PREVIEW: York United vs. Forge FC — Match #33

2021 CPL regular season — Match #33
York United vs. Forge FC
July 30, 2021 at 7:00 pm ET
York Lions Stadium in Toronto, Ontario
Watch Live: // Tickets available here


York United: Nathan Ingham, Jordan Wilson, Dominick Zator (c), Max Ferrari, Noah Verhoeven, Diyaeddine Abzi, Cedric Toussaint, Isaiah Johnston, Terique Mohammed, Chrisnovic N’sa, Lowell Wright

Forge FC: Triston Henry, Jonathan Grant, Kwame Awuah, Elimane Cisse, Kyle Bekker (c), Alexander Achinioti-Jonsson, Maxim Tissot, Mo Babouli, Tristan Borges, Garven Metusala, Paolo Sabak


At long last, the CPL is returning to Ontario on Friday, as the league’s first-ever combatants reconvene at York Lions Stadium for the seventh edition of the 905 Derby. York United, playing at home for the first time since October 19, 2019 (and the first time ever after rebranding to United from York9), will host defending champions Forge FC to kick off the next phase of the 2021 season.

Both sides will have left the Winnipeg bubble reasonable happy; York are fifth in the league standings with a 2-3-3 record and nine points, but they completed their time at The Kickoff with a solid 1-0 victory last Saturday over FC Edmonton to head home on a positive note. Forge, meanwhile, are just one spot ahead of their fellow Ontarians in fourth, with a 4-0-4 record and 12 points. Their last contest in the bubble didn’t go quite as well, as they dropped a 2-1 decision to Cavalry FC last Thursday after conceding twice in the first half.

Since returning from the bubble, both clubs have appreciated a slight return to normal routine with training at home. The two teams have dealt with a number of injuries over the past month or so, and a week’s worth of recovery and training has probably done both sides a world of good.

“When you look at the calendar, this is probably the most normal week of training we’ll have all year, and that’s crazy,” said Forge boss Bobby Smyrniotis. “This is probably the longest stretch we’ll get without a game, so it’s just nice to be on the field, and you’re getting four training sessions in before a game, just to give the guys a couple of days off coming from Winnipeg — I thought that was important, not only physically but also just mentally to decompress a little bit, it’s just nice to be back in your surroundings, have a sense of normalcy in doing things.”

Meanwhile, it’s like Christmas Eve for York, who are eagerly anticipating their return to York Lions Stadium, and coach Jimmy Brennan has seen a buzz growing in his team since their return home.

“There’s no better feeling than when you step on that field and you’ve got your home fans that are backing you,” Brennan said Thursday. “They’re chanting, giving that energy within the stadium that you as a player want to take some of that energy and put it into your performance. We’re just really excited to be out there and see our home fans, wearing club jerseys, singing club songs, and supporting the team. It’s been an awful long time coming, so there will be that added energy.”

These clubs haven’t seen each other yet this year, with the most recent 905 Derby coming at the Island Games last season. That contest was a thrilling one, which saw York pull ahead 2-0 before Forge clawed back in the second half, only for Joseph Di Chiara to score from the penalty spot to give the Nine Stripes a 3-2 victory. York has actually won their last two meetings with Forge, dating back to the end of the 2019 season — although the Hamilton club won the three derbies prior to that. Matches between these Ontario rivals have often been close, dating all the way back to their 1-1 draw in the CPL’s inaugural game in 2019.

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  • York returns home to record crowd: York United president Angus McNab revealed on Thursday that Friday’s home opener is very nearly sold out, with a raucous crowd expected for the club’s first game at York Lions Stadium since October 2019. In fact, they’ll be setting a club record for paid attendance Every CPL side is embracing this return to normalcy, and York will proudly be the first club to play at home after the Kickoff (followed shortly by Pacific FC later on Friday evening). The Nine Stripes will be taking to a newly-installed FIFA-grade turf pitch at York Lions Stadium in front of a strong crowd, with a local rival coming to town — perhaps with a few of their fans making the trip to attend as well? As well, many of York’s young Canadian players will get to play in front of their friends and family for the first time as professionals — apparently, Isaiah Johnston in particular will have a serious cheering section. “Football’s about fans,” McNab told reporters. “So actually returning to our home market with fans in stands is something we’ve all been looking forward to for a long time, and I just can’t wait for it…. I think it’s fantastic just seeing how much it means to the guys, and them to be in their home market and to be playing and representing their club, and truly their club, that’s what it’s all about and that’s very, very rewarding for us all.”
  • Set-pieces take centre stage: This is a very different York team to the one that beat Forge last year, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the danger they pose in dead-ball situations. The Nine Stripes scored all three of their goals against Forge from set pieces in their game last year, and corners and free kicks remain an important piece of York’s game, especially seeing how well Diyaeddine Abzi has been able to hit a ball this year. “You have to be organized on both sides of the ball, we look at it in our transition from last year — we leaked some goals on set pieces but we’ve become very good at it,” said Forge coach Bobby Smyrniotis. “You need to have a wide array to what you do, because what works this week needs to be different next week; with all the scouting, all the video analysis, everything is too easy these days. So it’s something we look at very closely in our opponents, because it’s those moments that can unlock games, both on the attack and defending.”
  • Both sides working back to full health: Every CPL team went through injury troubles at The Kickoff, with Forge and York being no exceptions. The Hammers have seen a number of key players struggle with knocks, but thanks to this extended break they may have been able to recover slightly, with players like Tristan Borges coming closer to full health. Smyrniotis revealed that Dejan Jakovic, Daniel Krutzen, Monti Mohsen, and Kosi Nwafornso are all ruled out for Friday’s game, with a couple other names still day-to-day, but centre-backs Jakovic and Krutzen are very close to returning — they’ll be held out on Friday to play it safe, with more games quickly approaching next week. Brennan kept his cards closer to the vest with regard to injury, but we offered that a few players are close to returning in, if not this game, then perhaps the next. Michael Petrasso has missed three straight games, and centre-back Roger Thompson has been out for a while, but perhaps they’re not far off. Brennan did add that one thing he learned from the Winnipeg bubble is how readily his players will take on new responsibilities or positions when required — Jordan Wilson, for instance, has taken quite a few reps at centre-back in Thompson’s stead.


York United wins: 2 || Forge FC wins: 3 || Draws: 1

Previous match:

August 26, 2020 — York United 3-2 Forge FC


“York was a team in the first two years that was very possession-oriented, moving the ball around the pitch, and they’ve become a bit more of a counter-attacking team, a team that likes verticality and picking things up and moving as quickly as possible forward… That’s been effective for them. They’ve been very good and they put out a lot of energy in the 90 minutes they’re on the pitch.” — Bobby Smyrniotis, Forge FC head coach

“It’s always a good game when we play Forge. I’ve got a good deal of respect for them, they’re a good footballing side and Bobby’s done ever so well with that… It’s one game on the calendar that we always look at and say this is the one we want to win. ” — Jimmy Brennan, York United head coach