Final Score: Cavalry FC 0-1 York United Goalscorers: De Rosario 29' Game of the 2022 season: 59 CPL match: 309
Match in a minute or lessYork United's winless run finally came to an end on Tuesday night, as they defeated first-place Cavalry FC 1-0 at ATCO Field for their first victory away from home in 2022. Osaze De Rosario put the Nine Stripes on the board midway through the first half, finishing expertly after Luis Lawrie-Lattanzio set him up with a clever cross. After that, Cavalry threw all they had at York, who went down to 10 men early in the second half when Jordan Wilson picked up a second yellow card. However, the Nine Stripes' defence weathered the storm and held firm, preserving their first clean sheet since June 18 and putting the first blemish on Cavalry's hitherto-perfect home record to begin the season.
Gutsy defensive effort from 10-man York snaps winless skidOnly four times in Cavalry FC's history have they failed to score at home in a CPL regular season match -- the most recent being a 0-0 draw with HFX Wanderers on October 17, 2021. The last (and only other) time they lost at Spruce Meadows while being shut out was on June 22, 2019, when Forge FC defeated them 1-0 for the first loss in club history. That's just a little perspective on how rare it is for a visiting team to hold a clean sheet at ATCO Field, even when said team is in good form. That's not something that could be said of York heading into this game; they hadn't yet won on the road this season, and they'd scored just one goal away from York Lions Stadium (their first away game of the year, a 1-1 draw at FC Edmonton). After scoring early in this game, it was always going to be an enormous challenge to prevent Cavalry from getting back into it, and things got even more difficult in the final 40 minutes for York when they went down to 10 men thanks to Jordan Wilson's controversial second yellow card. Not only were York then defending with one fewer player than their opponents; they were doing so without their primary defensive midfielder in Wilson, whose responsibility was to help break up Cavalry's transitional attacks and defend set-pieces with his physicality. To that end, head coach Martin Nash immediately brought Cédric Toussaint into the match in place of the more attack-minded midfielder Mateo Hernández to try and shore up that part of their game, though he sacrificed some of Hernández's creativity in midfield -- making it even more important that York hold Cavalry off the scoresheet, with a second goal becoming more unlikely. Through 90 minutes, but especially after going down a man, York's defensive effort had to be very strong in order to stifle a high-powered Cavalry attack that had scored more than any other CPL side heading into Tuesday's games (though Forge's 5-1 win over Edmonton put them ahead). The Nine Stripes spent the vast majority of the game without the ball (more than 70% of it, in fact), but somehow they didn't seem fazed by absorbing pressure. As a team, they made 12 interceptions and 21 clearances, as goalkeeper Niko Giantsopoulos made five saves on top of a number of well-claimed crosses. Playing with a defensive back three of Tass Mourdoukoutas, Roger Thompson, and Dominick Zator, with wingbacks Luis Lawrie-Lattanzio on the left and Chrisnovic N'sa on the right, York had a strong cast of players who could keep up with Cavalry's athleticism and physicality. Cavalry boss Tommy Wheeldon Jr. suggested postmatch that his side had made the York 'keeper look good with their finishing (more on that later), but nonetheless the Nine Stripes weathered an intense storm to secure a massive, morale-boosting win. Nash spoke glowingly after the game of his side's defensive performance, knowing how tough it can be to hold a clean sheet at Spruce Meadows having spent three years on the opposite bench as a Cavalry assistant coach. "I'm immensely proud," Nash said. "There's a few times lately where I thought we kind of had a let-up when something didn't go our way in a match, and today there was no let-up. Guys dug in and fought out the result, and we couldn't be more proud. We've got to go out and fight for every result this season like we did tonight." York will be thrilled to head home with a result that can inject some much-needed positivity into a frustrated group, and Nash will be happy to see his side look so difficult to break down once again. The tough defence was a staple of this team early in the season but they'd conceded 12 in their previous four matches. A clean sheet and three points on the road will be a massive confidence boost to a squad that needed one.
