York9 FC’s campaign in Prince Edward Island is now three games old, and they have yet to win or lose.
As they played out a 0-0 draw with Valour FC on Saturday, the 2020 Nine Stripes — for all the major off-season moves they made — looked quite similar to the 2019 edition. They controlled possession, they were comfortably distributing the ball in midfield, but it all went for naught as the same problems in the final third continued to plague them.
They did manage to send 12 shots toward the Valour goal, although only three of them managed to test goalkeeper James Pantemis. Nonetheless, York9 boss Jimmy Brennan was pleased to see his club executing his tactics in defence and midfield.
“We felt we had a lot of control in that game today, felt we moved the ball well at times,” he told reporters. “Our fullbacks were getting in the right positions, and I think overall we did have control. We had a lot of possession, a lot of good clean movements, we found our pockets, moving it side to side.”
The Nine Stripes have scored just three times at The Island Games so far, one of which was a penalty kick in their opener against Atlético Ottawa. Even though the finishing hasn’t quite been refined yet, though, Brennan isn’t too worried about it.
“I’d be worried if we weren’t getting shots and we weren’t getting into the right areas,” he said. “We’re getting into the right areas, it just comes with sharpness. It’s just that final ball, because our runs were good. We’re hitting the near post, far post, we’re hitting the penalty spot with our runs.
“I felt that at times it was a little bit rushed, where you can take a breather and play those balls into the areas where they need to be, because the players were waiting. I was happy with the runs and the movement into the box, but it was just the quality of the delivery wasn’t the best.”
York9 has certainly tried out plenty of options in the attack; Ryan Telfer has been a mainstay, and Alvaro Rivero seems to be on his way to becoming the same, but Gabriel Vasconcelos, Max Ferrari, Jace Kotsopoulos, and Lowell Wright have all tried their hand in the front three.
Perhaps the most upsetting part of the afternoon for the Nine Stripes was seeing Michael Petrasso — certainly the first-choice right winger — have to leave the game in the 37th minute, having apparently re-tweaked his lingering injury. Up to that point, he’d been perfect with all nine of his passes, and he’d won three of his four duels.
“It was disappointing because I thought Michael was just starting to get into a little rhythm there,” Brennan said. “He was getting into the game, he was causing them problems. … He felt something and we took him off right away. Didn’t want to risk it, make it worse.”
So, they move on. Three points from three games technically had York9 in the top four as of the end of their game, although other results from this weekend will likely change the picture significantly.
With so many draws so far around the CPL, the points threshold for a top four spot might be lower than initially expected. Brennan suggested that eight or nine points in total could be enough, and so he’s targeting at least two wins from his last four games.
“There has been a lot of draws, but by no means does this really change our mentality,” York9 captain Manny Aparicio offered. “We know we need a couple wins, that’s just how we’re gonna come at the next few games.”
As Brennan looks ahead to a critical 905 Derby showdown with Forge FC next Wednesday, he’s clutching to optimism and backing his group.
“We’ve got some good attacking pieces. Now it’s just to get in their stride, get their goals and start firing on all cylinders,” he said.
“We’re almost there, and the good news is we’re still picking up points. We haven’t lost a match. Now it’s just getting strikers to finish their chances.”