Final Score: York United 1-3 Forge FC Goalscorers: Wright 51'; Borges 24', Krutzen 42', Achinioti-Jonsson 73' Game of the 2021 season: 109 CPL match: 245

Match in a minute or less

Forge FC clinched top spot in the Canadian Premier League standings at a rainy York Lions Stadium on Tuesday, as they defeated York United by a 3-1 scoreline to secure a 905 Derby matchup at Tim Hortons Field in the CPL semi-final on November 21. The Hamilton side got on the board first with a rocket of a free kick from Tristan Borges, before Daniel Krutzen made it 2-0 heading into halftime. Lowell Wright pulled one back for York just moments after the break, but Forge midfielder put the game out of reach late in the occasion by getting just enough of a free kick in the 73rd minute to make it 3-1.

Three Observations

York United give depth players a chance​

As promised in his prematch press conference, Jimmy Brennan rotated his lineup quite a bit on Tuesday, giving an opportunity to some players who haven't seen much of the pitch in the last few weeks. Lowell Wright -- who has come off the bench in each match since October 3, but hasn't started in that span -- got the nod up front and he found the net not long after halftime. Beyond Wright's on-paper contribution, though, the other players -- Jordan Faria, Ijah Halley, and Matteo Campagna -- who have typically been rotation or bench players this year had a chance to start. So, too, did Javier George, the Guyana-born midfielder who hadn't yet made an appearance for the Nine Stripes since signing for the club in early October. The difference in energy between the rotated players and the rest of the players was quite evident -- with far less mileage under their belts this year, players like Halley and George had a lot in the tank and thus managed to give the game's tempo a boost. York now have at least one, but no more than two games left in the season as they begin their playoff campaign. So, it was certainly good for York to give minutes to as many players as possible, but this was also an opportunity for Brennan to get one last look at who might be able to play a role for him in the playoffs. "For those guys, that's what it's about," Brennan said postgame. "Put pressure on me, show me what you've got. Guys that haven't played a lot of minutes want to be on the bench for this next match."

Set-pieces make difference for Forge, even without Bekker​

Forge haven't often needed set-pieces to find goals this season, having been one of the CPL's most dangerous teams from open play and in transition. In this rainy, gritty match, however, it was the details on those dead-ball situations that made the difference and produced three goals for them. The first, of course, was a world-class free kick from well outside the box by Tristan Borges, who put his left-footed strike perfectly off the crossbar and in. "It's just having the confidence, to be honest," Borges said postmatch when asked about the goal. "I think anybody that took a shot there on our team has a lot of quality if they have an opportunity to do something like that. It was just having the confidence to step up." The second was from a broken play, but still came after a set-piece structure; their initial corner kick attempt meant they had numbers in the box, and they were quicker to read the second phase than York, as Dominic Samuel found Borges on the wing and Daniel Krutzen managed to remain unmarked to finish the attack with a good strike. The third goal, of course, might be up for debate about how exactly the play was supposed to pan out, but Mo Babouli's curling attempt from the wide free kick got just enough of Alexander Achinioti-Jonsson's head to change course and beat the York goalkeeper. Many times when Forge have found success from set-pieces this year, captain Kyle Bekker has been involved somehow -- whether it's a corner delivery or a smashed free kick (like the one he scored in the Concacaf League earlier this year against Independiente). Bekker had a well-earned night off this time around, a brief cameo off the bench notwithstanding, but this Forge team has no shortage of players who can strike a stopped ball -- plus, as seen with the second goal, they're well-drilled when it comes to movement in the box in these situations. It's a testament to the diversity of this Forge team's threats that they've been able to win in different ways this season -- not to say this win was an abnormal one, as they still played much of their patented free-flowing, expansive football. This time around, it was set-pieces that made the difference, but it could be any number of other things that secure their next win.

Wide-open second half brings York close, but not enough​

Down 2-0 at halftime, York had very little to lose in throwing men forward in the second frame. Brennan made three substitutions to introduce Osvaldo Ramirez, Muslim Umar, and Isaiah Johnston, all of whom did seem to spark a little extra -- Umar was hungry in his debut for the club, and Johnston brought his usual brand of quality to the midfield. It was Johnston who created York's very quick goal after halftime, having picked up the ball in transition in his own half and played a sensational through-ball to Lowell Wright that cut through several lines of defenders. The first 20 minutes or so of the second half featured much more open football than most of the first 45, as York looked to strike quickly with direct balls and Forge caught their opponents on the counter a few times with the Nine Stripes putting numbers forward. Really, York seemed the much more likely team to score for most of the second half; Ramirez and Ijah Halley in particular had excellent opportunities that they couldn't quite finish, through a combination of not finding their touch and bad luck, but the equalizing goal did continue to elude them. Forge coach Bobby Smyrniotis quipped postmatch that this game almost felt like basketball at times, with the rate at which possession was switching and teams were moving back and forth along the field -- as he pointed out, that kind of fast-moving, entertaining football is excellent stuff for a neutral, but not necessarily a coach's dream with how disjointed it became. Player of the Match

Tristan Borges, Forge FC Scoring a free kick like that is usually enough to get you this honour on its own, but Borges excelled throughout the game. He was the engine of the attack playing as a number 10, and it was his hard work once again that created Forge's second goal.

What’s next?

For York, Tuesday's match was their last of the regular season. They'll now look ahead to the CPL Playoffs, as they head out on the road for a semi-final a week and a half from now. Forge, however, still have two games left on the schedule before then: first up is a trip to play FC Edmonton this Saturday (2 pm ET/12 pm MT).
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