Final Score: York United 1-2 Forge FC Goalscorers: Abzi 29'; Pacius 51', Choiniere 81' Game of the 2021 season: 105 CPL match: 241

Match in a minute or less

Forge FC climbed into first place in the CPL on Saturday afternoon at York Lions Stadium, as they fought back from a goal down to triumph over York United by a 2-1 scoreline. The Nine Stripes got on the board near the half-hour mark, as Diyaeddine Abzi surged into the box and scored with an excellent finish, but it was Forge who had more joy in attack from then on; Woobens Pacius scored the equalizer just a few minutes after halftime, and David Choiniere -- having come off the bench not long before -- buried the winner in the 81st minute to give the visitors all three points.

Three Observations

York United forced to wait for playoff spot​

Had York won outright on Saturday, they would have clinched fourth place and a playoff spot with a game to spare. For a while, it looked like they were going to -- and they looked the livelier team for much of the second half as well, after Forge equalized. Still, despite all their chances, they were unable to put one in the net. The Nine Stripes still control their own fate, but they will now have to wait until Tuesday night's rematch with Forge to try and book their ticket to the postseason. With the defeat on Saturday, York remain on 36 points -- still ahead of Valour and HFX Wanderers (before either club's matches this weekend) -- but not quite as sure of their fate as they could have been. York certainly played with the urgency of a team trying to extend its season, but for whatever reason they couldn't find the goal they needed (despite outshooting Forge 14-8) and came undone at the back when Forge came at them quickly in transition. Of course, if York win on Tuesday night all will be forgiven, since they'd still secure their spot, but they've made things quite a bit more nervy by squandering a lead in the second half. "We just need a little bit more quality," coach Jimmy Brennan said of how his side can improve heading into Tuesday's rematch. "We had a couple chances, I'm sure Julian (Ulbricht) would love to have that header back, and one where Lowell (Wright) put one just across the six-yard box and just missed it. It's just finishing those opportunities we created. It's almost like we're a couple inches away from connecting."

Forge experiment with options in midfield​

Bobby Smyrniotis pulled a few tactical curveballs out of his bag on Saturday, starting the match with usual centre-back stalwart Daniel Krutzen playing as a holding midfielder just in front of the defenders -- probably due in part to the absence of Alexander Achinioti-Jonsson, who typically occupies that spot. Krutzen did some important work centrally to break up York's transition, but Forge weren't quite able to get him on the ball as much as they normally do when playing out of the back. About five minutes before halftime, Smyrniotis opted to switch things up, ordering Krutzen back into his usual defensive position and pushing left-back Kwame Awuah into midfield -- a spot he hasn't occupied much recently, though he played significant minutes there in 2019. Forge kept that changed formation in the second half, Awuah being tasked with spraying diagonal balls to wingers -- and doing so very well. Awuah was also heavily involved in Forge's equalizer, making a good run into the box to evade his marker and then flicking the ball onward to Woobens Pacius with a very clever header. Postmatch, Awuah explained that there wasn't a specific directive from the Forge coaching staff when they made the switch, but he suggested it helped him cover more ground, and perhaps take some of the burden off of Kyle Bekker's shoulders in the middle. "I wasn't instructed to do anything in particular," he said. "I think, personally, it's to cover ground; the York midfield likes to run a lot. Just me getting in there with a little more energy, and cover more ground for Kyle Bekker as well, who's also played a lot of games."

Forge 'shuffle the deck,' come alive in second half​

Bobby Smyrniotis admitted postmatch that this was not his side's best game of the year -- particularly in the first half, where York put them under quite a lot of pressure and had the upper hand. His mid-game tinkering had a good effect, though, but beyond that his side was a lot quicker with the ball coming out of halftime. "We were a little bit tired, we weren't good on the ball," Smyrniotis said of his side's first half performance. "And we didn't get ourselves compact enough defensively. But the one thing we talked about after the game, and we've talked about this over two years, but if you want to be champions sometimes you need to win games like this." He added, on his adjustments heading into the second frame: "We wanted to try something a little bit different. We thought it was good to start, but I just thought that shuffling the deck a little bit and getting Danny (Krutzen) back on the ball in the build-up phase was very important for us." Forge actually had less possession in the second half than the first (51.6% down from 61.1%), but it was far more purposeful and dangerous. As a result, all of their most dangerous opportunities came in the last 45. They also seemed to improve significantly with fresh legs coming in; David Choiniere in particular made a massive impact (and scored the goal, of course), as did Mo Babouli in the final 10 minutes or so. Certainly not Forge's prettiest win of the season, but these three points could be what put them over the edge in securing first place. Player of the Match

Elimane Cisse, Forge FC Cisse has really thrived the past few matches for Forge, having put in a lot of minutes at the right fullback spot recently. He was tireless again in this match, making some good tackles and also helping drive the attack forward. His solo effort leading to the winning goal was spectacular.

What’s next?

These two sides will convene again this Tuesday, November 9, at York Lions Stadium as York close out their regular season (7 pm ET).
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