It was a week of regrouping and discussions amongst the York United camp. It had been a rough couple of weeks for the blue and green, not made easier by making the cross-Canada trek from Vancouver Island to Halifax to play the Wanderers. But a week in the Maritimes full of intense preparation put the array of doubts to bed, at least for the time being. A 3-0 domination and demolition in Nova Scotia has York flying again and gives the players plenty of positive energy, a feeling that is very much deserved after coming oh-so-close on a few occasions earlier this season.
The contest draws comparisons to the last time York was on the luscious green grass of Halifax; when the Nine Stripes set their 2022 season back on course for success. It had been a trying time up to that point, but following the victory, the end of the campaign got much sunnier in their world. Shortly after, Mo Babouli linked up with the club. It truly is a full-circle moment, since the star man looks to return to training this week and get minutes within a dozen days or so.
“It bumps us up the table a little bit, which is good,” said Martin Nash. “I think all the draws have kept us in the running while we were on the bad spell, hopefully scoring some goals gives us a bit of positivity as well, since we haven’t been scoring. We matched our season total in one game, and I knew it was coming, but it was great to happen all at once.”
The goals in question came from a group that you wouldn’t expect to carry the load on offence. A midfield trio of Matthew Baldisimo, Oussama Alou, and Brem Soumaoro struck the netting, all recording their very first goals in the Canadian Premier League, respectively. Baldisimo did find himself in quite a lucky place: Mo Omar had sent Alou down, and he hesitated for a second, looking for some form of call. With Omar out of the question, since he didn’t see Baldisimo, the Vancouverite charged forward with newfound space and sent a rocket on the ground that got the better of Yann Fillion – but only just. Baldisimo had his chances in the last match on Vancouver Island, but couldn’t take them by the reins like with this shot. It set York up very well for the day, as the Wanderers had been getting used to scoring first.
Alou found his moment of magic, an instant that was destined to unfold soon enough. The creative Dutchman has been more of an offensive spark than someone who ignites a flame this year, but by dancing around at the edge of the box and whipping in a curling effort, his moment arrived. In many ways the heir to Babouli, Alou concocted a moment that is typical of the former. He is stepping into the spotlight slowly but surely. With two key passes according to SofaScore and 48 touches, Alou is a big part of the system. He distributes to the wingers, and on the day, if he could do that, good fortunes would come.
Austin Ricci may not be someone who is familiar with the flanks, but he is very good on them. A thorn in the side for Cristian Campagna and Riley Ferrazzo (Ricci and Clément Bayiha switched sides often), Ricci will take the ball like a running back in American football and simply charge. A remarkable seven successful dribbles on ten attempts were the driving force behind his man-of-the-match performance. It was on the third goal that Ricci’s run drew Fillion and centre-back Cale Loughrey out of position, eventually leaving Soumaoro on an island of his own to bury the ball. It meant a lot to the squad that they had vanquished the most dangerous lead in sports and a mere 22 seconds into the second half, it was officially an instance of running riot.
The goals and glamour up front don’t say that these players didn’t do their job on the other end of the pitch. York swarmed the ball like bees with exuberance and determination you just didn’t see in the latest editions of the side. “It’s what the coaches ask of you, it’s the bare minimum,” said Baldisimo on the pressure to the Wanderers. “If you don’t go out there every match like that, something’s wrong.” If that is the case, a right has been struck. To highlight one player’s performance winning the ball, which doesn’t do justice to this total team performance, is Max Ferrari. The speedy wing-back had his heart set on the ball constantly, winning 13 ground duels, and only committing three fouls while drawing four. It is clear Ferrari plays with a lot of pride and fight, he is an example of the ideal player. Tass Mourdoukoutas was also excellent at sliding in to make plays.
S. 2 Ep. 21: Canada Doing What Canada Does – FC13 Podcast
The box-to-box, full-match performance has been a goal for Nash to get these players to do. In the past, mustering up to 65, sometimes even 80 minutes of good play has been the norm. But placing the final puzzle piece in, finishing chances and being in the match for a full 90 hadn’t arrived. Now, it has. “The challenge was ‘Can we bring the energy we need to put in performances like that?’,” Nash explained. “We had to take a long look at ourselves, both players and staff. Obviously, we showed we can do that and it was great, I couldn’t have asked for anything more energy-wise, we held the tempo of the match for most of it, it was pleasing as a coach to see players putting in all that hard work and you love to see it come to fruition.”
While the defence let up a bit and Halifax came back into the game, getting unlucky with striking the ball and not really challenging Niko Giantsopolous, just getting on his nerves, York was repeatedly going on long counters, fighting for the ball and possession, furthermore their hopes of maybe clinching a fourth and making their poor goal difference an afterthought. They seem to be doing counters much quicker, and the passing from the bottom to the top is really aiding that. “The chemistry is getting along quick, we just have to carry the momentum on from here,” added Baldisimo. “It’s one game, there’s still a lot more to play.
Baldisimo will have to instill that attitude into every athlete in training this week. The next step is obviously rewinding the clock to this performance come Sunday evening’s clash with Cavalry, another team who is an expert at drawing games. “We know you can’t just have one good performance,” Nash said.
Will the beast from the East join York on their flight home? It remains to be seen.
Top photo by Trevor MacMillan/HFX Wanderers FC
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