Final Score: Forge FC 1-2 York United Goalscorers: Campbell 76'; Hojabrpour 53' (O.G.), Soumaoro 90+3' Game of the 2023 season: 29 CPL match: 396
Match in a minute or lessYork United moved into second place in the CPL table on Wednesday night after a scintillating 905 Derby, beating Forge FC 2-1 at Tim Hortons Field. The Nine Stripes nearly took the lead with a first-half penalty but Mo Babouli was denied by his former teammate Triston Henry. The second half, however, saw York take the lead for real thanks to an own goal that skipped off Alessandro Hojabrpour. The hosts equalized not long after with a well-taken Terran Campbell header, but the last laugh would be York's. Deep into stoppage time, midfielder Brem Soumaoro took down the ball almost 40 yards out and feathered an absolutely perfect shot under the crossbar to win it for the visitors.
York brimming with confidence, climbing table after third win on the bounceDon't look now, but York United are second in the CPL at the end of May. They entered Tim Hortons Field feeling good, having won consecutive games over Halifax Wanderers and Cavalry FC. They left it, though, absolutely buzzing. The Nine Stripes walked into the home of the champions and took all the spoils, having now won three in a row to shoot themselves into second place past Pacific FC on total wins (four). Earlier in the same month, York were beaten 4-1 by Pacific on Vancouver Island. The ensuing week, though, seems to have been a turning point; they flew directly across the country to Halifax, where they stayed together before beating the Wanderers 3-0 the next weekend. "Our collective energy's been better, our compete level has risen," York coach Martin Nash said postmatch of his side since early May. "There's a number of reasons for it, we were close early in the year and we had a low point as a team at Pacific away. We did some soul searching with who we are, where we're going and what we want to be, and we turned it around quite quick in that week in Halifax. The guys have been phenomenal, and I believe this is the first time York's won three games in a row as a club." This was by no means a dominant win from York, of course; Forge had the advantage in shots, duels, possession and expected goals. What matters, though, is that York hung around long enough for a moment of absolute magic to give them the win. A point in Hamilton, on a short turnaround from Sunday's exhausting clash with Cavalry, would probably have been enough for Martin Nash to leave this game content. Often, though, great seasons are built on moments like Wednesday's, where a loss turns into a draw or a draw turns into a win. There's a long road yet for York to travel in this season, but now that they seem to be getting healthier, with Babouli in particular back in the starting XI, they're a team to keep an eye on in the CPL. If they can get the likes of Jérémy Gagnon-Laparé, Matthew Baldisimo, Tass Mourdoukoutas, and a handful of others up to full match fitness, newfound depth may also help carry them to further heights.
York play direct, wide attacks, but magic out of the blue makes the differenceYork United gaffer Martin Nash set his team up well for this match, having played Forge five times before Wednesday night and thus being a little more familiar with the particular nuances of playing the champions. With Mo Babouli coming back into the lineup after injury, York anticipated that he might not have much room to maneuver in the number 10 spot -- and indeed, when the ball did come to him in the middle, he typically had two Forge players tight on him immediately. So, York knew they needed to be quick and decisive with their attacks, and they therefore made a lot of mid- to long-range forward passes to try and split lines and bypass layers of Forge's press. Babouli himself sprayed several well-taken flicked passes out to the wings on the counter-attack, typically doing well to spin out of pressure when the ball did come to him in a midfield pocket. More often, though, the transition triggers would come from further back. Paris Gee, playing centre-back as he has the past few games, distributed the ball extremely well with a few perfectly-taken long diagonals to the attack, and right-back Jonathan Grant was busy with shorter interchanges and runs up the flank to get the ball forward. York spent over 75 per cent of their time on the ball in the outer thirds of the pitch, which led to 12 crosses. In general York executed their gameplan well -- the only real mistake being the Campbell goal where the striker was allowed to get goalside, as well as perhaps a few dangerous fouls near the box. They did get some help from Forge's poor finishing (more on that later) but they put themselves in a good enough position. The team-wide commitment to defending was really why York were in a position to win the game at that late stage. They were well-organized and individual players won timely battles to avoid falling behind. Paris Gee, in particular, deserves credit for his six clearances, while Lassana Faye and second-half substitute Max Ferrari each won seven duels. Oussama Alou, pushed further back in midfield with Mo Babouli in the lineup again, won possession 12 times to help cut off Forge momentum. In the end though? Soumaoro's stunner from almost the 40-yard mark was the moment that made the true difference. "After we gave away the equalizer we were coming back at them, and we showed heart to get back in the game," Nash told reporters postmatch. "As soon as [Soumaoro] hit that, I knew it was going in. It was just one of those strikes that was just pure and clean." He went on to joke: "It's the one I've been showing him in training the last couple weeks, so he was able to mimic some of my shooting."
Forge pay costly price for failing to capitalize on chancesForge were left stunned after this game, leaving without a point. They had 17 shots and 2.06 expected goals, which more often than not is more than enough to win a football match. Glaringly, though, they put just three of their 17 shots on target. That's an abysmal record that, ultimately, may go down as the biggest reason they're leaving empty-handed. Forge will be particularly ruing a few wasted set-piece chances; they had 11 corners and a handful of very dangerous free kicks around the perimeter of the penalty area. Bobby Smyrniotis, not displeased with his side's effort but of course frustrated with the result, painted quite a simple picture postmatch. "Most importantly, what we've seen out there is you have to put the ball in the net," he said. "We had a lot of high-quality chances today, not only in the eye test but now looking back at the statistics after the game. We've done everything and more to score more goals, and when you don't do that in a game like this you always give an opportunity to an opponent. "Today it's unfortunate, but we've lost on an own goal and a wonder-strike. That happening in injury time, it's football. Last week we got three points in Ottawa scoring in the 91st minute." Composure in those final moments to put the ball in the net has at times been an issue for Forge this year, particularly in their last two home games (this and their 0-0 draw with Vancouver FC), in which they've scored once from 35 shots. This side has no shortage of attacking talent, and of course they're likely to find their scoring form sooner rather than later, but the message in training for the next few days will surely be that they cannot afford to be wasteful.
CanPL.ca Player of the MatchBrem Soumaoro, York United You score a stoppage-time winner like that, your name is nailed on here. Soumaoro, though, had already had an excellent game for York, with two tackles won and two interceptions -- plus a goal-saving block in the first half.
What’s next?Both these teams strike out on the road this weekend, starting with Forge heading to Calgary to play Cavalry FC on Saturday, June 3 (2 p.m. MT/4 p.m. ET). York will follow them up the next day on Sunday when they're in Winnipeg to play Valour FC (2 p.m. CT/3 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.