YORK REGION – Rewind to the 65th minute at York Lions Stadium.
York9 FC, in the biggest match of their fledgling life, are down a goal in the Canadian Championship Qualifying Round 3 to Montreal Impact after another individual error, mirroring their previous match on the weekend.
Mix in a poor run of form in front of goal and you’d expect Y9 to wilt like an Ontario Trillium.
Instead? The Nine Stripes left pleased, almost smitten, with one another with a 2-2 draw in their first match against MLS opposition.
“They will be talking about this one 15 years down the line, sitting there with their buddies saying ‘ah, remember that night against Montreal’,” head coach Jimmy Brennan said moments after the final whistle.
“I’m so proud, watching them today. Seeing them fighting for one another, not backing down. 94th minute they were still at it.”
Ryan Telfer’s half-volleyed blast in the 82nd minute turned that belief into an equalizing goal, setting off a fury of action in front of over 4,000 on a sunny evening in York Region; a diving back-post go-ahead goal from Rodrigo Gattas, a converted penalty for the Impact’s Saphir Taïder and an off-the-crossbar attempt from Joe Di Chiara with the last kick of the 90-plus minutes.
That resilience came directly from a pair of defensive mistakes — a misjudged header from Luca Gasparotto and penalty conceded from goalkeeper Nathan Ingham — that, ultimately, gave the Impact an advantage heading into the second leg at Stade Saputo.
“Luca thought the ‘keeper was there, bad flick off his head. Can’t fault Luca. I thought he had a hell of a game,” Brennan said.
It was another individual error, by Gasparotto’s centreback partner Roger Thompson, that cost York9 on the weekend at Halifax.
“We had an earlier talk this week,” goalscorer Ryan Telfer began, “Hold your hand up, be accountable and we’ll pick you up. That’s exactly what happened today.
“Everyone knew not to put their heads down. We fight for one another until the final whistle is blown.
“Everyone on that field had each other’s back – that was the most important thing. That’s where you saw our spirit, that fight come from.”
Y9 looked stride-for-stride with their MLS opposition throughout the match — a first against upper-tier opposition — setting up a scintillating second leg on Wednesday, July 24 (7:30 p.m. ET/OneSoccer) at Stade Saputo in Montreal.
“There are special moments you need to cherish and as a footballer, these are the games you want to play in,” Brennan said.
“It’s the belief that’s coming from the guys now. You can see it tonight – what a test against Montreal.”
York9 are set to return to Canadian Premier League action this weekend with a home tilt against FC Edmonton on Sunday (3:30 p.m. ET/OneSoccer).