Brennan On Making Playoffs: ‘We’re Not Worried’
Canadian Premier League side York9 FC saw a lot of roster changes ahead of the Island Games, with several international players like Adrian Ugarriza, Brian Lopez, Jaco, and Nicholas Hamilton all replaced on the roster due to work permit issues following the pandemic-caused border closure.
The Nine Stripes went into the Charlottetown-based tournament with a lot of young Canadian replacements as a result, with the side drawing all three of its opening matches in the seven-game regular season.
Following the side’s nil-nil draw with Valour FC, Brennan was asked if he was worried about having only accumulated three of nine possible points so far. With four matches left to play and the side currently in fourth, the club gaffer revealed that he wasn’t worried and that he believes two wins would see the side into the second round:
We believe in ourselves. We’ve got a good squad. We’re not worried. We feel that we’ve got enough here within this group to get into that next stage. Two wins, I think, gets you in with the points to be [had]. Nine points, it might even be less now, it might be eight. Look, we’re positive. We’re not worried right now. We’re just going to focus on our next match.Jim Brennan
The Nine Stripes have now played two games in a row without conceding a goal from open play, though a last-gasp set piece goal from Pacific FC saw the club drop two points last week, with a strong defensive performance from Valour FC resulting in a goalless draw today.
Today’s match saw saw Brennan’s side rack up twelve shots against Valour, three of which were on target and five of which were blocked. The club nearly claimed all three points from a late Ryan Telfer effort, but the ball rolled just wide of the net.
Last year saw the side struggle in the final third, with Brennan saying that the mistakes of 2019 would be rectified for 2020. Still, the final third difficulties suggest a tinge of history seeming to repeat itself at the Island Games, though the gaffer states that the goals will come as players continue to build up their match sharpness.
I’d be worried if we weren’t getting shots and we weren’t getting in the right areas. We’re getting it to the right areas, and that just comes with sharpness. It’s just that final ball, because our runs were good. We’re hitting the near post, far post, we’re hitting the penalty spot with our runs. It’s just delivery, but that’s sharpness, that’s a good clean pass into the areas where you want it and I felt at times we were a bit rushed when you could just take a breather and play those balls into the areas where they need to be, because the players were waiting there. I was happy with the runs, the movement into the box, it was just the quality of delivery wasn’t the best.Jim Brennan
Despite the gaffer’s criticism regarding chance creation, it’s easy to see some positive signs in terms of delivery, too: The Nine Stripes delivered fifteen crosses from open play today, while limiting Valour’s count for such to only two.
I think overall, look, I was happy with the way that we played. They’re strong down that right side, I felt we shut it right down on them and we made it very difficult for them when we had possession, and we let our football take over.Jim Brennan
Despite the shot tally, it’s fair to say that so far high profile additions like former Toronto FC man Ryan Telfer and Corinthians product Gabriel Vasconcelos haven’t exactly gotten off to red hot starts. With Michael Petrasso leaving today’s match with injury concerns, the club’s attacking line will be in for tough tests against the likes of Forge FC and Cavalry FC.
Former Ottawa Fury man Chris Mannella has spent the tournament on the sidelines due to injury so far, and one feels that his distribution could have made the difference for the club in its opening matches.
Still, returning midfielder Joseph Di Chiara has shined in the middle of the pitch, winning plenty of fouls and helping organize the Nine Stripes midfield alongside the likes of Manny Aparicio and Wataru Murofushi, who has been a consistently calm presence for the side. Full-backs Morey Doner and Diyaeddine Abzi have also helped support the Nine Stripes attack, though despite his tricky runs Abzi only saw 52% of his passes find their target today.
With twelve points still on the line from the regular season, York9 FC still has plenty of room to rack up points. The club currently finds itself in fourth, though three of the teams currently below them have a game in hand. With tough matches against Forge and Cavalry ahead, the second half of the shortened regular season will be a testing one for the York Region side.
After having finished third in the fall campaign last year, it’ll be interesting to see if York9 FC is able to live up to its high expectations in the bubble tournament. Whatever happens in the next two weeks, Brennan has made it clear: he believes in the squad that he has, and his recent contract extension shows that the club believes in him, too.
Header Image Credit: Canadian Premier League / Chant Photography