MATCH ANALYSIS: Cordóva screamer secures 5th home win for York United vs. Halifax

Final Score: York United FC 2-1 Halifax Wanderers FC
Goalscorers: Voytsekhovskyy 17′, Cordóva 58′; Probo 87′
Game of the 2024 season: 49
CPL match: 533

Match in a minute or less

York United FC improved to 5-1-1 at home in 2024, as they beat Halifax Wanderers FC 2-1 on Saturday afternoon at York Lions Stadium.

The hosts got on the board fairly early, as a Mo Babouli corner kick found the head of Marki Voytsekhovskyy in the 17th minute to put York up 1-0. They doubled their lead not long after halftime, as Voytsekhovskyy had a shot blocked in the penalty area, but Juan Cordóva was on hand at the top of the box to blast it into the top corner from distance and double the Nine Stripes’ lead.

The Wanderers would get one back late in the game thanks to Giorgio Probo, and they had a flurry of opportunities in the last moments of stoppage time, but it wouldn’t be enough as York held on to climb into second place in the Canadian Premier League.

Three Observations

York United thriving at YLS, climb to top of CPL’s home form table

In the club’s first four full Canadian Premier League seasons, York United have never finished in the top half of the league for points earned at home. They’ve struggled to turn York Lions Stadium into the fortress that some other sides have done with their own homes.

After prioritizing an improvement in that area, though, York now find themselves in 2024 with the best home record in the league, with half of their games at York Lions Stadium now played and 16 points to show for it. Through seven contests, they’ve lost just once, and that was their home opener against Forge FC, meaning York are now unbeaten in their last six matches at home with five wins and a draw.

The Nine Stripes’ setup for this match was geared to mirror Halifax’s. A 4-1-4-1 structure gave them an inverted midfield triangle that matched well against the Wanderers’ central shape of Lorenzo Callegari and Andre Rampersad together behind Jérémy Gagnon-Laparé.

This year’s version certainly feels like a new kind of York United, who are not only winning at home but consistently scoring, capitalizing on their chances. Ever since that early shutout defeat to Forge, York have averaged 2.33 goals per game at York Lions Stadium, in part thanks to a breakout season from Brian Wright but also with help from plenty of other sources. Cordóva, for instance, has now scored twice since moving into midfield (more on him later, though). Voytsekhovskyy, likewise, has started to find his footing ever since Benjamín Mora took over, scoring his two goals in 2024 in the same games as Cordóva.

It has helped that Mo Babouli has returned to the lineup as well recently; he was excellent against Halifax, not only assisting Voytsekhovskyy’s goal but creating three chances in total and making a team-high 21 passes into the box.

A lot of York players seem to be coming into top form at the same time; there are too many to break them all down individually, but Elijah Adekugbe, Josué Martínez and Kadin Martin-Pereux are all among the players who deserve praise for their performances in recent weeks.

Also deserving of a mention is 16-year-old Shola Jimoh, who made his third appearance off the bench for York and was incredibly entertaining, using his quick footwork to cause all sorts of problems for Halifax’s defenders.

Perhaps more than they ever have before, York look like a very confident team at the moment. They don’t necessarily need a lot of chances — seven shots, two on target, turned into two goals — but they’re taking their opportunities and using their energy to jump at opponents early in matches, then grind them down over the course of a contest to eventually see out a win. That makes it easier to survive in matches, like this one and their win in Ottawa, where the other team does come alive late in the game.

“Slowly, they are showing me that they want to continue this path of learning the way,” Mora said postmatch. “It’s not easy, because it’s only been one month and the process is what we want to follow, not having fast results then falling down. We are sustaining our bases — the compact block, then what we do in the build-up. They’re showing me good things; we have a lot more to achieve in that matter, and we’re going to work on that.”

It’s been almost exactly a month since Mora took over at York United, but he has liked what he’s seen so far.

(Photo: Denys Rudenko/York United)

Wanderers frustrated in possession, can’t break down York until late

For long stretches of this game, the Wanderers were in control of the tempo, with as much as 80 per cent possession even by the half hour mark of the game. Indeed, they outshot York, and won the majority of the game’s duels.

The difference, however, was execution.

