Final Score: York United 1-0 FC Edmonton Goalscorers: Isaiah Johnston 12' Game of the 2021 season: 32 CPL match: 167
Match in a minute or lessYork United scored early and held strong at the back as Isaiah Johnston's 12th minute volley held up for a 1-0 win over FC Edmonton. The Eddies looked set to steal points late for the third match running but Nathan Ingham denied all five shots he faced to preserve the clean sheet and all three points for his side. The win sees York leapfrog from last up to fifth as they finish up at The Kickoff with nine points while Edmonton sits one spot behind them on eight points.
Three ObservationsReturn of Zator gives teammates more attacking freedom The defensive boost of Dominick Zator returning to the lineup was always going to give York some welcomed stability at the back. Zator won four of the five aerial duels he was involved in and his 39 pass attempts led all Nine Stripes on Saturday. Perhaps equally as beneficial was the freedom the skipper's return granted players like Max Ferrari and Isaiah Johnston — that duo combining in style for the game's only goal. Ferrari has been asked to slot in at right back with Chrisnovic N'sa sliding inside with Zator and Roger Thompson out injured, while Johnston has often featured deeper in midfield than he did against Edmonton, even doing a job at centre back to see out the closing moments on a couple of occasions. While Brennan had plenty of kudos for how his players have adapted in foreign positions, he thought the personnel available against the Eddies gave them better balance than they've had in recent fixtures: "Putting N'sa back at right back where he's comfortable, push Max up, we had Dom as our natural centre back and our leader back there that controlled and dominated the game for us... we were defensively organized and they didn't break us down which is good." Struggling to keep the smile off his face post match, Johnston added the chance to get further up the field once again was a welcomed adjustment: "I feel like I'm at my best when I'm going forward... and gaffer always tells us to gamble, always get in the box and that's what I did, it felt good playing today." Eddies can't find late goal Playing their third match in seven days, Edmonton found themselves searching for a late goal for the third game running — snatching a point with an 86th Kyle Porter strike last Sunday against Ottawa and claiming all three with less than 10 minutes remaining on Wednesday against HFX Wanderers as Easton Ongaro got his goal in a 1-0 win. Chance creation was far from lacking as the Eddies chased the came, firing ten shots toward York's goal in the second half with four of them on target. It was that lack of end product that caught up to Edmonton's attacking core according to Koch: "I think the guys just got frustrated as the game moved along. Normally we haven't really seen our guys get frustrated but fatigue set in, the physical and it's a mental thing too. I think the last few minutes when we did create those chances, guys did start to get frustrated and you have to stay calm and cool and collected through those moments." It's their defensive stinginess that's given them the chance to stay in every game they've been a part of so far in 2021, but Edmonton has yet to score in the opening 45 minutes through eight matches played. If they can begin to get early goals on the board, they should continue to build on their promising start in the bubble upon their return to Clarke Field. York thrives through domestic youth talent It was a positive result first and foremost for York but the win for Brennan's group was a showcase once again for why the league was founded as all 11 starters for the Nine Stripes were Canadians. With an average age just north of 22 years old among their XI, the Nine Stripes have smashed their under 21 minutes for the season during their stay in Winnipeg and despite their youthful identity, they've shown many bright spots in their opening eight matches. It's their eagerness to improve that's seen this young group make progress in 2021 according to Brennan: "With the young guys, I love them, it's almost like it's your kids. Every day they come out and want to learn, they want to grow as players, you can see they're maturing and we've said 'yeah they're young boys but when they step on that field, you got to play like a man.' And they do, they've got that grit and that swagger about them which I love. Brennan hopes to get the most out of his players while he has them all here in York but admits part of his job is to prep this group for the inevitable next step that will come for much of this squad: "These guys got bright futures in this game, these are the guys we want playing at the highest moment, playing in our national team, playing World Cups. The world is your oyster for these guys and if we can help them out as much as we can, then we've done our job."
CanPL.ca Player of the MatchIsaiah Johnston, York United Scoring a dream worthy first ever CPL goal, Johnston enjoyed his opportunity to play in a more advanced role all night — on no moment more than his first time volleyed finish. Second on York in passes in the attacking half with 18, he nearly combined with Ferrari moments before his own goal when he slipped his right winger through with a cleverly disguised reverse pass.
What’s next?Having completed their time in the Winnipeg bubble, both teams will now return home to continue their CPL campaigns as York United will once again play in the ComeOn! Match of the Week, this time at York Lions Stadium against Forge FC on Friday, July 30 (7:00 pm ET), while FC Edmonton host Valour in their first away trip of the season at Clarke Field next Saturday night (9:00 pm ET/ 7:00 pm MT). All games can be seen live on OneSoccer.