MATCH ANALYSIS: Pacific FC falter on the road against York United as offence stalls out
Canadian Premier League

Final Score:  York United 2-0 Pacific FC
Goalscorers: Wright 37′, Babouli 53′
Game of the 2024 season: 40
CPL match: 524

Match in a minute or less

Ten-man York United triumphed 2-0 over Pacific FC on Wednesday at York Lions Stadium, making it five straight undefeated at home, and extending Benjamín Mora’s unbeaten streak to three matches to start his tenure as manager.

The Nine Stripes gave a spirited effort after Austin Ricci was sent off in the 38th minute, leaving them a player down for the remaining 52 minutes. Moments before Ricci’s dismissal, Brian Wright opened the scoring with his league-leading seventh of the season. He then assisted Mo Babouli’s second in the second half.

York’s fourth win of the campaign at York Lions Stadium matched their total from all of last season. They also already now have more goals scored at home than 2024 in CPL action, with 12.

Three Observations

Ten-man York United show significant fight as they continue strong form at York Lions Stadium

Just over a minute after York United opened the scoring on Wednesday night, they were dealt a blow that easily could have killed all of their momentum. Austin Ricci was sent off, in the 38th minute, after a coming together with Sean Young, and the Nine Stripes were forced to play the final 52 minutes of the match down to ten men.

Despite this, York not only held onto their advantage, but went out and scored a second in the 53rd minute to really sow doubt into their opponents who were admittedly poor on the day.

“They worked as a team. I told them, they worked as a team of men, fighting and knowing what to do,” said York United head coach Benjamín Mora of his group’s effort. “Sometimes, when you get a man sent off, you get into this situation, you become more focused, you become more committed because you know you have one less right? So the spaces were very narrow. They were close together. The communication improved. So we were organized, we were ordered. So I’m very proud.”

Mora deserves credit for the way he quickly refocused his group on the task at hand despite the dismissal. Before Ricci had even left the pitch, for example, Mora had already called over Brian Wright and was explaining to him the role he would not be playing as a single striker.

His team followed suit with a composed performance that demonstrated a strong belief in what their new coach is building at the club. This was especially true considering the group was coming off an emotional, but taxing, victory over top of the table Atlético Ottawa in the nation’s capital on Saturday.

The defensive commitment was outstanding as York stayed compact and organized for the full 90 minutes, offering Pacific few attacking spaces, or uncontested opportunities, in the final third.

After the match, celebrations could be heard echoing through the halls of York Lions Stadium, after yet another strong statement result early in the Mora era. With four home wins under their belt already this year in the league, the stadium is quickly turning into a fortress for the Nine Stripes.

Wright, Babouli prove to be gamechangers for the Nine Stripes again

After a season last year in which it seemed like nothing could go right for Brian Wright in front of goal, the inverse has been true in 2024. On Wednesday, he added his seventh goal of the season, and fourth assist to bring him to eleven goal contributions on the year. Last year, he managed just two goals and two assists despite 8.01 expected goals.

When York went down a man, Wright gave a tireless effort pressing up top, contesting 18 duels and winning three tackles. It was that effort that helped him win a long ball high up the pitch on the second goal and set up Mo Babouli for York’s second goal.

Bringing on Babouli at half-time was a stroke of genius from Mora, because it gave York another attacking outlet to push them further forward and make sure they didn’t just invite pressure for the entire second half.

In his return from injury, Babouli not only did that, but was able to make the moments where he did get forward count. He scored the club’s second goal, and forced a good save from Pacific’s Daniel Zadravec later in the half.

“We knew that anytime in a counterattack or in spaces that they leave, we could have damage for them, right?,” said Mora.  “So Mo is the kind of player that knows the game. He’s experienced. He knows the tempo and the rhythm of the game, and he was holding the ball correctly, and he was very intelligent to look for the right moment.”

Babouli held the ball up brilliantly, completing 21 of 25 passes and losing possession just five times on Wednesday. Having a player of his quality already looking strong under the new head coach was yet another positive from Wednesday’s clash for the Nine Stripes.

Pacific FC’s composure in front of goal a question again, but lack of intensity the biggest concern

The Tridents leave York Lions Stadium on Wednesday night feeling that they left three points in Toronto.

But they only have themselves to blame after failing to capitalize on having a man advantage for 52 minutes plus stoppage time.

“Maybe feel the urgency when they got the red card, It should have been there,” said Pacific defender Thomas Meilleur-Giguère. “Everyone should have seen a difference, like we got a good [opportunity], but we didn’t see it. I think we could have been better finishing our chances and yeah, defensively if you’re giving two goals away like this against a team, sorry, but like York that just defended in front of us, it was very frustrating.”

Pacific’s composure in the final third, in particular, continues to be an issue, and they have now scored just ten goals in 11 matches. Despite 19 shots attempts, and 30 touches in the York box, Pacific managed just two shots on target.

Even this past weekend, in a match where they scored three goals for the first time this season in a 3-2 victory over Valour — albeit one of them a Shaan Hundal own goal — Pacific felt they could have done more to put that match to bed in the first half.

The chances were there for Pacific on Wednesday again, with 1.91 expected goals and two big chances. Shortly before York United’s opening goal, Steffen Yeates found Josh Heard in good position but the Pacific captain sent his shot wide. Then before their second, Dario Zanatta found Reon Moore in the box, but he stretched and sent the shot wide. Zanatta then had a free header in the box that he sent high, while a late shot from a wide-open Zak Bahous at the top of the box was blocked.

Mostly, however, Pacific were forced far too wide and were unable to convert their 22 attempted crosses into any chances of substance. The chart below shows how much they attacked the York net with crosses and shots, but how few of those actually reached the intended target (squares are crosses, circles shots).

Pacific FC crosses and shot attempts (Courtesy: Opta)

Overall, however, Pacific FC head coach James Merriman said it was the team’s effort that let them down, before even getting into execution, and that in itself is concerning for the Tridents’ manager.

“If you don’t approach the game with the right amount of urgency, with the right mentality, and that’s not just in front of goal, that’s our build-up, that’s moving the ball side to side, when the ball goes out for throwing set pieces free kicks, you know, we need to dictate the tempo and the rhythm of the game.”

They lost 55 per cent of the duels, further evidence of just how off the pace they were effort-wise on Wednesday. With just one victory in their last seven in the league, this team knows that has to change quickly.

“They go down to 10 men, and we give another goal away, we gave two goals away to them,” said Merriman. “I don’t think York did anything. And it’s massively disappointing from our mentality, you know, in our approach as a group, as a team, and it’s not going to do it in terms of what we want to do this season, this type of performance. We can’t have any more of these. You don’t get many of these to try and push and go for something in a league, you don’t get away with this.” Player of the Match

Brian Wright, York United

Wright put a tremendous effort on both sides of the ball on Wednesday. He scored a goal, and added an assist, while contesting 18 duels, and won three tackles as he pressed Pacific throughout the match.

What’s next?

After three matches on the road, Pacific FC return home to Starlight Stadium for a Salish Sea Derby clash with Vancouver FC on Thursday, June 27 (7:30 p.m. PT / 10:30 p.m. ET). The Nine Stripes, meanwhile, head on the road to Winnipeg where they will take on Valour at Princess Auto Stadium, also on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. ET.

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