Final Score: York United FC 1-0 Atlético Ottawa Goalscorers: Santos 89' Game of the 2023 season: 108 CPL match: 475
Match in a minute or lessYork United have brand new life in the CPL playoff race, after they defeated Atlético Ottawa 1-0 at York Lions Stadium on Sunday afternoon in the latest twist in this roller coaster of a season. For almost 90 full minutes, the contest between these sides looked like it might be destined to end in a dreary 0-0 draw. That is, until Kevin Dos Santos took matters into his own hands in the 89th minute, receiving a pass into the box from Jérémy Gagnon-Laparé before nutmegging a defender, moving in on goal and finishing wonderfully to put the Nine Stripes in front. Seeing out the narrow victory, York -- who started the day in sixth, a point behind Ottawa -- moved up into the fifth and final playoff spot, meaning they'll head to Vancouver next weekend knowing that a win would put them in the playoffs.
Santos heroics catapult York into playoff spot after cagey gameYork United were moments from going winless in their four-game homestand at the end of the season, until Kevin Dos Santos had other ideas and -- not for the first time this year -- played the hero in the final few moments of the match. For about 88 minutes, Sunday's clash was not exactly the most thrilling game we've seen in this CPL campaign, but perhaps it was always likely to have that kind of cup final caginess. With so much on the line in this game, a tentative start might have been expected, but these two sides nullified one another for vast stretches of the match. The first half featured a combined 0.51 expected goals, total, between the two sides, with neither York nor Ottawa landing much of a real punch. At last, though, it seemed like the grim vibes around York United lifted in one instant. Santos' goal sent York Lions Stadium -- which has had little to cheer about in the past month -- into its most jubilant frenzy of the season so far, and by the reaction of the players and staff on the bench this goal was akin to a knockout match winner. The match might not have had a lot of attacking quality, but to York's credit they did very well to not give up much on the counter-attack -- which was clearly what Ottawa were looking for. Their centre-back duo of Noah Abatneh -- returning after two weeks' suspension -- and Tass Mourdoukoutas, who was dropped last week for a poor showing against Pacific, was outstanding, especially in transition. "We had a good start, and even with their transition moments we stuck at it, we believed in what we were doing and kept trying to overload them in wide areas," York coach Martin Nash said. "We got some good balls in, got some chances, but I thought we cleaned some things up in the second half, we were more in control in a lot of ways and we never opened up too much to give them that goal on the counter. Even though they had chances on the counter, we didn't open up too much and limited shots to a little bit of difference that gives Niko [Giantsopoulos] a chance." Certainly, York knew what was at stake for this game, and it might not have been the most perfect performance of the year, but they've managed to keep perspective of what the result meant to the club. "I'm not trying to worry about the playoffs, just trying to worry about the game in front of you," Nash added. "Correct me if I'm wrong, I think that's the first time York in five years has won 10 games in a season. It's another step forward for the club." Nash is right in that 10 wins is a new club record for the Nine Stripes. He'll hope the team can take one more step forward next week, and return to the playoffs after missing out in 2022.