York shut down Cavalry set-piece opportunitiesOne of the most potent weapons in Cavalry's arsenal so far this season has been their ability to execute a wide variety of dangerous set play routines from corners and free-kicks -- to the point that it's become a major focus for opposing teams to try and limit how many such opportunities they give up, even if that means less aggressive tackling. In this match, York probably gave up more set-pieces than they would have liked, committing far more fouls and conceding a litany of corners by virtue of their last-ditch defending. The difference, though, was that the Nine Stripes did not seem particularly fazed by the dead-ball battles. In the first half, the Cavs had five corners -- none of which they converted into a shot on target -- and a handful of free-kicks from areas where they've pulled off imaginative routines to score in games past. In the second frame, they had even more opportunities, finishing with 13 corners overall on the night, failing to really turn any of them into dangerous chances. York centre-backs Dominick Zator and Roger Thompson both did very well with their man-marking in the box, not allowing Cavalry attackers the space they were looking for with their darting runs. With a lot of Cavalry's corner-kick deliveries coming in toward the near post, York's height advantage at the back allowed them more often than not to head the ball away at the first defender. One of the key focuses for York boss Martin Nash heading into this game was on defending the second phases of set-pieces. In recent defeats, he'd felt that his side had done a reasonably good job preventing the first attempt, but they hadn't cleared the ball well enough and had conceded a handful of times from the recycled attempts that result from such broken plays (such as Alejandro Díaz's second goal last Friday for Pacific). This time, it was clear that York's defenders had a directive to get the ball to safety as quickly as possible and ensure they had a firm understanding of where opposition players were in the box to avoid anybody sneaking into space before the defence was set. The map below, though not entirely indicative of how York defended set-pieces, shows how much trouble Cavalry had finding their own players in the box with dead-ball crosses, with Ali Musse (number 13) more often forced to play it up high from his side. When the opponent has so much possession in the attacking half, a defending team will naturally give up a lot of corner kicks -- especially one like York, whose 64.5% team-wide pass accuracy for the whole game suggests a preference for clearing the ball out of harm's way as quickly as possible. That can be extremely dangerous against a side like Cavalry, but to York's credit they were well-prepared for the threat and held on as very few other CPL sides have been able to do this year.
Breakthrough eludes Cavs despite possession dominanceOn paper, this looks a lot like a game Cavalry should have won. The home side had 72.8% possession, 88 entries into the final third, 33 touches in the penalty area, and 18 shots. Typically, those numbers should add up to at least a goal or two, particularly with more than 40 minutes played against a side with 10 men. Tuesday just didn't seem to be Cavalry's night, though. Cavalry's players and coaches said as much postmatch, unable to point to why exactly the finishing was off in this game when it had been fairly clinical over the course of their 11-game unbeaten run. "It's just some of the little things," defender David Norman Jr. offered on where it went wrong for his side. "Frustrating moments going forward, finishing our chances in their box, and then being defensively sound and clinical in our own box and we didn't do that tonight." Head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. echoed the sentiments of his centre-back, suggesting he felt his team had done more than enough to win this game but the ball just refused to go in for them. "We had enough chances to win three games, but I think if we were still out there tonight I don't think we'd have scored. It's just one of those funny games, right? They get the first goal and it just gives them a good reason. Credit to York, Martin [Nash] just made them tough to beat, and it was our responsibility to take that challenge tonight. I can't be too hard on the lads because we've had 11 games unbeaten and last time York beat us we went on a good run, so if there's another one there we'll take it." Cavalry definitely had a few chances they'll want back. Jean-Aniel Assi could've been more decisive with one of his chances late in the second half -- a rare moment where the Cavs got fully behind York's backline -- and Ali Musse had five shots, a couple of which really did trouble Niko Giantsopoulos, but to no avail. Ultimately, this is not a match Wheeldon and his staff will dwell on for long. They'll be annoyed to surrender their perfect home record, but they nonetheless remain top of the table, and their key takeaway will be that they were still the dominant team in this game. There's not much to be concerned about -- and even if there was, there's little time, as the Cavs head out to Vancouver Island for a massive clash with Pacific FC this Friday night.
CanPL.ca Player of the MatchTass Mourdoukoutas, York United Playing a difficult role on the left of a back three, the Australian defender did a very good job despite Cavalry sending most of their attacks down his side. Mourdoukoutas had a team-high six clearances as well as three interceptions and three recoveries, winning three of his four duels.
What’s next?Cavalry head out on the road now, as they visit Pacific FC this Friday, July 22 (7:00 p.m. ET/10:00 p.m. PT). York will return home, getting set to host Atlético Ottawa at York Lions Stadium on Sunday, July 25 (2:00 p.m. ET). Watch all matches live on OneSoccer. In addition to its website and app, OneSoccer is now available on TELUS channel 980 and on Fubo TV. Call your local cable provider to ask for OneSoccer today.