De Rosario Fires York United Into Playoffs
A brace from Osaze De Rosario was enough to send the Nine Stripes into playoff nirvana on Friday night.
The club has endured a rollercoaster season chock-full of underdog moments, with two back-to-back wins closing out the regular season to hand York United the fifth and final playoff spot – much to the chagrin of Atletico Ottawa, who had held that position up to the previous weekend.
Martin Nash’s side knew they had fate in their own hands as they marched into Willoughby Community Park to face Vancouver FC, who had won four of their last five and proven to themselves to be big playoff disruptors despite their own elimination.
Right from the get-go, however, a front-footed York United attack (which has been something of a rarity this season) connected well to catch the hosts out: Kadin Martin-Pereux sent in a tasty ball from the wing for Osaze, who stretched his foot cleverly in front of Romeo to redirect it into the back of the net.
Wing plays proved a profitable venture for the visitors, with a sprightly run on the touch line from Martin-Pereux making big yards on the left flank. There’ll be some debate whether he kept the ball in, but the end result saw the ball eventually land with Jonathan Grant on the opposite right side, and he pinged a ball in that forced Irving into a diving punch.
Unfortunately for the keeper, the ball then went right to Osaze De Rosario, who calmly headed home the rebound to put the visitors two-nil in front.
The game had been wide open despite the increasingly lopsided scoreline, and York United would pay the price for allowing so many counters against them later on in the first half: Gabriel Bitar fought for possession at the edge of the Nine Stripes box, playing in Haiti international Mikael Cantave. He curved his run and fired the ball beyond Niko, and the flag stayed down despite replays showing Mikael had been offside.
Canadian Premier League commissioner Mark Noonan had recently hinted that video assistant referees might be on the menu in future seasons, but the hosts won’t mind the lack of it on their season-closer in Langley. The first half would end 2-1, with Martin Nash making a bold move to bring off U-21 defender Noah Abatneh for appearance-leader Max Ferrari as the half came to a close.
The second half saw Vancouver FC grow into the game, getting some dangerous balls into the box which required some hasty clearances, including an incredible block from Baldisimo in the 67th minute to keep the lead intact. The warning klaxons blared again when Giantsopoulos nearly had a gaff in his own box, but VFC remained – somehow – off the scoresheet in the second half despite an abundance of chances.
The drama continued through all eight minutes of added time, with subbed-out striker Austin Ricci getting a second yellow on the bench, and Kevin Dos Santos missing a surefire insurance goal. Still, the club did just enough to get them over the line: at the final whistle, the score remained Vancouver FC 1 – 2 York United.
The result means that York United has officially clinched a playoff position for just the second time in club history. The first came in 2021, where they succumbed to a Playoff 905 Derby loss to Forge by a 3-1 scoreline. With a much-transformed squad since then – including leadership – Nash now leads a York United side who have actually played better away than at home. That’s a good thing, since all of their possible postseason matches will be as the away team.
The team left it late to lock in the necessary amount of domestic U-21 minutes, hitting the league’s required 2,000 marker late in the second half of the match. With the dust of the regular season now settled, however, it’s onto the next: York United will face either Forge, Halifax, or Pacific on Wednesday.
“We had to fight for it. We had some ups and downs down the stretch, but we were able to get there,” said Martin Nash after the match, who admitted the team were stretched after going 2-0 up.
“It’s a tough road. It’s not going to be easy. Whoever we get first round, it’s going to be a difficult match up. We’ll go at the first round and see what happens.”
It’ll be a dreary weekend for Atletico Ottawa, who had been hoping to capitalize on a York United loss ahead of their match against Forge tomorrow. Instead, the nation’s capital will hope to end what has been a tough season with their heads held high.