PREVIEW: York United vs. Forge FC — Match #105

2021 CPL regular season — Match #105
York United vs. Forge FC
November 6, 2021 at 1:00 pm ET
York Lions Stadium in North York, Ontario
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York United’s playoff aspirations are on the line this weekend, as the Nine Stripes prepare to host local foes Forge FC for just the second time in 2021 to kick off a jam-packed weekend of Canadian Premier League action.

Jimmy Brennan’s York side enter the contest with some confidence, having picked up a hard-fought win over league-leading Pacific FC on the road last weekend. York currently sit in pole position for the fourth and final playoff spot, with 36 points and two games left to play (both of them at home). They’re two points up on both Valour and HFX Wanderers with a game in hand on both sides, but they’ll be keen on booking their ticket to the playoffs as soon as possible — which they could do on Saturday with a win.

The Nine Stripes will be buoyed this weekend by a couple of key players returning to the lineup. Fullback Diyaeddine Abzi and central midfielder/defender Jordan Wilson will both be available for selection again, having missed the last two games due to suspensions for yellow card accumulation.

Heading up to York Lions Stadium will be a very confident Forge side, who will have an extra spring in their step this week after last Tuesday night’s incredible triumph over Santos de Guápiles in the Concacaf League at Tim Hortons Field. Bobby Smyrniotis’ men will now look to take care of their league campaign as they continue to eye the top spot and home field advantage in the playoffs.

“We’re confident right now,” defender Garven Metusala told media on Friday. “The past three games have been really good for us, but we’re just trying to stay focused and humble, because that’s how we need to be if we want to keep pushing forward.”

As it stands, Forge sit second in the league table, tied with Cavalry FC on 44 points. They’re just one point behind Pacific for the top place (and guaranteed home field in both playoff rounds), with the kicker being that Forge have four games left to play — three more than Pacific and two more than the Cavs. So, they’ll fancy their chances of coming out on top; they’ll play away against York twice in a row, before flying out to play FC Edmonton next weekend then hosting Cavalry in their final regular season match on November 16.

Every meeting between these Ontario sides in 2021 has been an entertaining affair. Both sides won narrow 1-0 contests away from home in back-to-back clashes earlier this season, and both have won more convincingly over the other since then. The most recent game between them was in Hamilton on September 11, when York scored twice in two minutes in the second half thanks to Max Ferrari and Alvaro Rivero to claim a 2-0 win.

“The way that we play, we kind of match up well,” Brennan said this week. “It’s difficult sometimes when you’re playing against teams and you just don’t know what they’re doing, and you’re trying to manage them and read their systems. I think we look at Pacific and Forge, they’re two teams you can really understand and get a gauge of the way that they play. Don’t get me wrong, they’re never easy games, because it is a derby as well so there’s extra energy out on the pitch. But every time we play them it’s always been competitive, and I think that pride is at stake as well.”

The season is coming right down to the wire in these last couple of weeks; will York punch their ticket to the postseason? Or will Forge continue their march to the top of the table?

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  • York hope to take care of business, clinch playoff spot: The task is simple for York United this weekend: Win and you’re in. No matter what happens elsewhere in the league (Valour play FC Edmonton and HFX Wanderers play Atlético Ottawa), if York secure three points on Saturday they can’t be caught by any of the teams trailing them. With two final home games left on the calendar, York will feel confident in their ability to take care of things overall and get themselves into the playoffs, but coach Jimmy Brennan would probably much prefer they get it done on Saturday to take some pressure off that final game. “We want to win this one and that’s it, we’ve cemented our spot. It’s always a difficult game against Forge, but it’ll be one where we’ve got to realize that we’re at home, and we’ve got to take advantage of that. We’ve got to make sure that we’re on the front foot and try to dictate the tempo of the game, and then we’ve got to be clinical in and around that box because we know we’ll get some opportunities.”
  • Can Forge keep momentum going? Coming off the incredible high of Tuesday’s Concacaf League triumph, Forge’s confidence is probably as high as it’s ever been in 2021. They beat HFX Wanderers 4-1 in league play last Saturday, and they trounced a very good Santos de Guápiles side 3-0 on Tuesday. Bobby Smyrniotis gave his players Wednesday off to try and recharge a little bit for this final run in, but they will now be hoping to capitalize on recent strong performances. The schedule for their Concacaf League semifinal came out on Friday, with Leg 1 in Hamilton on November 24 — sandwiched between the CPL semifinal and final on successive weekends. Forge obviously intend on being in that final, so securing home field for both playoff games has massive importance as they try to stay as fresh as possible for all those massive games. “There’s a potential for four games within a period of 10 days, all at the highest level of concentration,” Smyrniotis said on Friday. “If you don’t have to get on an airplane, that’s great. We all understand that, we know it’s in our hands to be able to do and we just need to keep staying on the same path we’ve been on lately. We’ve played some excellent football, hitting another gear in what we’re doing on the ball and off the ball.”
  • Brennan to deploy York depth the Wright way: The last two matches, York have managed to change the game completely with timely substitutions in the second half. A large part of that has been down to Lowell Wright, who entered off the bench in both games and made an immediate impact with his ability to get into the box and wreak havoc on tired defenders. He helped create a number of chances two weeks ago against Atlético Ottawa, and last weekend at Pacific it was Wright who created the 56th-minute equalizer (a minute after coming into the game) and then scored the winner himself in the 81st. Osvaldo Ramirez and Ijah Halley have both done well coming off the bench in those two games as well. Of course, the flipside of this is that York would prefer to have played better in the first half of both matches, so it’s possible Jimmy Brennan mixes things up with his lineup to get the 18-year-old Wright more minutes, but either way expect the late-game substitutions to play a role. On Wright specifically, Brennan said: “He’s been great for us. He’s truly been great when he comes off the bench and gives us energy; he’s started to throw his body around now and makes it difficult for defenders. I’m very pleased so far with how he’s come along and where he is in his development, but at the same time we’ve got to make sure that we continue to develop him the right way and not throw him in a deep, deep end and make sure that he is successful.”


Forge FC wins: 5 || York United wins: 4 || Draws: 1

Previous match:

September 11, 2021 — Forge FC 0-2 York United


“We got past the last two weeks, which were a very difficult two weeks with a roller coaster of games in different competitions. Now the concentration is strictly on the league, and we know what we need to do, we know what points we need to get us to the top and keep us there.” — Forge FC head coach Bobby Smyrniotis

“We’ve got to make sure that we’re difficult to play against, hard to beat. Limit chances and not let that result against Pacific go to waste.” — York United head coach Jimmy Brennan