The first match of the Canadian Premier League is finally upon us, as York9 FC travels to Hamilton to face Forge FC on Saturday afternoon at Tim Horton’s Field (1:00 p.m. ET/10:00 a.m. PT, available on OneSoccer).
Braced for action, York are getting in a final few preparatory training sessions at York University’s Alumni Field before the match.
“Yeah, they’re ready,” head coach Jim Brennan told CanPL.ca ahead of the match. “It’s been a good pre-season.
“The guys are raring to go.”
Kick-off has been a long time coming.
“Two months ago we were counting down from 100-and-something days,” midfielder Manny Aparicio recalled. “I couldn’t believe how long pre-season was and now we’re here.
“Everybody is buzzing.”
Forge FC expects to break a record for attendance at Tim Hortons Field on Saturday with some 25,000 packing the stands – and with 20 buses filled with York9 supporters also attending, the visiting outfit’s mission is clear: Spoil the party.
“To go to an opposing team’s home ground, being as it is an historic occasion, you want to go there and upset everyone, all the fans there in Hamilton – sad to say, but that’s our mindset,” said Ryan Telfer. “Upset their priorities and get the job done.
“We look forward to that.”
Added Kyle Porter: “It’s great to be an underdog, to have everyone against you … and then making them respect our football.”
Brennan agreed: “There is going to be pressure for them to get at us and excite the crowd. Our role is to go in there and disrupt everything. We’re going there to win. We want to make it an uncomfortable game for them.
How will Brennan pull off that feat? It’s a secret he has kept close to his vest. Though the usual scouting tool of video is non-existent, York does have an idea of what to expect, even with feints from Forge in Dominican Republic during pre-season.
“It’s very tricky, but we know the players,” Aparicio said. “We have an idea of what they’re going to bring, how they’re going to play, even if, in the Dominican, they were switching formations and trying players.”
Assistant Coach Carmine Isacco has plenty of insight into how a Bobby Smyrniotis-led side will play.
“I’ve seen them thousands of times,” smiled Isacco. “Bobby and I go way back; I’ve coached a lot of those players, you know …”
He continued: “They’re a good team; are going to be a lot more cohesive, more familiar with actions and movements than any other team in the league. They’re going to have a bond, a family-type atmosphere.
“We’re going to have to go beyond that and suffer a bit. (That) and our willingness to compete is going to be enough, to not only hold them off, but to create some success ourselves going forward.”
There is a silver-lining to not over-thinking the opponent.
“It might be even better for us,” suggested Aparicio. “We’re going to play our game, forget about what they’re going to bring, and play for ourselves.”
Ultimately, the day will be marked by history, which Aparicio acknowledged, mentioning the legendary status his current and former coaches Brennan and Danny Dichio have carved in Canadian soccer lore: “It’s something that we’re all thinking about. We all want to be the first goal-scorer. You can be the first of everything.”
But first and foremost? The first team to earn three points.
“I don’t care who scores (the first goal),” Aparicio affirmed. “Even if it’s an own-goal, I want to win the game and then we go from there. If we start off with a win, it will be a great foot-forward. The spring season is 10 games – we have the first three away.
“A win there and a couple good results on the road, come home, be strong, set us up for the rest of the season.”
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