With their Canadian Premier League title hopes on the line, York9 FC did their best to hold on to their slim chance- but they were unable to despite scoring a last-second tying goal to finish the match 1-1 against Cavalry FC of Calgary.
While 1-1 would suggest a boring game, it was far from it. Tempers flared, especially in the second half, which was also the period which included all the goals. Cavalry midfielder’s Jose Escalante and Nathan Mavila both received second yellows, putting the Cavs down to nine men for the final portion of the match.
While the match ended equal on the scoresheet, the two sides and organizations could not be more different.
Only two hours away from York Lions Stadium, Cavalry FC found out their Canadian Premier league final opponents. Forge FC defeated Pacific FC 3-0 at Tim Horton’s Field, setting the stage for the Cavs to clinch their opponents. However, if York9 were able to find the win- the slim possibility of fall championship in Toronto would have remained a possibility.
It has been a polarizing season for York9, who are only recently finding their identity. For much of the season, the team that plays out of York University Lions Stadium has struggled between being a defensively formidable outfit or a swift attacking one.
There have been moments such as Manuel Aparcio’s screaming goal against Pacific which suggest the latter, but lacklustre losses throughout the season can point to their inabilities. It is this lack of identity which has proven costly for the 9’s as they come to the end of the inaugural CPL campaign.
Cavalry, on the other hand, is the opposite. They were born partly out of former Calgary Foothills players, and their chemistry came with them. Both Foothills and Cavalry play with a defined playing style, pushing forward and attacking like its no one business.
Although there was much incoming chemistry, they are not the only one in the league as head coach Tommy Wheeldon Junior highlighted in his media availability following the York match.
“Pacific is pretty much built of ex-Whitecaps USL players, so why aren’t they thrown into this conversation as well?” he said, before going on to mention how his side has built their team culture.
“We focus on team building first. No worries about tactics because if your groups of players and staff can’t cooperate, then you don’t have a team and cannot play proper football.”
The community aspects the Wheeldon praises are astonishingly similar to the one that York9 identify with as an organization.
Not only are the two sides stylistically different on the field, but also off. York9, who’s main uniting message is that of the “9” districts of the York region is far different than that of Calgary, who focus on their city’s heritage.
The message that York tries to relay is one of ambition, unity and hope for the future, the opposite of Calgary’s which honours the past. Either way, both teams weave their identity into the fabric of the CPL and have offered their own gifts to Canadian soccer fans this season.
York, although not as dominant as Calgary, offers many things of their own. They are an artery to the rest of the CPL for one of the biggest markets in the nation, being in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) any curious soccer fan can use York 9 as their first exposure to the league.
When comparing the crowd at Cavalry’s Spruce Meadows to the one at York Lions Stadium, the differences remain stark. The aforementioned Cavalry brand allows the city’s citizens to feel connected to the club in a way that no sports team has done before. Just by virtue of playing on the same ground as the historic Calgary stampeded, the Cavs have cemented their place within the hearts of Calgarians.
Calgary’s dedication to the club reflects in the atmosphere at Spruce Meadows, which has been exceptional throughout the season. Whether it is games against the MLS’s Vancouver Whitecaps or their Alberta rivals from Edmonton; the nostalgia and history which connects the fans to the club make it an exceptional every time.
As a university-based team, York struggles to connect with their surrounding locales. Despite being on the subway line, the access to the stadium takes effort and intention, something that is hard to come by in such a saturated sporting market.
For Cavalry there is no subway, but the lack of summer sports competition plays heavily into their favour.
Both clubs have offered different perspectives to the Canadian game in the CPL’s first season, and for Cavalry they may cap it off with a trophy. Whether the Cavs bring home the championship or not, their club has been ingrained into the Calgarian psyche, while York9 continues to look for who they are.
It’s only year one, and as the league’s slogan says “We are many. We are one” the success of individual clubs benefits everyone. From Vancouver Island to Halifax, the CPL has united Canadian soccer fans in a way that has not been seen since the national team’s lone world cup appearance in 1986. The sport is growing, the world cup is coming, watch out- The Canadian Premier League is here.