comfortable in situations where he had to turn quickly. This was no doubt exacerbated by an injury he picked up in the first half (he ultimately had to be substituted) but the problem was evident before that happened as well. Because Forge was sitting in a block most of the game, he was not isolated against attackers very often. But when he was, he generally looked good. He did well on a couple of occasions to jockey against an attacker, keeping them wide and forcing a less dangerous shot. 

Rating: A2

Metusala had some of his weaknesses exposed in this game. But he also showed a lot of definite strengths against a high-level opponent in a notoriously difficult stadium for visiting teams to play in. For me, that is enough to say he has the potential to go to a higher level than CPL. 

Tristan Borges

Player profile:

  • Nationality: Canadian 
  • Age: 23
  • Date of Birth: August 26th, 1998 
  • Current Club: Forge FC (on loan from OH Leuven) 
  • Career: Toronto FC III, SC Heerenveen, Sigma FC, Forge FC, OH Leuven 
  • Position: Right Wing
  • Secondary Positions: Left Wing, Attacking Midfield
  • Preferred Foot: Right

Tristan Borges started on the left wing before eventually being moved to the right and eventually subbed off after 60 minutes. He showed some flashes of his technical ability but ultimately wasn’t able to have a great impact on the game.

He showed a really strong first touch, regularly corralling difficult passes and quickly bringing them under his control. He also showed good balance with the ball at his feet and the ability to turn in tight spaces. But doing anything beyond that proved to be a bit difficult. Borges just wasn’t able to beat defenders with his passing or his dribbling. He attempted a lot of fancy flicks and backheels but these plays did not lead to anything. More often than not he was trying to beat 2 or 3 defenders on his own, which is not easy for anyone, but he did not rise to the occasion. More often than not he was forced to turn back or he attempted some audacious bit of skill that didn’t work out.

Borges is not slow by any means but I would not say he is blisteringly quick either. Since almost all of Forge’s attacks were from counterattacks, Borges just was not quite able to take advantage against a high-level opponent. He did have one good moment when he put in a teasing cross that wasn’t fully cleared and lead to Forge’s only goal of the night. Borges has consistently racked up assists for Forge at the CPL and CONCACAF League (North American version of the Europa League) level. So he does have the ability to deliver a dangerous ball and make plays but against Liga MX opposition he just couldn’t get anything going consistently.

Borges showed a strong work rate, frequently tracking back to help fullbacks against Cruz Azul attacks. Of course, most of the game was Cruz Azul Attacks so he didn’t have much choice. 

Rating B1:

Borges was able to show some technical skill, and he is well established as a strong player at the CPL level at this point. But against a Liga MX level opponent he was not a consistent threat. He has already had a couple of unsuccessful periods in Europe most recently with OH Leuven in the Belgian first tier. So it’s hard to see that much upward trajectory for his career at this point. He could probably be a backup at MLS level but I don’t really see him being much more than that. Perhaps a move to a level somewhere between CPL and MLS could make sense (quite a lot of Canadians have moved to Norway recently, for example) but it’s hard to see him climbing much higher than that. 

Alessandro Hojabrpour

Player Profile:

  • Nationality: Canadian 
  • Age: 22
  • Date of Birth: January 10th, 2000
  • Current Club: Forge FC
  • Career: Vancouver Whitecaps Academy, Lokomotiv Plovdiv, Pacific FC, Forge FC 
  • Position: Centre Midfield
  • Preferred Foot: Right

Hojabrpour left 2021 CPL champions Pacific FC to join Forge, the side Pacific beat, causing a huge stir in the CPL community. Forge will be hoping that such a big signing (relatively speaking) will have a big impact for them. But in this game, Hojabrpour was a non-entity. He was not able to consistently win the ball or progress it on the rare occasions he did find it at his feet.

Forge mostly sat in a low block with Hojabrpour as one of the slightly more advanced central midfielders. He did an ok job of holding his position and forcing Cruz Azul to turn back and start their build-up again. Certainly, they seemed to have a moderately easier time advancing the ball down the other side of the pitch. But there were very few times when he won the ball back or did much to delay a Cruz Azul attack.

In particular, he was very slow to close down Rafael Baca on Cruz Azul’s second goal. The consensus on Hojabrpour has always been that he is good at winning the ball back but his game is a bit one-dimensional. So if he’s not able to consistently win the ball back then you’re not getting a lot out of him. He did not have the ball very much so it was difficult to perform a full analysis of his abilities but he had both good and bad moments in about equal share. He had a few moments where he did well to retain possession under pressure and a couple of nice outlet passes. But there were also times that he was overly conservative or lacking in ideas. His more advanced position meant that he had the ball in the attacking 3rd a few times and he never had much to offer other than a sideways pass or aimlessly lofting the ball into the box. 

Rating B2:

This was a difficult match against a high level of opposition and Hojabrpour is still young. I am certainly not going to write him off based on this performance. But his play was not that good in this one. To take a step up he’s going to have to improve his ability to interrupt opposition attacks, especially against higher-level opposition, and will have to elevate his ability to progress the ball to at least an average level. Fortunately, having just turned 22, he still has a fair amount of time to do those things. 

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