Ingham sounds off after 'sickening' gut-punch loss for Atlético OttawaThe mood was grim in the Atlético Ottawa camp after the final whistle. Players slumped on the bench, and several took quite a while to return to the locker room, heads down. There's no sugar-coating the place Ottawa find themselves in. They're winless in seven games here in the most important part of the season, with five losses in their last six. Even worse, every single one of those five losses has happened thanks to a goal after the 85th minute. Now, Atleti do not control their own fate -- needing a favour from Vancouver next week -- and certainly feel they've let things slip away. Goalkeeper Nathan Ingham, who captained the club to begin this match, gave one of the most raw, biting evaluations of a team ever seen in a CPL postmatch press conference. "Tough's not quite the word for it," Ingham said. "I don't know the word for it. I've been playing over a decade, never felt like this. Sickening. It's not a roller coaster of emotions, it's one; feels like rock bottom." Asked what, if anything, Ottawa can do to shake off this feeling and re-centre themselves before they go to Hamilton next weekend, Ingham remained candid. "Grow up," he said. "First thing I said to the group in the locker room when I got in there, everybody's got their heads hanging. I feel like we've been feeling sorry for ourselves for a month, we have no time for it. I just told them to pray to whoever you believe in that Vancouver do us a favour and we prepare this week like that's what's going to happen, then we show up and take care of business. I don't think at this point we deserve another opportunity, but if we're given it I hope to God the locker room wakes up and we get it done, because it feels like a lot of guys are in the wrong profession right now. "We were a battle-tested team last year. We had a ton of domestic experience, I cannot understate how important that is. We were on the right side of all these results last year. We're watching guys learn it firsthand right now. And these lessons, if anyone's gone through hardships in their life or in their career, take a minute. They take time, they take reflection, you can't do it on the fly. We're witnessing what happens when you don't have an experienced locker room." Atlético Ottawa's setup on Sunday was quite typical of some of their stingiest away performances in the past two years. They were happy to allow York to control the ball, while they defended in a low 4-5-1 and forced the opponent to play around the perimeter. However, they did not do enough on the ball to truly threaten York, their only decent chance being Zach Verhoven's first-half shot alone on Niko Giantsopoulos -- which the York keeper parried beautifully. For Ottawa boss Carlos González, the feeling of a loss like this one has become all too familiar. "My emotions are normal of a result that we've had in the last few minutes again -- a game that for me has been quite equal, and has been solved in a detail of quality in the last minutes," he said. "We've had chances to score during the game, but we didn't have a capacity to put them inside the net, mainly in the first half." Tough times in the capital right now, but it's not over yet.
Dramatic twist sets up must-watch final weekend of regular seasonIn a spectacular turn, York United's win on Sunday means the playoff race is going to go right down to the wire in next weekend's final matches -- all four games having legitimate implications for seeding in the postseason. Most significantly, York will head to Langley to play a red-hot Vancouver FC side on Friday, with destiny in their own hands. If they win, they'll guarantee themselves fifth place, and a trip to play a knockout match on the following Wednesday night. If not? Well, they won't be dead, but they will have to wait until Saturday to see how Ottawa fare in their game at Forge FC. A draw for York would not be enough; a point for them and three for Ottawa would leave both sides on 36 points with 10 wins -- and Atleti's goal difference is currently 13 better than York's which means they'd very likely take that fifth spot. So, the prevailing message from Martin Nash and his staff is that the job is not yet done. Vancouver have been one of the most in-form sides in the CPL the past few weeks, "It's not going to be an easy game, they've been flying," Nash said of VFC. "They're a good team, like us last year when they hit the turn and made some additions they've been flying. It's not going to be an easy game, especially at their place, but all to play for." González, meanwhile, has no choice but to push his team to give absolutely everything in their visit to Hamilton. Forge will be playing for something as well -- if they win, they'll finish second and therefore give themselves a chance to host the CPL Final. It's unlikely they roll over in that game, especially at home. Frustratingly for Ottawa, there's a possibility they could be eliminated by the time they play on Saturday. If York win, it won't matter what they do in Hamilton. That's not going to be a pleasant feeling for them on Friday night. "What we have to think is that still we have one round," González said. "If York doesn't win their game, we still have it in our hands, again. Let's see how the week goes, what York does on [Friday], and from that we will build again. "I have to think strongly about it, because we've tried different views, different perspectives of working, doing different things to see if we had a reaction on that, but the reality is it's not working. I'll have to think with my staff in these 24 hours and set our minds again to play the last game that maybe we have our chance again." Every position in the table, except for Cavalry FC at the top, could change next weekend. Halifax Wanderers have guaranteed themselves no worse than fourth (and therefore a home game in the playoffs), but they could technically go as high as second if they win at Valour. Pacific, meanwhile, go to Cavalry desperate for a win of their own to reclaim second place. Do not miss any of the action, with all four games sure to deliver full theatrical value.
CanPL.ca Player of the MatchKevin Dos Santos, York United The match didn't have many standout performances to speak of until Santos entered in the 65th minute. The Portuguese winger changed the game after coming on, with two shots, three successful dribbles (from four attempts), a chance created and perhaps the biggest goal scored in York United's history.
What’s next?Both sides will wrap up their regular season campaigns on the road next weekend, beginning with York who travel west to take on Vancouver FC on Friday, Oct. 6 (7:30 p.m. PT/10:30 p.m. ET). Ottawa will be in Hamilton the following day to play Forge FC (4 p.m. ET). Watch all CPL 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.