Never say that Canadian soccer lacks emotions, there’s nothing further from the truth.
It was an electrifying match between York United FC and HFX Wanderers on Sunday at York Lions Stadium, with the home side saving their place in the playoffs with only 10 minutes remaining.
Alvaro Rivero opened the score for York very early in the first half, but Akeem Garcia and Mamadi Camara gave Halifax the lead before the break.
It wasn’t until the 78th minute that Julian Ulbricht scored the second and final goal for United. It was a 2-2 draw in the end.
Despite saving a point after being outmatched in various moments of the game, coach Jimmy Brennan ended up the game thinking they deserved more.
“After the second goal we felt that something big was coming,” said the gaffer, during the post-match conference. “We had a few corners, that big scramble in their box that no one was able to put in, and also that header from Sebastian (Gutierrez) which to me was a valid goal, there’s no foul against their keeper.
“It’s not the first time the referees have those calls against us. Last time at Halifax, they called a penalty for them, when it clearly was not.”
Following their victory against Valour FC last week, there was a very positive atmosphere surrounding York United, with coaching staff and players feeling they had already secured their playoff spot.
The club even decided to take advantage of the entire week they had between games and gave the players a couple of days off.
This was the first time in a very long time that the squad could rest from the CPL’s tight schedule, but it seems like it had some sort of negative effect on the players who did not seemed as focused as in other opportunities when they entered the pitch.
Midfielder Noah Verhoeven was not afraid to point that out.
“We had a slow start today and we struggled to find any momentum in the first half,” said Verhoeven. “The week we had between games could have contributed to that.
“It’s not that we had an entire week off, or that we were not thinking about the game, but we stopped the rhythm that we had been following in the previous weeks.”
On the other side, Wanderers seemed extra focused from the very beginning, as following their victory against Atlético Ottawa on Wednesday, they found themselves only one point behind United.
Home side strike early
York found the first goal of the game after only 13 minutes of the first half. A good cross from Max Ferrari was badly cleared by defender Morey Doner, leaving Alvaro Rivero in a very good spot to beat Christian Oxner.
However, taking the lead was not enough for Brennan’s team to gain momentum; on the contrary, the home team found themselves pushed back to their own field by the visiting team.
Halifix started knocking constantly on Nathan Ingham’s goal, and even though the keeper had some very impressive reactions, they were not enough to cover York’s defensive weaknesses during the first half. Eventually Akeem Garcia found the first for the visitors on the 27th minute, and Mamadi Camara scored the second one just before halftime.
Coach Brennan took advantage of the break to do some tactical changes, which allowed the team to finally generate some good opportunities.
After 10 minutes where the game became much more balanced, the boss sent out three pairs of fresh legs into the pitch at once. Chrisnovic N’sa, Cedric Toussant, and Sebastian Gutierrez gave the team a much-needed offensive look that gave them absolute control over their rivals.
Later on, the manager decided to bring on German striker Julian Ulbricht, who needed only 12 minutes to find the back of the net with a header that, literally, moved the entire Wanderer’s goal.
It was all York United from that point forward, but the ball just would not cross the line. Even when Sebastian Gutierrez did put it away, the goal was ruled off due to a foul against the goalie. Despite that, the crowd at York Lions Stadium gave a standing ovation to the team after the final whistle.
They recognized the player’s efforts and celebrated the fact that they were able to remain within the top four teams, at least, until their next game.
NOTES: The Nine Stripes now have an unbeaten streak of seven CPL games … Lost loss was Aug. 28 vs. Forge FC … They will now face Atlético Ottawa at York Lions Stadium on Oct. 8, looking to get those three points.