In the second-last meeting of Forge and York 9 on Sunday, it was another installment of the “905 derby”, an all Ontario affair that has produced some entertaining tilts this season.
Heading into Hamilton’s Tim Hortons Field before the game, it was unsure how much sting this derby match was going to have, with Forge and York 9 mostly trending in opposite directions this year in the Canadian Premier League. With Forge up 14 points on their nearby Ontario rivals ahead of kick off, it’s been no surprise to see this become a one-sided rivalry so far in this initial CPL season. With Forge coming into the 4th installment of the aptly named “905 derby” with 2 wins and a draw, with the draw coming all the way back in April on the opening game of the CPL campaign, they haven’t been the most fun games for York 9 to play in.
Since that first day meetup, it’s been a tale of 2 different seasons for the two Ontario-based outfits. Forge has been riding high, already booking its spot in the first-ever CPL Championship game later this month, as well as putting together an impressive run in the CONCACAF League this summer. For York, their lone high probably came when they drew MLS-side Montreal Impact at home in the Canadian Championship, an impressive result, but one that hasn’t translated into over league play.
And it showed on this grey Sunday in Hamilton, with Forge bringing in a decent 4864 fans to witness them play, despite the lure of other big games happening simultaneously, including a Toronto FC games down the highway at BMO Field. Meanwhile York, despite their close proximity to Hamilton, we’re unable to even have enough fans for an away supporters section, giving Forge an immediate edge off the field. There was a smattering of lime-green jerseys in a majoritarily orange crowd, but it was nothing that was ever going to stop the Orange Crush on the afternoon.
“You always want to be on top of the derby matches,” Forge’s starting goalkeeper Sunday, Quillan Roberts, said after the game. “At the end of the day, they’re big games, because everybody has that little bit extra in them to play and win it, so I think coming out of the derby with the win is fantastic.”
Team performance obviously plays a big role in attendance, and with the travel and the other games going on, it makes sense that many York folks didn’t make the trip over. On the other hand, it shows how impressive the support that the industrial city of Hamilton has given to its new team, as they have found a way to integrate themselves into the community.
Forge would emerge as victors on the day, riding a Tristan Borges second-half penalty to lift their “905” record to a staggering 3 wins and 1 draw. It was an overall entertaining match, with the players on the field showing tons of fight and reminding people that no matter past results, this is still a rivalry match. With a lot of local Ontario players on both sides, it showed that a lot of these guys grew up playing each other, with emotions running high throughout the game.
“I think it’s important that you pick up three points at a time.” Forge head coach Bobby Smyrniotis said. “I always say this thing, when you look at our team, Forge, and York 9 coming from down the street , there’s a lot of these guys who are local players. So they’ve known each other for many years, whether it’s going back to youth football or different stages of playing in places like League 1 Ontario, so there’s always an extra edge on the field, they always want their bragging rights and so on. For us, it’s important to keep track of what we want and obviously the three points whether it’s against York or Cavalry, or anyone in the league, that’s what we’re looking for”
While the match finished with plenty of intensity, it initially lacked a lot of the bite one would expect from a rivalry match, with both teams showing much emotion throughout the entirety of the first half. The first big chance came in the 35th minute, as Forge’s Elimane Cisse breached the York defensive line but hit his shot right at Nathan Ingham, keeping things level heading into the break.
It was overall a disappointing start to the game, with both teams coming out slow, making the game look very much like two teams that didn’t have much to fight for. After a fiery end to their match last weekend, where York came back against league-leaders to scrape out a draw in a drama-filled affair, they looked flat and listless, despite having a week off. It wasn’t as surprising Forge was feeling off early, as they had a midweek trek to Edmonton to deal with, but it was still expected that they would have been able to find some of what had made them successful all season.
Surely inspired by a half-time talk, Forge started to do just that to kick off the second half, as their main threat offensively, Tristan Borges, showed some life to start the second frame. With his speed and creativity, he started to make things happen down the right flank, running at defenders whenever presented the opportunity to do so. He missed the best chance so far in the game at the 62nd minute, as he sent the ball wide from right at the edge of the 6-yard box, which was a bit disappointing from him since he had done well to bring down the ball with an audacious touch.
