York United Set For Big Night Against Toronto FC
York United finds itself as one of two CPL sides poised to take on Major League Soccer competition tomorrow, and head coach Jim Brennan is ready to face a familiar opponent: his former team, Toronto FC.
The knockout cup match comes at a time when Toronto FC finds itself stuck in a valley as York United approaches a peak, which puts forth the idea that a Pacific FC-esque cupset could perhaps be on the cards.
Much like how Whitecaps goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau knew that Pacific FC had nothing to lose, Brennan told the Canadian Press that the pressure is all on Toronto FC tomorrow night.
For our players now, there’s no pressure on them going into this game. I want them to go out there and enjoy the occasion, play with freedom. The pressure’s going to be all on TFC. They’re at home. They’re the big guys in the country.Jim Brennan
Toronto FC lies dead last in the league with a 4-15-6 record, which suggests head coach Javier Perez will field a strong team in the hopes of achieving domestic success through the Canadian Championship.
York United has risen to fourth in the Canadian Premier League, shaking off a somewhat slow start to record just one loss in its last ten matches. The club put in a comfortable 5-0 victory over League1 Ontario side Master’s Futbol Academy to reach the quarter-final, but now finds itself labelled as the big underdog.
Toronto FC has hoisted the Voyageurs Cup no less than seven times, the last of which came in 2018. CF Montreal still holds the cup after its 2019 win, as Canada Soccer suggests that the much-belated 2020 Canadian Championship Final could take place as late as 2022.
Brennan – who will now be hoping to see Toronto FC etched out of the competition – had won the tournament four times with Toronto FC, split between his time as a player, assistant general manager, and assistant coach.
It’s a great competition and obviously it’s getting bigger and bigger every year and even more hard to win. For these young guys, getting their first taste of the Canadian Championship, it’s a great opportunity. And look you never know what’s going to happen on any given day.Jim Brennan
The quarter-finals of the Canadian Championship were previously two-legged affairs, but the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic saw the CSA pivot to single leg knockout matches in order to mitigate travel requirements for each team, especially with league schedules being so packed after a late start to the season.
While OneSoccer put out a post asking fans what to call tomorrow’s matchup, Brennan isn’t ready to call the Toronto FC – York United game anything other than a cup match just yet: despite the geographical proximity between the two, he says derbies take some time to develop. He also suggested that tomorrow night’s focus should be on his players, not the return to BMO Field for Toronto FC’s first-ever signing.
It’s not so much for me but watching our players perform on a big stage, a fantastic ground, and against a good team. So that’s what I’m really looking forward to, is seeing how our players embrace the occasion.Jim Brennan
The night will be a big chance for Nine Stripes players to impress, with many of them having openly expressed ambitions to jump up into Major League Soccer. Quebecois winger Diyaeddine Abzi had said as much after his inaugural CPL campaign, with the 22-year-old full-back scoring five goals in 18 appearances this season.
The left-back earned a mention from Javier Perez today, who was acutely award of Abzi’s attacking capabilities and says he expects the Nine Stripes to try to apply pressure with through its energetic, young players.
The Nine Stripes are also high on Max Ferrari, signing the 21-year-old midfielder to a new two-year contract extension last month after he showed significant growth in his second professional season. The high-profile cup match will also be a big opportunity for former Toronto FC youth products to show up against their old team, with former national team midfielder Michael Petrasso stating that York United is going in with the mindset to win.
Brennan – who captained Toronto FC during the difficult fledgling steps of the MLS club – knows it won’t be easy, especially with TFC expected to go all-out in the cup as its own playoff hopes dwindle.
They need this for their season now. This is what they’ve got left. They’re going to be coming at us and it definitely won’t be an easy match at all. I expect them to come out guns ablazing.Jim Brennan
Toronto FC broke a string of six losses to beat Nashville 2-1 last weekend, with Jacob Shaffelburg and Omar Gonzalez finding the scoresheet. Toronto FC has downplayed the days leading up to the cup final, with most fan talk surrounding the potential return of Sebastian Giovinco.
Toronto FC has a payroll higher than $17 million, which is what was released prior to the signings of Dom Dwyer and Yeferson Soteldo. York United’s player salary cap has a maximum of $850,000. The club noted that all of its players will be available for the cup clash, too.
This won’t be York United’s first time facing MLS opposition, with the Nine Stripes having held CF Montreal to a 2-2 draw in the first leg of the 2019 Canadian Championship, coming one last-gasp crossbar away from procuring a shock victory. CF Montreal won its home leg 1-0 to advance, later winning the competition.
This Wednesday will also see another CPL-vs-MLS match as the Halifax Wanderers take on reigning champions CF Montreal, while an all-CPL clash will see Cavalry FC host Pacific FC, who defeated the Whitecaps to reach the quarter-final.
Last week saw Forge FC best Valour 2-1 to secure passage to the semi-finals, where the Hamilton-based side will face either CF Montreal or the Halifax Wanderers. Brennan will be hoping to see his team advance to face either Cavalry or Pacific FC, though he notes that his players will need to control their emotions on the big day.
This marks Brennan’s third year in charge of York United, who will be hoping the hot run of form will continue as the club seeks its first-ever postseason berth in league standings. Tomorrow, however, it’s all about the cup and whether Toronto FC’s former captain will dash the hopes of Toronto FC at his old stomping ground.
Quotes Source: Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press