YORK REGION – Homecoming awaits, at long last.
Having sealed their spot in Qualifying Round 2 of the 2019 Canadian Championship on Wednesday night – by way of a hard-fought 1-0 win over PLSQ champions AS Blainville – York9 FC now switches focus to their league home opener on Saturday, as 905 Derby rivals Forge FC pay a visit to York Lions Stadium.
In advancing, the Nine Stripes book themselves another two-legged series in a few weeks against fellow Canadian Premier League side FC Edmonton, with York hosting the first leg on June 5 before travelling west for the second on June 12.
But Y9 head coach Jimmy Brennan isn’t even thinking of the Eddies yet – he’s focused on the mission at hand: Homecoming.
“It’s far too early (to be thinking about Edmonton), far too early; that will be in the back of the mind,” Brennan said.
With the Spring portion of the 2019 CPL season heating up, York9’s home opener on Saturday, alongside a tricky away trip to Halifax a few days later, sets Brennan’s side up for a defining week of action. The Nine Stripes will be hoping that Wednesday’s victory against Blainville serves as a push in momentum to carry over into league play as well.
“It’s the first win,” Brennan highlighted. “Out of the four games we had three draws and one loss away from home. In our first home game, we got a win. So now it’s building on that, carrying that momentum into Saturday, getting the guys prepared over the next couple of days and getting them ready for that home opener.
“If this place is packed on Saturday, there won’t be much coaching for me because the guys are going to be ready for that one.”
York9 joined Cavalry FC and HFX Wanderers FC as the three CPL clubs that move on to the second round of the Canadian Championship on Wednesday evening. Pacific FC will miss out as Cavalry ended their cup dreams.
“It means a lot,” said goal-scorer Ryan Telfer, of his team’s first steps. “We’re looking forward to the second round. Honestly, we’re already looking forward to the finals, to playing against one of the MLS clubs, but we know it’s going to be a tough road to get there in the first place.
“First we had to go through Blainville – Blainville wasn’t going to make this easy, and now we have Edmonton. And Edmonton, we’re looking like more the favourite team. They had the rest, they had the break. We’re coming in as the underdogs now. We’re ready to give Edmonton a fight for the money.”
The winner of the York-Edmonton series will be one of two CPL clubs to face an MLS side in Qualifying Round 3, drawn to meet the Montreal Impact come July – the winner of Forge FC and Cavalry will square off against Vancouver Whitecaps FC, while HFX and Valour FC will duel for the right to challenge Ottawa Fury FC.
Then come the semifinals in August and the final in September, though York see no value in getting ahead of themselves.
“We definitely have the potential to go far, make a good run,” said defender Luca Gasparotto, who marshaled the side to a second clean-sheet in the Voyageurs Cup. “We’re just taking it one game at a time: look forward to Saturday’s game first and then another game Wednesday, then we can look forward to the next round.
“With the potential of the group we have, we should be able to get another couple of results.”