Based in talent-rich Ontario and thus favoured to be one of the top sides in the Canadian Premier League’s inaugural season, York9 FC overcame early difficulties to fulfill that promise, if still trailing Forge FC and Cavalry FC at year’s end.
With Ryan Telfer, one of the league’s true stars and a man with a penchant for firsts; Morey Doner and Diyaeddine Abzi, a fearsome full-back duo; the CPL’s sole ironman, Luca Gasparotto; Nathan Ingham, a finalist for the Goalkeeper of the Year award; a flexible midfield that covered every base the game requires with Manny Aparicio, Wataru Murofushi, Joseph Di Chiara, and Kyle Porter bringing experience, physicality, and ball-skills to each match, Jimmy Brennan assembled a talented squad that grew over the course of the campaign.
Y9 played some tantalizing football, though it oscillated between lovely and chaotic. Moments of class and mistakes alternated as the deciding factors in a given result. Consistency became the rallying cry, something the side achieved a measure of with a strong close that saw them secure third spot, both in the Fall Season and in the overall table.
Thus far in the off-season, with a solid core of returning players lined up for 2020, that is the continued message. Here’s FC York9 FC’s 2019 Year in Review.
The CPL season began for York9 at Tim Horton’s Field with a 905 Derby against Forge FC. Jim Brennan tasked his side with playing spoilers, which they did, ruining the party within minutes of the start when Ryan Telfer stunned the boisterous home crowd with first goal in league history, before Kadell Thomas levelled late to salvage a 1-1 draw.
Positive though that start was, the schedule gods were unkind to Brennan’s side. That inaugural match was the first of four-straight away fixtures and was followed by a loss against Cavalry FC and a draw at Pacific FC, as well as a scoreless outing in the first leg of their Canadian Championship series against AS Blainville. York would first taste victory when they defeated the PLSQ champs 1-0 in their home debut come the second leg with Telfer again the hero.
Y9’s CPL home opener, a second all-Ontario clash against Forge, was won 2-0 by the visitors and May would close with a 1-1 draw away to HFX Wanderers FC. A second round of CanChamp action saw Y9 overpower FC Edmonton with a trio of headed goals in the first leg at home, though a late consolation goal and some controversy in the second leg away made it a nervy affair.
Securing passage to the next round and a date with the Montreal Impact boosted Y9, who embarked on a three-match unbeaten run, beating Pacific before seeing out scoreless draws with Edmonton and HFX. York closed out the Spring season with a big 3-1 win over Valour FC on Canada Day. A bad result followed – dropping the Fall season opener away to HFX – which set the narrative for much of the campaign. It became the central theme: a strong outing or run followed by a corresponding dip.
That engaging CanChamp first leg against the Impact, a wild 2-2 draw in front of a packed stadium, was followed by a pair of 2-1 wins in a three-match home stand, only to give way to another loss to Cavalry, and the disappointment of a 1-0 second leg defeat where Montreal needed another penalty kick to survive.
An emphatic 6-2 win over HFX was followed by a pair of dreadful 2-0 home losses to struggling Valour and Pacific, as well as a lifeless loss in Calgary where 3-1 was a kind scoreline. A draw in Edmonton was followed by yet another 905 Derby loss in Hamilton. A win on Vancouver Island by another home loss against Valour.
Throughout, as the first leg against the Impact exemplified, York were often their worst enemies. Doing the hard part – Telfer and Rodrigo Gattas scoring the goals – only to concede meekly – as an errant back-header set the table for Omar Browne and a nightmarish penalty kick gifted to Saphir Taider.
A 4-2 dismantling at the hands of Valour marked a turning point, however. With six matches remaining, Brennan’s crew would redouble their efforts to collect ten of the 18 points on offer with impressive away wins over Edmonton and Valour, back-to-back 4-0 wins that included a taste of derby success when they steamrolled Forge in the final clash of 2019, as well as a contentious draw against Cavalry that showed York could go toe-to-toe with any in the league.
Perhaps fittingly, the season would end with a tepid home outing against HFX, where York lost 2-0.
York9 FC’s Top 5 goals from 2019
End-of-season stat sheet
York9 FC finished third overall in the league, giving them hope heading into the 2020 season. Here’s how the 2019 season looks for Y9, by the numbers:
Record (W-D-L): 9-7-12 (CPL), 11-9-14 (all comps.)
Goals scored: 39 (CPL), 45 (all comps.)
Goals against: 37 (CPL), 41 (all comps.)
Goal Difference: +2 (CPL), +3 (all comps.)
Top scorer: Rodrigo Gattas (11, all comps.)
Assist leader: Diyaeddine Abzi (4)
Home wins: 5 of 14 (CPL), 7 of 17 (all comps.)
“This is a unique situation. Nowhere else in the world does this happen. We’re starting a brand new league. This has been a long time coming for Canada to have a professional soccer league. These guys are enjoying every moment of it, knowing that they’re going to be making history. It’s a big moment for myself, being part of this. This will definitely be up there as one of the proudest, emotional times in my career, being a Canadian; finally seeing that we have our own domestic league.” – Jim Brennan, April 23 pre-inaugural match against Forge FC
“I could see in their eyes they were up for it. I said, ‘I don’t even have to motivate you guys. It’s a big game, you know what’s at stake and you’ve got a point to prove.’ They went out there and what a show they put on for everybody.” – Jim Brennan, July 10 post-match 2-2 draw with the Montreal Impact in the first leg of the Canadian Championship
“Yeah, for sure. I don’t mind it being a little feisty. And when you win, it makes it even better. You beat them on the field, on the scoreboard, and you’re more feisty than them, I like that. I don’t shy away from that.” – Joseph Di Chiara, Oct. 12 post-4-0 win over Forge FC
Most memorable moment
It happened in a flash. Down a goal in the first match between a CPL and MLS team, York9 FC put together one of the prettiest counter attacks you’ll see against the Montreal Impact in the Canadian Championship. Ryan Telfer’s blast was at the centre of it. Two-touch, right-footed. York Lions Stadium exploded as the Nine Stripes neared a historic triumph over the Impact.
CCL! Final Thoughts: York9 FC’s 2019 Season
Centre Circle LIVE! is joined by James Grossi to talk York9 FC’s 2019 campaign.