Final Score: York United 0-1 Forge FC Goalscorers: Babouli (4') Game of the 2021 season: 33 CPL match: 168
Match in a minute or lessForge FC spoiled York United's homecoming party on Friday, as their fourth-minute goal courtesy of Mo Babouli was ultimately all they needed to see out a 1-0 win at York Lions Stadium. The Nine Stripes, trailing early, ultimately found themselves in a very difficult situation with stalwart centre-back Dominick Zator getting sent off not long before halftime. Despite the disadvantage, York played well in the second half in front of a raucous home crowd, but they never quite managed to put one past Triston Henry to find the equalizer they'd sought desperately.
Three ObservationsReturn of fans sparks energy, nerves for both sides York United welcomed a strong crowd to York Lions Stadium for the first time since the 2019 season, and the match had a discernibly different feel because of it. In fact, York boss Jimmy Brennan offered postmatch that he thought his side might've suffered from some nerves in the early going -- with many of his young players taking the pitch in front of fans (including their friends and families) for the first time in their careers, they took a while to settle into the match. Perhaps as a result, they ended up down 1-0 quite early. "It was funny because at the beginning of the game in the dressing room, I told the players to play with controlled emotions, not to let the occasion get the better of them," Brennan said postmatch. "I think for the first 15, 20 minutes of the game the occasion got the better of us. We made the simple things look very difficult. We were playing passes when we should've played everything straight, little five-yard passes that we didn't have to play." That said, it was a very special moment for the club, who hadn't yet played in front of their supporters since rebranding to York United. Most of the local-born players had strong cheering sections (Isaiah Johnston in particular had a lot of his friends and family in attendance), and ultimately all but the result was positive for York, frankly. Also, credit must be given to the legion of Barton Street Battalion fans who made the trip from Hamilton for this contest. Their contingent, huddled in the northwest corner of the grandstand, was loud all evening at the first match they've been able to attend since their two championships. Mo Babouli suggested postmatch that it hadn't felt that much like an away game, given how loud his side's fans had been. "I don't care if we're playing here or in El Salvador with 40,000 fans, I love spectators, I love fans there," added Forge coach Bobby Smyrniotis. "Whether they're with us or without us, that's the heartbeat of football. It's the energy of the sport and it brings more to the game." York grows into game despite deficit, red card A lot went wrong for York in the first half of this game -- obviously the early goal, as well as the controversial red card to Zator (which Brennan wasn't so sure about). Still, credit must be given to them for how they attempted to get back into the game against a strong Forge side. At halftime, Brennan added Michael Petrasso (who's still nearing match fitness) to the mix, moving into a 4-3-2 formation as Chrisnovic N'sa slotted into centre-back and Max Ferrari dropped to fullback. York had some excellent chances with that structure, trying to work the ball through wide channels particularly with Diyaeddine Abzi, with Petrasso drifting around the attacking third as well. "Second half, I can't fault the team's effort," Brennan said. "We ended up putting two up top, went with a 4-3-2 so that we could really push forward, we didn't want to bunker in, thought we'd have a chance here to really get forward. Mikey (Petrasso) came on, he did well, and the guys adapted in situations and unfortunately we couldn't get one in the end." The possession in this game was about even, and Forge outshot York by three, but the Nine Stripes may have felt they could've had at least a point from that game; Forge weren't particularly happy with how the second half played out, although ultimately they got the job done and secured the three points they'd come for. Battered Forge gets the job done with young talent Forge entered the match with just four outfield players on the bench -- one of whom, Sebastian Castello, officially signed for the club earlier Friday morning. All four did come into the game as substitutes, but Forge certainly didn't quite have the depth on offer in this game that they've had in the past due to how many injuries the club is dealing with right now. The 17-year-old Castello and the 18-year-old Santiago Frias were both called into action for about the final 10 minutes of the match, with many of Forge's starters beginning to tire, and they certainly did have to contribute to the victory with York pressing desperately for an equalizer in those final stages. With both teams beginning to run out of steam by that point, the fresh legs were much welcomed by Forge. Smyrniotis revealed postmatch that his side typically will have a group of young players training with the first team whenever possible, so that they can learn the club's systems and potentially be called upon if necessary. That strategy paid off on Friday. "It's part of our long-term strategy on the youth side, making sure we bring players through the system," said Smyrniotis. "I was very happy for them to get in there, do a job. Seba Castello, who came in, had a couple of excellent balls and moving forward, and Santi (Frias) is a very solid player in the defensive end and what he's able to do. I think it's important that guys are prepared that way, and in the situation we're in right now with nine players out of the lineup, we're able to bring these guys in and they're able to play a role."
CanPL.ca Player of the MatchMax Ferrari, York United It's not often these particular laurels go to a player from the losing side, but Ferrari -- as well as several other York players -- deserves credit. Brennan said postmatch that it's like the 20-year-old has a "third lung," the way he's able to keep his workrate up for 90 minutes; Ferrari played well in his first-half role as a winger, and perhaps even better in the second half when he was forced to right-back.
What’s next?Next up for both teams is a rematch of this same fixture -- albeit in a different venue. York will travel on Wednesday to Hamilton, to take on Forge at Tim Hortons Field (7 pm ET). All games can be seen live on OneSoccer.