Final Score: York United 3-1 Valour FC Goalscorers: Babouli 34', N'Sa 56', Lawrie-Lattanzio 75' ; Cebara 16' (PK) Game of the 2022 season: 100 CPL match: 350​

Match in a minute or less

York United kept their strong run of form going in CPL action on Friday, picking up their seventh win in their last 11 games, as they downed a similarly in-form Valour side 3-1 at York Lions Stadium to cap off their last home regular season game of the 2022 campaign. After a dream start from the visitors in the league's 100th game of this 2022 campaign, one that allowed Valour to snatch an early lead via a well-taken Stefan Cebara penalty inside 20 minutes, York managed to claw things back to 1-1 before half time, thanks to some magic from the right boot of Mo Babouli. From there, it’d be all York the rest of the way, as first a superb goal long-distance goal from Chrisnovic N’Sa gave the home team the lead in the 56th minute, before a well-taken goal from Luis Lawrie-Lattanzio not long after that then sealed the deal for York, who also kept their playoff hopes alive for another day with this victory.

Three Observations

Magical Mo Babouli helps York keep playoff hopes alive:

Just 17 minutes into the game, it felt like York United’s season was all but over. Having just conceded a penalty goal, it was hard to imagine York getting back into the game, especially given Valour’s ability to close out games once they had the lead, making it hard to imagine a scenario in which York managed to grab all three points. Considering that York has also struggled all year long offensively, too, sitting second-last in goals for, that further compounded that reality, one that they faced at that moment. Yet, for those who have been paying attention as of late, they will know that while that was the reality for York on paper, it certainly isn’t the same in practice. Instead, this York team is far different from the one that struggled to put balls in the back of the net all season. In fact, they’ve turned things around completely as of late, scoring nearly twice as many goals (16) after August than they did in all of the games in the four months before that (10). The biggest factor behind that push? The arrival of Mo Babouli, who continues to be a revelation for York United in the attack. Already known as one of the top attackers in the league from his time with their rivals Forge, he’s found a whole new level in his short time with York. Given a free role, instead of leading the line as he used to, he’s proven to be the key that York’s attack has needed to shine. Not only has he unlocked the potential of his team’s overall offensive game, which has looked a lot more fluid since his insertion, but he himself has profited nicely off of that, too. “I feel good, I’ve got the freedom to explore different areas on the pitch,” Babouli explained of his role. “I think there’s been an adjustment, partially for me and partially for guys on the tea, but I think we've both done that well to understand that sometimes when I do drift out wide or drop deep, who can jump into certain positions to fill, and I think I think we have good moments and really understand each other. “ Plus, he’s seemed to elevate his game in crucial moments, as well, scoring some big goals for his team. And none was bigger than the one that he was able to grab for them in this game. With his team struggling to keep up to Valour after they’d grabbed the lead, York were looking for anything to cling to as they tried to get back into the game. There, up would step Babouli, who in a moment of magic, slammed the ball into the top corner despite having no space and a defender draped all over him. His 5th goal of the season, already putting him in the top 15 for the Golden Boot race, the game would shift significantly following his goal, too, as York really started to grab control of proceedings. From there, they’d find new life, and through that they’d manage to see the game over the line, ensuring that they’d be able to pick up the three points that they needed. Not only that, but they played good soccer, as well, getting eight shots on target to Valour’s three, while overall looking much sharper in possession, allowing them to win in style. “(That goal) really set the tone and got us back into the game going into halftime,” York head coach, Martin Nash, said. “We had played well, so that goal was big, as in the second half I thought we were really good.” Now, thanks to that, they’ve now won seven of their last 11 games as noted above, after having won just two of their first 15 matches of the season, continuing to be arguably the hottest team in the CPL. Might it be too little, too late, in regards to their playoff hopes? Potentially, as their chances of making it over the line relies as much on others as it does them now, a consequence of their slow start, but they’re certainly making things fun at the moment. Which for a team as young as they are, continues to give hope that even if things don’t end as they’d like in 2022, they’ve got something brewing in 2023, especially if Babouli can keep up what he’s shown over this stretch of games. “He was excellent today,” Nash said of Babouli. “He's been excellent, really, since he's come to us, his attitude has been really good.”

