Final Score: Forge FC 3-1 CD FAS Goalscorers: Borges (16'), Babouli (25'), Choinière (50'); Flores (21') 2021 Concacaf League -- Preliminary Round (Leg 1)
Match in a minute or lessForge FC came out on top in their first foray into the Concacaf League in 2021, dispatching Salvadoran club CD FAS 3-1 to take an early lead in their two-legged preliminary round tie. Tristan Borges opened the scoring with a superb long-range strike, and although FAS equalized five minutes after, Mo Babouli's 25th-minute goal ensured Forge took a lead into halftime. David Choinière added a third for Forge, who saw out the rest of the contest comfortably -- minus a 15-minute delay for a power outage.
Tristan Borges rises to occasion after frustrating start to seasonForge have been waiting for Tristan Borges to hit his stride all season. The 2019 CPL Player of the Year has had a frustrating start to 2021, with just one goal (from a penalty kick) to his name so far. Thursday night, though, was easily the best the 22-year-old has looked since his return to Forge from Belgian side OH Leuven. He was heavily involved in the two first-half goals -- scoring the first with an incredible strike and assisting the second by getting on Kwame Awuah's cutback quickly. In the second half, it was Borges who sat in space in the box for another superb Awuah cutback, and rather than shoot -- as he might've done were he trying to force things -- he found David Choinière Borges, along with his fellow attackers Mo Babouli and David Choinière, played quite freely in the front three, drifting in from the left with ease. He was eager to take on defenders and run in behind, both of which are hallmarks of Borges at his best. Though Babouli and Awuah were probably still the greatest driving forces of the attack for Forge, Borges looked a lot like the Borges we all met in the 2019 CPL season. "Tristan showed up big today," said acting Forge coach Kyriakos Selaidopoulos. "I said yesterday, with Kyle Bekker being out that other guys had to step up and be big, and Borges was big today for us, and that's what we expect from him."
Forge dines on wide balls over top of FAS defenceThe Canadian side managed to cause real problems for their Salvadoran foes with a few key moments of direct play, putting balls over the top into space behind the FAS fullbacks for Forge's own wide players to run onto. Kwame Awuah, in particular, was exceptionally dangerous in those situations; playing on the same left flank as Borges, he ran the overlapping route almost every time Forge were in possession, as midfielders Elimane Cissé and Alexander Achinioti-Jonsson typically looked to find him either with long-incisive passes or weighted long balls that fell just behind the FAS backline. For 90 minutes, FAS had no answer to Awuah and Jonathan Grant on opposite flanks; with the Salvadorans' fullbacks focusing their attention on Forge's wingers, they were often caught flat footed by Awuah or Grant running past them -- which then left said wingers in space when the defenders turned to chase. "It was intense from the first minute, there was a couple chances going both ways," noted Awuah postmatch. "I think we both needed to settle into the game, once our team settled into the game we got the first goal. We started to show more of what we needed to do on the ball, more composure on the ball, and that's just how it goes in this competition, always first game jitters. As the game went on we started to settle down a little bit more, defended well and created opportunities to get three goals."
Familiar Concacaf physicality takes its tollForge will probably make good use of the ice machines in their hotel tonight. The intensity of a game in this competition is nothing new to Forge, who have had to contend with the very different tempo of Concacaf League matches in three consecutive years now. This was, as it so often is in this region, a physical affair in humid conditions. FAS committed 17 fouls to Forge's nine, but it seemed every 50-50 battle in this game resulted in some kind of heavy contact -- from both sides, it must be noted, as Forge seem to have picked up a few lessons from previous encounters in the Concacaf League. Still, it looked like the Hammers picked up at least a few knocks from the game to an already-battered side, with Mo Babouli leaving with injury and Tristan Borges seemingly favouring his heel when he was substituted. "It's always nice coming to play down here in these competitions," Kwame Awuah mused after the game. "You feel the intensity. You knew from the start that things were gonna go against us, and that's what made our team stick together even more. Three years in this competition, it's always a fun match to play, and we're becoming more comfortable with our surroundings." Forge definitely have eyes on an extended run in the Concacaf League this year, and becoming more comfortable with the oddities of playing in this region could be a major factor in their success.
CanPL.ca Player of the MatchKwame Awuah, Forge FC Forge's second and third goals don't happen without Awuah, who was incredible running down long balls into space on the left flank and taking on defenders with good footwork. Wearing the captain's armband in Kyle Bekker's absence, Awuah was a real driver of Forge's build-up play.
What’s next?Forge will remain in San Salvador this weekend, as they look ahead to the second leg of this preliminary tie against CD FAS -- which goes down Tuesday, August 17 at 10:15 pm ET, still in Estadio Cuscatlán. Watch all matches live on OneSoccer.