The result, which officially eliminated Edmonton from contention, put York9 FC in a great position to qualify for the second round: They sit third in the table with ten points ahead of their contest with second-place Cavalry FC on Saturday (3pm ET, OneSoccer/CBC).
“We’re riding a wave,” York9 coach Jim Brennan said after the win. “We have some bodies coming back, and we have the momentum.”
As for the match’s lone goal: No, you’re not seeing double. Captain Manny Aparicio converted a bending free kick for the second match in a row – almost from the exact spot he scored from against HFX Wanderers FC on the weekend.
Aparicio – who led his side in key passes, passes in the opposition half, and tackles – was instrumental in keeping the Eddies stifled and, ultimately, unable to record a shot on target.
“He deserves these goals, this attention,” Brennan said. “He practices those all the time.”
Chris Mannella also made his long-awaited CPL debut, coming on a substitute in the 68th minute for the Nine Stripes.
It was a crucial win for York, who were without Joseph Di Chiara and Michael Petrasso due to yellow card accumulation and injury, respectively.
But, as Brennan told the media, Petrasso will return in Saturday’s pivotal tilt, giving the side a clean bill of health.
“Finally we’ll be going into that match with a full squad and everyone healthy,” Brennan noted dryly.
Tuesday brought a sixth set-piece goal from the Nine Stripes at The Island Games. An over-the-defensive-line chip from Wataru Murofushi to Ryan Telfer presented the lone clear-cut chance that York created in open play. A rising Luca Gasparotto header was another highlight.
Overall, Brennan saw positives in the final third of the pitch after making adjustments following their draw with HFX Wanderers.
“I thought our movement was good tonight. We were breaking the lines, and found ourselves some nice little pockets,” Brennan said. “But, look, it is just about getting three points but we touched up on a few things in training and it seemed to work for us tonight.”
One of those touch-ups came on the wings; Diyaeddine Abzi looked solid following a promotion from his usual wingback role, while Telfer swapped to his opposite flank.
“We wanted Ryan to cut inside and get some shots off,” Brennan explained.
“[Fugo] Segawa has been playing great so that allowed us to push Abzi up. I wanted to get him further up the pitch to run at players at pace. He likes to go at guys one-v-one.”
Mannella played just over 20 minutes in his York9 debut, something he worked hard towards in the bubble on Prince Edward Island.
“I had a bit of a setback which was heartbreaking,” Manella said. “And coming back from injury in the bubble was a struggle when you see people playing and training.
“Soccer is 24/7 in the bubble. You have to face it.”
Signed in January, the 26-year-old Toronto FC product was earmarked as a crucial part of York’s midfield. For the first time in years, Mannella hit the pitch with former teammate and central midfield operator Aparacio, something that was particularly special.
“It’s so much fun playing with Manny, we’ve been apart of the past couple years,” Mannella said.
“He brings such good energy, such an infectious energy. Didn’t miss a beat playing with him, either.”