CPL5x5: York United FC 2023 year in review

Welcome to CPL5x5. As we say farewell to 2023, we’ll be looking back one more time at the Canadian Premier League’s milestone fifth season, and how each of the eight clubs fared this year.

In this series, we’ll break down the full story of each team’s year within five sections: Five stats, five key players, five big moments, five quotes, and five questions for 2024.

Today, we continue with the fifth-placed team from 2023: York United FC.

To read the 5×5 year in review for every other CPL club, click here.

In Martin Nash’s second season in charge, there were both improvements and faults, but with playoff soccer once again on their cards, there isn’t all that much to complain about in Ontario’s capital. Finishing with four more points than in 2022, but losing just as many games, it’s hard to briefly summarize what happened and what’s to come for York United.

12 losses in back-to-back years is nothing to get overly excited about, but as York’s season proved, it doesn’t take much more than a few games and a hot streak to make moments that will last the test of time.

Story of 2023

2023 CPL regular season record (W-D-L): 11-5-12
Finish: 5th
Goals scored: 35
Goals against: 44
Goal difference: -9
Top scorer: Kevin Santos, Osaze De Rosario, Mo Babouli (6)
Canadian Championship: Lost to Vancouver Whitecaps 4-1 in the quarter finals.

5 Stats

5 clean sheets

With just five clean sheets this past season, York tied for the least in that category alongside seventh-place Vancouver FC. Of the league-low five clean sheets, they won four of them, the fifth being a 0-0 tie against Pacific FC in July. While holding clean sheets isn’t crucial to win games, for a team who also scored the third-least goals in the league, it proves something to work on.

6 red cards

If you combined the total red card offences between all other CPL clubs besides Vancouver FC, the sum would still just tie York’s total of six. While four of these send-offs took place with only minutes to go in stoppage time, they still come with a suspension and a potentially important managerial decision to make in following contests.

27 goals

As mentioned earlier, York scored the third-least goals in the league with 35. Of those, 27 came play from open play situations. While that is a reasonable percentage of their total, when you realize three of the remaining eight come from own goals, just five come from dead-ball situations (set pieces, free kicks, penalties). That accounts for the second-least in that area across the CPL this past season.

14 points

Contrary to what most would assume, most York’s points this season came in fixtures away from York Lions Stadium. Amassing 24 of their 38 points in away games, Martin Nash’s side went 4-2-8 at home in 2023. With a goal difference of -12 at home, hopefully that trend turns around quickly for their home supporters’ sake.

2 penalties

While this last stat isn’t necessarily in York’s control, the Toronto-based side were only awarded two penalties in 2023. Tied for the least in that category with both Valour and Vancouver, York did have the least penalties scored, converting only one of their two spot kicks.

York United players in a huddle before their match with Valour FC, (Photo: CHANT via Canadian Premier League)

5 Key Players in 2023

Mo Babouli

Mo Babouli was one of York’s three top scorers this season, finishing with six goals, adding two assists along the way. While Babouli struggled to keep his name out of the ref’s notebook with eight combined cards, when he was on the pitch, he was one of York’s primary creators and veteran presences.

Kevin Dos Santos

Another of York’s three top scorers this season, Santos finished with six goals, all-using his right foot. Of York’s three leaders, the Portuguese forward had the highest shot conversion percentage, seeing 58% of his shots end up on target. And who could forget his 88th minute winner against Atlético Ottawa?

Osaze De Rosario

The final top scorer, 22-year-old Osaze De Rosario finished with six goals and two assists this past season. A big drop-off from his 15 goal contributions in 2022, De Rosario still proved an integral part of York’s offense, contributing to 23% of their goals this season.

York United players celebrate Osaze De Rosario’s goal. (Photo: Beau Chevalier/Vancouver FC)

Brem Soumaoro

The first non-attacker on this list, Soumaoro was the star of York United’s defensive scheme this past season. The Guinea-born defender led York in tackles won, blocks, interceptions, and recoveries, while finishing third in total passes, proving his capabilities in possession.

Paris Gee

Canadian Paris Gee finishes off this list of key players as York’s leader in total minutes in 2023. With 2,330 total minutes, Gee finished with 320 more minutes on the pitch than second-most Soumaoro. While he doesn’t lead any individual stats, his name is in the mix for almost all important defensive stats, and Gee was only subbed off twice throughout the campaign, proving Martin Nash’s trust in the CPL veteran.

5 Great Moments

Kevin Santos scores a late winner – October 1, 2023

In quite possibly one of the most electrifying moments from the entire CPL season, Kevin Santos sent York Lions Stadium into ecstasy with his October 1 game winner. In the 88th minute of a potential playoff eliminator game, the Portuguese forward was played through by Jérémy Gagnon-Laparé before dispatching it into the bottom right corner past an outstretched Nate Ingham, clutching three crucial points for York United.