Although they had the ball for extended phases, the Wanderers’ progression up the field wasn’t as fast as York’s; they played more of their passes sideways looking for openings in York’s well-organized defence. However, they weren’t able to open lanes or pull defenders out of position, with their runs in the wide areas not dynamic enough.

That’s what Halifax captain Andre Rampersad identified postmatch as well as his side’s main problem on Saturday. Although he felt they were much better in the last half-hour — at which point they were already two goals down — the team was too static in possession for most of the game.

“You see late in the second half, the movement, the running off the ball is a big help for us,” Rampersad said. “I think in the first half we missed it a bit, or we missed the opportunities when we did make the runs to make the pass.”

Halifax Wanderers passing map vs. York.

Halifax coach Patrice Gheisar agreed, but added that conceding the first goal in a match has been far too devastating to his side’s mentality this year.

“I think we have to score first,” he said. “Our team is very much a confident momentum team, so if we can manage to strike first our mentality changes and we become just different. At the same time, we have to be different and say if we don’t score first, we can manage to turn it around. In the last 30 minutes, I was starting to get the feeling every time we went into their half something magical was about to happen. But why not the previous minutes? It’s just part of the lessons we take away, and we’ll move forward and learn.”

All that said, the Wanderers were not without external frustrations in this game as well. They had a couple of moments, including one at the beginning of stoppage time, where they felt hard done by not to be awarded a penalty kick.

Still, Gheisar added that he’d rather see his team deliver a more comprehensive 90-minute performance than a half-hour at the end of the match, where they ultimately ran out of time to get out of a 2-0 hole.

The Wanderers now have an extended period of rest to recover, with their next game not until Thursday, July 18 at home against Valour FC.

(Photo: Denys Rudenko/York United)

Cordóva becoming integral in central midfield for York

For almost the entirety of his professional career, Juan Cordóva has been a fullback. He played at right-back in all three of his starts for York under Martin Nash. He has played there for the Canadian national team. Most of the more than 100 games he played for clubs in Chile were as a wide defender, save for a handful of appearances elsewhere.

In the past few weeks, however, Cordóva has been thriving as a central midfielder.

One of the greatest surprises in Benjamín Mora’s first match in charge of York United, on June 9 against Vancouver FC, was his deployment of Cordóva in the middle of the park, with Max Ferrari and Kadin Martin-Pereux playing as the fullbacks.

Interestingly though, Cordóva revealed on Saturday that playing in midfield was partly his idea. He started his soccer career briefly as a midfielder before moving to left-back and then finally settling at right-back.

“When Benjamín came, he said, ‘Where do you want to play?'” Cordóva said. “I said, ‘Look Benjamín, I know I’m a right-back but I can help the team in the middle, because I know my ability and my characteristics. I see I can help the team more in that position, and I can demonstrate I can do it.”

Twice now since Mora took over, Cordóva has scored with a powerful strike from distance. This isn’t to say that a fullback can’t score a screamer; plenty have, even this year in the CPL.

However, Cordóva himself admitted after the game that he wouldn’t likely find himself in such positions if he wasn’t playing in midfield, especially with York’s system preferring to keep the fullbacks closer to the touchlines. He even joked in his postmatch comments that he’d told the coaching staff at halftime that he felt he was going to score in this game.

It’s not just Cordóva’s ability to strike the ball that has made him so good in midfield for York, though. He’s creative, with an ability to feed the ball to dangerous areas — he passed into the final third 11 times on Saturday — and his natural training as a defender makes him very capable of breaking up transitions, helping shield York’s single holding midfielder as well.

Mora explained postmatch that he’s been very impressed with Cordóva’s technical ability as well, with a profile that suits exactly the kind of build-up play he wants to have in midfield. Player of the Match

Juan Cordóva, York United

As detailed already, Cordóva was excellent in the centre of the park for York, operating all over the pitch but primarily in the half-spaces. His screamer in the second half turned out to be the winning goal.

What’s next?

Next weekend, York head to Alberta to play Cavalry FC on Saturday, July 13 (2 p.m. MT/4 p.m. ET). The Wanderers have some time off and will next be in action on Thursday, July 18 at home, when they take on Valour FC (7 p.m. AT/6 p.m. ET).

Watch all CPL and Canadian Championship 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.