Transition moments leave Valour to continue road struggles:

Heading into this game, it was always going to be tough for Valour to snatch a result, as they’ve struggled to pick up points on the road with the same regularity that they’ve shown at home. Yet, as Phil Dos Santos noted pre-game, that wasn’t always necessarily down to their performances, but often their execution in key moments, instead, especially at both ends of the field, with key defensive breakdowns or an inability to snatch the moment offensively proving to be fatal in those results. In this game, however, that wouldn’t be the case, as while there were moments at both ends of the field that Valour would want back, their biggest disappointment would be in how they overall handled the flow of the game. Typically a team that has done well to stamp out their ‘Valour identity’ in games, especially as of late, they struggled to do so in this game, as York ended up being more of the aggressor on the night. As a result, it ended up being more of a north-south game, one that can be best described as a track meet, which for Valour, who likes to be compact and organized in their play, left them chasing, the death knell for any side constructed as they are. Therefore, although the possession was relatively even, as well as the non-penalty xG, it felt like the game was tilted significantly in York’s favour, especially in transition moments. There, Valour really got punished, as York seemed to capitalize on all of the space left behind by Valour’s wing backs, with all three of their goals coming from moments where they played a long direct ball into that channel of space, with Paris Gee and Chrisnovic N’Sa shining in those spaces, in particular. Because of that, it meant that Valour, who had gone five games without conceding a goal from open play, conceded all three of their goals via that avenue, showing how uncharacteristic of a performance it was from them. “We didn't play to our strong characteristics,” Valour head coach, Phil Dos Santos, explained. “We had alerted the squad that York is a team that likes to play in open spaces, when it becomes a transition game against them, they have pieces that like to attack you fast, so for us, when we open up space in possession and then lose the ball, it becomes a north-south game, and we didn't want to get into that because that's not who we are as a team.” Credit has to be given to York, of course, both for executing their game plan as well as capitalizing on several key moments, but for Valour that has to be extra frustrating, as they lost a battle that they’d been warned to watch out for heading into this one. Now, with their season on the line, re-finding that identity has to be the priority, especially if they’re to reverse their road struggles, as a two-game road swing to Alberta looms to close out their season, in which they’ll probably need at least four points, if not all six, to try and make the playoffs. “When you start chasing as a team that likes to play in open spaces like that, a team that has pieces in the counter-attack that could hurt you, it makes it more difficult,” Dos Santos said. “I felt we weren't good enough (tonight). And we have to say it.”

Chrisnovic N’Sa controls right flank for York United:

Seeing how York was able to control the flanks, however, it meant that they were going to need strong performances from their wide players, and there was none better than Chrisnovic N’sa, who covered a lot of ground for York down the right side. Deployed in his usual right back position, N’Sa was quite active defensively, in particular, doing well to deal with his primary defensive assignment, handling the constantly swapping Valour wide duo of Sean Rea and Matteo de Brienne, as well as the overlapping threat of Brett Levis. Despite going up against some pretty in-form attackers, he was more than up for the task, however, making some solid challenges on the evening, finishing with four tackles, three clearances, one block and three interceptions, summing up a good night at the office defensively. From there, he then had a pretty good night offensively, too, finding himself quite involved on all three of his team’s goals. On the first goal, it was his deep progressing ball that unlocked Osaze De Rosario to set up Babouli, while on the second goal it was a magical moment from his left foot that got things done. Then, to cap things off, he made a bursting run forward to help create the action that ended up with Lawrie-Lattanzio’s goal, capping off a solid night of work from N’Sa. Plus, he was a consistent overlapping threat for York, as well, ensuring that Valour would have to constantly be worrying about getting numbers back to cover him, something that didn’t always go smoothly given their struggles in transition. As a result, he finished with one shot, four dribbles and 10 passes into the final third, showing his ability to push the ball forward both through passes and dribbles. Therefore, while the big thing that will stand out with his performance is his very well-taken goal, his second such highlight-reel goal in the last two months, it was his overall output that really helped his team in this game, giving them superiority in an area of the pitch that ended up being crucial towards the battle for three points. “He was really good, he took his goal well and defended well,” Nash said of N’Sa. “I thought our whole back four was good, really, we didn't give them a lot of opportunities to score.” Player of the Match

Mo Babouli, York United Any time a forward finishes with three goal involvements, that’s usually a pretty good day of work from them, and that was no exception for Babouli in this game, whose one goal and two assists were crucial in York’s comeback quest. Coming as part of a performance in which he also generated three chances, had two shots, completed six dribbles and had 12 passes into the final third, he really ran the show for York offensively, helping them pick up a monumental victory in their unlikely quest to make the playoffs.

What’s next?

York will head out on the road, but won’t have to go far, as a 905 Derby with Forge FC awaits them at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton on Saturday, October 1st (5:00 p.m. ET). Meanwhile, Valour will continue their road trip, as they must head over to Calgary to take on Cavalry FC at ATCO Field on Sunday, October 2nd (1:30 p.m. MT/2:30 p.m. CT). 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.

Continue reading...