It’s been a tale of two seasons at York United FC.
The Nine Stripes began their 2022 campaign winning just two of their first 15 matches in the Canadian Premier League.
Since midsummer through, Martin Nash’s side have won seven of their last 12 outings, snatching all three points away to the league’s top teams in Cavalry, Forge, and Pacific.
The run of good form has not been enough to save their season however, with the club having been eliminated from playoff contention following Pacific’s 1-0 win over Halifax Wanderers on September 27th.
Despite failing to qualify for the postseason, York United and their supporters should feel positive about how the season has ended, and what the future holds.
The sale of standouts Diyaeddine Abzi and Lowell Wright took away much needed quality from York early in the season. Losing the league’s best fullback in Abzi was never going to be easy to cope with. These types of departures are meant to happen in the CPL though.
Even with the departures of Abzi and Wright, York are blessed with other burgeoning youngsters. Isaiah Johnston, Ronan Kratt, and Luis Lawrie-Lattanzio are all 20 years old or younger and should continue to improve as more opportunities come their way.
York have also been cursed with a number of longterm injuries. Players who were crucial in securing postseason qualification in 2021 such as Max Ferrari and Michael Petrasso have failed to feature consistently, each only appearing in a dozen matches.
Other players who were brought in during the offseason to add attacking depth such as Austin Ricci and Oliver Minatel were also dealt bad hands. The pair have only made eight league appearances between them.
“I think one of the main difficulties of being injured is the mental aspect,” Minatel said. “We try to keep each other positive and work hard, that’s the main thing ... It’s great to see Mikey (Petrasso) back out here and hopefully Austin (Ricci) soon as well.”
First-year assistant coach Mauro Eustaquio also spoke about the injuries within his squad and how he guides those going through the recovery process.
“As a player I actually went through it,” Eustaquio said. “It’s at that time that you have to really get to know yourself and embrace the recovery … it’s about embracing that challenge and I think that takes you a long way not only in soccer but in life.”
As solid as York have been defensively in 2022, their attacking output left much to be desired, especially during the aforementioned first half of the season. The inability to find twine was on full display during a nine-match run between May and July in which York only scored once.
“It’s a rebuild,” Minatel said. “I think that this season the league got much better and it’s kind of showing clubs where they’re at and what they need to do to achieve success.”
One player who can help York find that success after this rebuilding season is Osaze De Rosario. The young striker is flourishing in his first CPL season and is a great piece to build around for 2023 if York are able to hold onto him. At just 21 years of age, De Rosario is proving that he is already one of the best goal-scorers in the division.
Helping up De Rosario up top in the latter half of the season has been a man that knows the league well in Molham Babouli. The former Forge FC man has been killer since his return to the CPL in August. The September CPL player of the month has netted five goals in six appearances since his move and should be able to help York avoid any goalless droughts next season.
Steering the ship for York in 2021 has been Martin Nash and his coaching staff. Nash seems to have the faith of the club and the players. His ability to turn the season around under difficult circumstances should be commended.
The 2000 Gold Cup champion will want to see greater consistency from his team in a new season, knowing he will be judged more critically after a tough first year in charge. The good thing for Nash is that he has shown that his team can play and that they have resolve, pushing for a playoff spot until the end. After picking up the September CPL manager of the month award, Nash will now try to bring his team’s positive run of form into the next season and vie for a return to the playoffs.
With plans for a new soccer-specific stadium in Etobicoke, and the recent announcement of the United Football Academy, there is further reason to believe in the project at York United as the CPL evolves and expands. Though it’s easy to point to the standings and question a sixth place finish in a league with eight teams, the pieces are in place for York to consistently compete for silverware in the years to come.