So, given his start to the half, it would be no surprise to see him factor into the opening goal of the afternoon. He would win a penalty in the box, heading the ball into the outstretched arm of Diyaeddine Abzi off of a cross, forcing the referee to point to the spot without hesitation. Unsurprisingly, he stepped up to the spot to take it, and made no mistake with the shot, slotting the ball confidently into the corner for his league-leading 12th of the season. After the game had seemed destined for a draw, Borges had once again made the difference for Hamilton, as well as regaining the lead in a teeter-totter race in the Golden Boot with Pacific’s Terran Campbell, who sits with 11.
“Yeah, of course, obviously when you’re first or second you’re always looking to try and finish first for the Golden Boot,” Borges said. “It’s obviously a nice competition to have with Terran, he’s a friend of mine but it’s kind of like how I always say, as long as the goals are helping my team win that’s the biggest thing for me.”
York continued to press, finding some chances, but Forge’s Quillan Roberts stood strong in the opposing goal. There was no save better in this game than the one he made in the 85th minute, as Manny Aparicio took a great shot on goal after he found himself all alone with Roberts in the box, which Roberts somehow managed to stop with an incredible low diving stop to keep Forge’s lead intact.
The game also had some late drama, as York won a penalty right in the 93rd minute, with Forge striker Marcel Zajac rugby tackling Rodrigo Gattas on a wide free-kick, gifting York a great chance to tie the game. Gattas got up right away and stood up to take it, but unlike Borges at the other end, he was unable to convert his own penalty off the hop, sending the ball well wide on the left side of Roberts to gift Forge all 3 points.
It was a tough end to the day for York, who will once again have to return home with plenty more questions than answers. They were probably the better team overall on the day, with Forge only finding life in that 30 minute stretch in the second half, which was just enough for them to etch out a win. Those are the kinds of moments that define top teams, and Forge showed that on the day, leaving York to scratch at missed chances once more.
“We were organized, played some good football and created some great, great opportunities,” York head coach Jimmy Brennan said. “We felt hard done by the penalty that was given against us, and then towards the end there you get a penalty to tie the match up, but you’ve got to hit the target, you got to at least make the keeper work. But overall, I think we’re disappointed with the outcome of the game, obviously, we felt there was an opportunity for us to get three points.”
While it was not the overall performance anyone was hoping for, it was still another exciting installment of the derby, with both teams showing plenty of emotion. There was even a bit of a scrum near the end of the game, with players getting heated about the last-minute penalty decision, showing feelings that one would not usually expect from two teams so far away in the standings. Even though Forge now has double York’s point total so far in the fall, that didn’t stop the Nines from coming in and putting a good effort, which is a testament to the growing competitiveness in the league.
With Forge playing the other top team in the league, Cavalry, 4 times in the next month in the half, it’s unlikely this game comes close to the intensity that will be shown in those clashes, but it was still a good installment in the derby. With one more edition yet to come, as Forge makes the trek over to York next Saturday for their last clash of the year, hopefully they can find a way to once again make the game live up to the billing as a derby match. When matches like this come up, they’re big for everyone, from the players all the way up to the fans. With a strong sense of civic pride in these cities, it has adds a bit of juice no matter the occasion.
“For sure,” Borges said when asked if these games are important to his team. “Especially having that first game against them, you know that Derby started right away. So every game that we play against them there’s always gonna be intensity, and I’m pretty sure everybody saw that in this game, right? But it’s always an exciting game to play against them. They always bring quality and the intensity is always up whenever these games are played.”
Up next for Forge, it’s a big trip to Calgary midweek, as they meet in the first preview of their meeting in the finals later this month. With both teams looking to maintain their standards heading into that final, it should be a good preview of what to expect in the inaugural CPL championship series. They have matched up well so far this season, with both teams each having 2 victories, 2 losses and a draw (Voyageurs Cup included), showcasing how tight the margins are between the two teams that have run away in the CPL standings so far this year.
With 3 games left for either side, results will be unimportant, as both teams try to stay fit and focused on the final. They will want to get the upper hand over each other, as any positive momentum carried over to the final is a plus, but avoiding any sort of losses in personnel will be a must. As the Forge fans chanted on Sunday, they’re ready to finally bring on the championship, and given what both teams have shown all year, it should be a fun one.
“Que sera, sera,” The Forge fans chanted at times Sunday.
“Whatever will be, will be
We’re waiting for Cavalry
Que sera, sera”