YORK REGION — Call it the latest unique feature of a unique league: a 30-minute match.
In the end, that’s what decided it all when York9 FC and Forge FC emerged after a storm delay to complete the second 905 Derby of the season.
The players were ushered inside after 62 minutes with the score deadlocked at 0-0 and only one substitute apiece used. They then spent an hour waiting for the lightning to clear — and deciding how to attack a condensed match played on York9’s fittingly condensed field.
They did so with differing priorities. York9 had accounted for four of the five shots attempted between half-time and the delay, with Emilio Estevez testing Triston Henry with a dipping left-footed effort that the goalkeeper pushed around the post.
Jimmy Brennan told his team to get back at it.
“You want to pick it up where you left off, on the front foot, going forward,” the York9 head coach said.
Forge’s first task was to fend them off. The match restarted with the corner York9 had won before the break in play and, intent on taking advantage of any lack of focus, Wataru Murofushi fizzed it into the six-yard box.
“We had to defend a corner kick first off; that was the first job we had to do and then we could take it on from there,” winger Chris Nanco recalled.
Forge cleared its lines — and then did so again, and again, and again.
“I think we did a very good job with this,” Forge assistant coach Peter Reynders said of his team’s defence of the aerial attack. “They had a few shots, for sure, but no set pieces on target.”
“It’s always hard because you start getting into a momentum in the game,” Brennan said. “You’ve got a rhythm that’s in the game. We felt it was coming — the guys were confident, we kept on getting forward and then all of a sudden, you’re told to get in the dressing room because of the rain.
“It gives them a chance to recover, to get some energy back in their legs. They can sit and talk tactics. And then when we came out, we still pushed forward but we couldn’t finish it today.”
As York9’s attempts to push bodies and the ball into the Forge box continued to be repelled, the game started to open up in the other direction.
“They break on the counter and they score on us,” Brennan lamented.
Most of Forge’s best chances came when they created overloads in the — admittedly limited — wide areas, with Kyle Bekker often the orchestrator.
But when Tristan Borges or Emery Welshman was played in down the outside of the box, their natural instinct was to shoot as they drifted inside onto their preferred foot.
This time, Bekker was the recipient of the pass into the area rather than the provider. And as a right-footed player on the right wing, the angle he was presented with was different. He chose to play another pass across the box rather than go for goal himself.
Nanco did not so much shoot as simply make contact with the ball to redirect it past Nathan Ingham.
“The first goal was a fantastic counter-attack,” Reynders enthused. “Three, four touches and it’s in the net.
“The message (after the delay) was ‘go out and finish the game and enjoy it’. We’re not used to this — this is different for me. But the players did a very good job.”
Bekker was the provider again when Borges put the game to bed off a clever set-piece routine.
So, should another Canadian Premier League team find itself unexpectedly holed up in a locker room due to extreme weather, Forge has a few tips.
Use the time to regroup. Identify, as Nanco mentioned, one or two immediate and achievable targets. And while you’re waiting, keep the mood light.
“It’s difficult, it can be,” Nanco said. “We have a good group of guys, there was a little bit of jokes. But when it came down to it, we knew we had to be serious and get back out there and perform.”