York United’s 3-0 win against Halifax – May 20, 2023

On the back of four losses in their last five matches, York quickly turned their struggles around in their May 20 meeting with Halifax. Two first half goals, Oussama Alou involved in both, were added on to by a 46’ minute goal from Brem Soumaoro, securing their most dominant victory of the season.

Brem Soumaoro winner against Forge – May 31, 2023

Just eleven days after the win in Halifax, York United brought their magic to Hamilton. After Forge’s Terran Campbell tied the game at 1-1 in the 76th minute, Brem Soumaoro took his chance to put in a goal of the year candidate. From well outside the box, in the 93rd minute, Soumaoro took a strong touch before unleashing a thunderbolt past a hopeless Triston Henry, giving York their third win in as many games.


Osaze De Rosario scores a brace to secure playoffs – October 6, 2023

In clutch times, you need clutch players, and on October 6, Osaze De Rosario put in a fantastic audition for the job. Away at Vancouver FC, De Rosario scored in 17th and 27th minute, goals that proved just enough to secure York’s playoff standing as they won 2-1 to close out their regular season.

York advance to the Canadian Championship quarters – April 19, 2023

While they were eliminated in the quarter-finals by a strong Vancouver Whitecaps side, York’s 1-0 preliminary round victory against Vancouver FC was still a great early season sign. Mo Babouli put his side up with a 6th-minute penalty, and Niko Giantsopoulos’ three saves, including two diving stops, secured a quarterfinal appearance for the Toronto side.

5 Questions for 2024

Who will take over the captaincy role?

Captain Roger Thompson hung up the boots this off-season, giving York United lots of time to find their next leader, but who will fill the shoes? The easy choice could be Niko Giantsopoulos as he has taken the armband before, but maybe they’ll stick to the norm and give it to an outfield player. Soumaoro, Richmond Hill, Ont. native Austin Ricci, Mo Babouli, who’s your pick?

How will York reply to this past season’s defensive woes?

In their latest roster update, York shared the departures of seven players, five of whom were regulars in the 2023 York defence. After allowing 44 goals this past season, it was almost a guarantee the backend would have a new look, but now it’s looking like the expected back four could be all brand-new faces. With the incoming of new faces, will Martin Nash’s defence be a work-in-progress come the start of the season?

Will they have a true number one scorer?

While not an uncommon feature of a side, York’s title of top scorer was shared by three players this year, Babouli, De Rosario, and Santos. De Rosario’s goal tally took a hit this year, scoring half as many as he did in 2022, while Babouli’s 2022 was also stronger, scoring 5 goals in 13 less games. Santos is the odd one out in that sense, not scoring a single goal in 2022, but responding with six this past campaign. It could be a new face taking over in the goal column, but who do you expect to lead the way in 2024?

Can York escape their mid-table pattern?

Since 2020, York United have finished in fourth once, sixth once, and fifth two separate years. While there isn’t necessarily too much to analyze through this question, there are questions to be asked. Why can’t York seem to escape their mid-table finishes? Still making the playoffs in two of the four seasons, could these finishes be considered a success or should there still be concern?

Will York be able to correct their form at home?

York United never had much of a problem playing at York Lions Stadium in past seasons. In both 2021 and 2022, they finished with two more points at home than they did away, but, in 2023, that changed. Of their 38 regular season points, only 14 were secured at home, earning the remaining 24 on the road. Losing eight of their fourteen home matches, what caused the shift in form in Toronto and what will Martin Nash attempt to do to fix it?


 “There’s a great core to build from, and there are some players, young players, who are just coming into their own. So, there’s a good mix here and we’ve just got to build on from this group and if you can add a few key pieces that are missing it is going to be a real strong group for the future.” – Martin Nash, York United Head Coach

“It’s been great being a part of the club for its 5-year history during the ups and downs but appreciated the fans sticking around through it all. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to win a title together but I will be around to see us accomplish that in the near future. Nothing beats playing for your hometown club. My plan is to stay connected and help us grow in any way I can, building relationships and showing our young kids that they can dream of playing for York United someday.” – Retiring York United captain Roger Thompson

“It’s a feeling that I can’t describe, I’m so happy to score and win the game for us…but I give the credit to all my teammates, what a team performance we just put in. We showed how much we deserve to be in the playoffs.” – Kevin Santos after scoring the game winning goal against Atlético Ottawa

“There was points this season where this group could’ve fell to pieces, but they stuck at it, they stuck with it, they believed in what the coaching staff was trying to get out of them. So for that, I’m extremely proud, and extremely grateful for what they’ve given me all year long.” – Martin Nash after York’s playoff loss to Pacific FC

“It’s silly to count any team out with how this league works … so for anyone that wrote us off, or any team off, it’s silly … You’ve hear ‘Nashy’ say it a bunch of times, ‘nobody wants to see us in the playoffs’, so I think we took that to heart, got some wins, got some points, it’s just good to qualify now.” – Goalkeeper Niko Giantsopoulos after securing a playoff position