MATCH ANALYSIS: Dramatic debut draw for new York United boss Benjamín Mora against Vancouver FC

Final Score: York United 2-2 Vancouver FC
Goalscorers: Voytsekhovskyy 18′, Córdova 42′; Díaz 21′, Dyer 77′ (pen.)
Game of the 2024 season: 35
CPL match: 519

Match in a minute or less

In Benjamín Mora’s managerial debut for York United, his side played to a back-and-forth 2-2 draw with Vancouver FC at York Lions Stadium on Sunday.

The hosts opened the scoring after just 18 minutes through Markiyan Voytsekhovskyy, but it took Vancouver just three minutes to reply as Alejandro Díaz equalized. York were given a moment of magic on a long-range strike from Juan Córdova just before half-time, but a Moses Dyer penalty in the 77th minute ensured the match ended level.

The draw will see Vancouver FC maintain their spot in second place, York, meanwhile, drop into sixth after Cavalry FC’s victory earlier in the weekend.

Three Observations

York United and Vancouver FC cancel each other out during an uneven, but entertaining, draw at York Lions Stadium

It was a spirited contest on Sunday at York Lions Stadium with both sides having real opportunities to win the match in a back-and-forth 2-2 draw. And in the end, neither side were too disappointed, but nor were they satisfied.

In a match where both sides were missing a number of key players, and had to make a few makeshift tactical approaches, it became stretched and disorganized at times with several transitional moments but not nearly enough quality to make them count. A few moments of magic in front of goal, however, were enough to split the points.

“I like to win, I like to do things properly, I like to develop a game plan that is sufficient for us to win,” said York United head coach Benjamín Mora. “I wanted to give the Pasquel Brothers and Jorge Villalpando three points. That was my job, that was my task, that was my goal.”

He acknowledged, however, that with less than a week to implement a tactical plan for his first match in charge it is going to take time for the side to fully implement his ideas. Overall, though he was incredibly satisfied, especially with the energy that his side showed.

Vancouver FC, meanwhile, came out a little bit flat on the road once again. But in the end showed enough fight that they nearly came home with all three points, but will have to settle for one.

“I wish I could bottle the last 20 minutes and repeat that every game from kickoff until the end of the match,” said Vancouver FC head coach Afshin Ghotbi.

After his first match in charge, Mora was asked how he felt about the moment of history. He said he appreciated the compliment, but at the end of the day, this was just a regular season football match.

“This is only the beginning,” said Mora. “We are going to do things that really become history.”


York United debut fascinating new tactical approach under Mora

If there had been an expectation that Benjamín Mora wouldn’t change much only four days after being announced as York head coach, that clearly wasn’t the case when the starting eleven was announced.

Some of that change was forced, with the majority of the team’s attackers unavailable on Sunday. Mo Babouli and Brian Wright are still dealing with injuries, Dennis Salanović was away on international duty with Liechtenstein, while Austin Ricci was attending a family wedding in Italy.

It was at the back where Mora made his most significant shift, however, deploying a back three with Oswaldo León making his first start — as captain no less — alongside Frank Sturing and Noah Abatneh. A diamond midfield saw Juan Córdova shift centrally with Josué Martinez, with Elijah Adekugbe holding, while recent loan signing Tomas Giraldo supported Markiyan Votsekhovskyy at the number nine.

In possession York spread up to five players across the front line, with wingbacks Max Ferrari and Kadin Martin-Pereux providing width for Giraldo (eventually Christian Zeppieri after an injury substitution) and Votsekhovskyy up top, with one the other midfielders providing an option as well centrally.

Having a back three of players who are excellent at playing the ball forward over the top, York would then look to do just that with multiple runners able to chase down the long attempts — and then options in the box once it got there. Mora said that they went long a little bit more than he would have hoped, and his players got tired of chasing, but it worked to perfection on the opening goal. Here is León’s passing chart to demonstrate just how many long passes the Nine Stripes attempted from the back.

Oswaldo León’s passing chart (Courtesy: Opta)

“Kadin [played in] down the wing, and our back three allows Kadin and Max to get forward, I think that suits their qualities,” said York United midfielder Elijah Adekugbe “And then Marki, give credit to him, he hasn’t seen a lot of time this year, took his opportunity fantastically, scored the goal, and I think that was a training ground goal.”

The downside, however, was two-fold, on occasion, it made them too stretched defensively, with Vancouver FC able to quickly find spaces especially when they knocked down those balls over the box. They also struggled to build much through the middle of the park, with just six touches in the Vancouver box despite 46 final third entries.

For a first match in charge, however, to already have his side this tactically drilled was impressive from Mora. Now the next stage will be to build on it, especially once he gets more of his first-choice attacking players back.


Vancouver FC show ‘fighting spirit’ with latest comeback point

While Vancouver FC are still out to prove that they can find the required consistency to stay among the league’s best this season, but one thing that is not in question is that they have been significantly harder to beat this year.

On Sunday, they collected their league-leading eighth point from losing positions this season, matching the amount they put up all of last year through just nine matches. While the club would certainly prefer to have more control in matches, they are consistently finding ways to claw back points even in tough situations.

It says that we have a lot of spirits fighting spirit, which I think is very important,” said Ghotbi. “We always speak about technically, tactically. But if you don’t have the spirit to fight from kick-off, I don’t think we can achieve anything special, so that’s something I think we have in the group.” 

Ghotbi says his team was frustrated at half-time with their performance, especially having again switched off on a pair of first-half goals from York United. However, an impassioned speech from veteran midfielder Renan Garcia, he believes, gave his side the motivation they needed to kick on and get the equalizing goal.

“I think that kind of resonated through the team and I think the players decided together that they were going to do everything they could to not lose this game,” said Ghotbi.

Also of critical nature was a triple substitution he made in the 73rd minute, bringing on Ben Fisk, Sebastian Dzikowski and Tommy Powell. The trio changed the game, with Fisk winning the equalizing penalty, while Dzikowski could have won the match himself with two shots, one of which he dragged just wide in the 88th minute.

“Last year, I didn’t have this luxury where I can go to my bench, and bring in players that can change the games,” said Ghotbi.

Each and every week, Vancouver FC are proving that they have significantly improved from 2023. Exactly how high they soar, however, will come down to taking the next step and cutting out some of the errors that are constantly forcing them to fight back in matches. Player of the Match

Elijah Adekugbe, York United

The York midfielder showed incredible composure in the centre of the park during a match that occasionally got a bit frantic. He completed 57 of 58 passes, and won possession ten times, while making five tackles during an overall exceptional performance.

What’s next?

York United travel up the road to the nation’s capital where they will face top-of-the-table Atlético Ottawa next Saturday, June 15 (1:00 p.m. ET). Vancouver, meanwhile, head to Kelowna for the 2024 CPL on Tour match, where they will meet Cavalry FC for the third time in all competitions this season on Sunday, June 16 (5:00 p.m. ET / 2:00 p.m. PT).

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