There is absolutely no love lost between York9 FC and Forge FC, who wasted no time in introducing fans to a true Canadian Premier League rivalry in their inaugural meeting, a 1-1 draw, on Saturday.
With hard tackles on both sides, culminating in a red card for York9 skipper Manny Aparicio in injury time, this fixture looks like it’ll be an entertaining one all year.
“It was a true derby game today,” said York9 boss Jimmy Brennan postgame. “Once that whistle blew, we knew the game was on.”
Despite the 1-1 scoreline, the match saw an abundance of headline-grabbing moments. Ryan Telfer opened his (and the league’s) scoring account just three minutes in, setting the tone for a wide-open, fast-paced, and – most notably – incredibly physical affair.
“I think a lot of people don’t realize just how physical the pro game is,” said Brennan. “The pro game’s here now and you’re starting to see how big these guys are, how athletic, the contact within a sport. That’s just the game all around the world.”
A game like that, with 15 fouls in all and 43 tackles across both teams (25 for York9), played into the visitors’ hands nicely.
Midfielders Joe Di Chiara and Aparicio expected the hard-nosed affair, and they relished it.
“We’re big boys,” said Di Chiara. “We can use the physical side of the game to our advantage, and I think today we did”
“Both teams were playing for a lot more than just the three points,” added Aparicio, speaking to the fervor with which both sides attacked the ball.
Both midfielders were right in the thick of it, with Di Chiara taking a controversial hit from Forge captain Kyle Bekker in the first half, and Aparicio drawing both the first yellow and red cards in CPL history.
In the dying stages of an intense game, Aparicio’s tactical foul was a little unfortunate, but he admits it’s a moment that he’ll learn from.
“It’s not a mistake that’s not fixable,” he added. “The emotions are high, it’s not a big deal.”
Telfer’s early marker took the wind out of the home crowd’s sails, which was exactly what the Nine Stripes were looking for. On top of creating an incredibly special moment for himself, he instantly relieved any pregame jitters his side had going in.
“It takes a lot of the pressure off some of the guys who were playing in their first professional game,” said Telfer, alluding to teammates like Justin Springer and Daniel Gogarty.
With that first goal out of the way, York9 were able to settle into their defensive shape and absorb wave after wave of attacks from Forge FC. The home side opened themselves up and tried time and again to send the ball into the box from out wide, but it seemed that centre-backs Gogarty and Luca Gasparotto were on the end every time.
York9 managed to limit Forge’s cross accuracy to just over 10 percent (aided by the wind, of course), and they generally kept shots to the peripheries of the 18-yard box. For that, ‘keeper Nathan Ingham was grateful.
“[Forge] were putting in balls and our big boys were eating them up,” said Ingham. “We were very in control, even if it didn’t look like it. I had no worries, I didn’t think they were going to break us down at all. It’s unfortunate that a ball fell to their player and he has an open shot.”
Brennan, too, was quick to praise his side’s ability to weather the storm, but he saved some laurels for Ingham himself – especially for Ingham’s point-blank save on Tristan Borges in the 61st minute.
“He’s brave as a lion,” said the York9 coach. “He’ll throw his body in front of anything. What a great save that was, to come across the box, make himself big. That’s a world class save.”
Even though the Nine Stripes allowed a late goal, Brennan and his players are happy to walk away with a hard-earned point. With 90 minutes under their belts in as hostile an environment as they’re likely to face this year, it’s hard to complain – although Brennan admits he wishes they’d bagged another of their chances in the first half.
“We wanted to spoil the occasion for [Forge] today,” he said. “We wanted to come away with a point or three points, so we’re happy. We’ve done our job today.”
With a week until their next away test against Cavalry FC, the Nine Stripes will leave Hamilton satisfied.
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