2021 CPL regular season — Match #109
York United vs. Forge FC
November 9, 2021 at 7:00 pm ET
York Lions Stadium in North York, Ontario
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York United will have one last opportunity to fine-tune their form this week ahead of the playoffs, as they play host to 905 Derby rivals Forge FC for the second time in four days on Tuesday night in the final game they’ll play at York Lions Stadium in 2021.
Jimmy Brennan’s Nine Stripes clinched the fourth and final spot in the CPL Playoffs over the weekend with a little help from FC Edmonton and Atlético Ottawa, who managed a draw with Valour FC and HFX Wanderers FC, respectively. So, even though York lost 2-1 to Forge at home on Saturday, their fate in the postseason is secure with a game to spare. With this being their last game of the regular season, York have one final chance to prepare before the semifinal match coming in a week and a half.
“It was very difficult throughout the season, but we had a goal, and it was to make it into the playoffs,” Brennan told media this week. “The players bought into what we wanted to do, and we rode them hard throughout the season. We kept on saying, be difficult to beat and pick up points — as many points as you can, you just can’t drop any and walk away from games with nothing. Full credit to them, they work, they listen to the way we wanted to play. Towards the end there they’ve become an exciting team to watch, these young guys. They’re starting to gain loads of confidence.”
For Forge, this game actually does have some tangible implications. They still haven’t secured first place in the CPL, currently level on points with Cavalry FC at the top with 47. A victory against York here would clinch it for them, since Cavalry (with just one game left to play — Nov. 16 against Forge) can’t pass the Hammers on the first tiebreaker of wins. With three games left on the schedule, Forge need three points to lock it up and ensure they’ll have home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
“We control our own destiny, we control what we can do,” coach Bobby Smyrniotis said Monday. “We’ve got to go out there and put in that effort, and the sooner we can do that, it’s better for the team, it’s better in preparation for what you’re doing going forward.”
That meeting between these two sides on Saturday was a close one, where York put themselves in front thanks to Diyaeddine Abzi’s goal in the first half, but Forge regrouped and went on to score twice (courtesy of Woobens Pacius and David Choinière) in the second half to claim all three points. This will be the sixth meeting between York and Forge in the 2021 season, and so far the Hamilton side have the upper hand, with three wins and two losses. So, the Nine Stripes will be quite keen on evening the score heading into the playoffs.
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3 THINGS TO WATCH:
- Managers keep it close to the vest with potential playoff meeting looming: Based on how the CPL table has shaken out, it seems likely (not yet assured, but likely) that one of the two CPL semifinal matches will be at Tim Hortons Field between Forge and York United. So, neither team will want to reveal their hand too much, especially given how familiar these sides are with one another already. “If I told you I’d have Jimmy (Brennan) listening,” Bobby Smyrniotis quipped when asked about his side’s approach to this game. “I think we know each other quite well, it’s been some good matches. Are we at that point in the year where we’re still trying out new things? It all depends. What’s important for us is the three points at the moment. You may tinker, you may move things around based on rotation and different things… Our first focus as a staff has to be getting those three points.”
- Forge hope to improve on Saturday: Though they won the game at York Lions Stadium over the weekend, Forge weren’t completely happy with their performance — particularly in the first half, when York put them under pressure especially along the flanks. They definitely want to shore that up a little bit in this game and limit York’s threat on the counter-attack as much as possible. It’s likely they make a few changes to the lineup to perhaps get some key players a modicum of rest after this short turnaround between games, but they’ll nonetheless expect to be tactically sound and mitigate the ways in which York threatened them last time out. “Maybe on Saturday we weren’t our best, but that’s also the mark of a team that’s at the top,” Bobby Smyrniotis offered. “Sometimes when you’re not on your best day, you’re going to come up with three points… We just need to get back to being a little bit quicker tomorrow night in our ball movement and what we’re doing and just be a little bit hungrier.”
- Pressure off for York in final match: With their fate secured, York will be glad that this final match won’t be the must-win, nailbiting affair it might have been for them. So, they’ll have a good opportunity here to ensure they’re as prepared as possible for the playoffs. There are two sides to that: the performance itself in this game will be important as they try to pick up as much momentum as possible, but also they’ll need to be mindful of players with any potential injury concerns heading into the playoffs; Jimmy Brennan mentioned that Tuesday’s game might be an opportunity for some bench players to get a few minutes in — and potentially make a case for themselves to play in the playoffs. “The last thing we want to do now is, for players with injuries and niggles, push them and now they miss the next game, so we’ve just got to be careful and manage this game,” Brennan said. “Knowing that we’re in, it does take the pressure off, and I’m sure Forge will be doing the same thing. They played a lot of games, and I’m sure they’ll probably rotate a little bit as well knowing that they’ve still got a couple games.”
Forge FC wins: 6 || York United wins: 4 || Draws: 1
November 6, 2021 — York United 1-2 Forge FC
“You’re facing somebody who’s very good in front of us in York; it was a good game this past couple of days ago on Saturday, and we’ve just got to go out there and we’ve got to be better than we were on the weekend.” — Forge FC head coach Bobby Smyrniotis
“We’ve got to keep a high standard. We’ve got to make sure that we have a professional attitude and the right commitment when we step out on the pitch. Any pro game you never take lightly, every pro game you want to win. This is another match that we’ll be stepping on that pitch and we’ll be looking to win, and it could be another opportunity for some other players as well to get in there and get some minutes.” — York United head coach Jimmy Brennan