AGR's High Press: How Adisa De Rosario sparked crucial York United comeback win over Halifax
If you fancy a late winner, it was a good weekend for those in the Canadian Premier League, as an 85th-minute and 97th-minute winner were on display across two of the four games this weekend.
Along with some big wins for some slumping teams, it has continued to add drama to what is shaping up to be a fascinating end to the season, as the gap between first and sixth remains at just seven points.
Plus, as seen lately, that’s also added a certain level of intensity to matches, as teams know what’s at stake for them if they can claim a victory.
As a result, the drama seems to just be getting started. Especially with some of the matchups that remain on the schedule, that much is a guarantee.
Because of that, it’s a good time to strap in and prepare for what should be an intriguing end to the campaign, where all is still to play for.
Before looking ahead to that, however, here’s a look back at what stood out this week in High Press, as we dive into the week that was in the CPL.
Adisa De Rosario powers York United to big victory
Down 1-0, it was a moment that may have saved York’s season.
It already wasn't looking good for them after going down a goal to the Halifax Wanderers in the 31st minute. Away to a Wanderers team that has been dominant at home this season, sitting with the best points-per-game ratio heading into this match, it was a tall mountain for York to climb.
Especially since no team in the CPL had been able to come back while trailing on the road this season, that further added to the challenge that lay in front of them.
Yet, while it was already going to be a tall task to come back from down 1-0, it wasn’t impossible. Because of that, they still had some belief as they continued on.
Where they had to be careful, however, was not to allow a second goal, as that likely would’ve spelt the end of the game. Especially with Halifax pushing, that was easier said than done, but important regardless.
Unfortunately, they didn’t heed that message, however, as in the 39th minute, they slipped up again defensively. This time, they allowed Halifax’s Callum Watson to play a perfect ball over the top, where an onrushing João Morelli managed to get a jump on York’s centre-backs, finding himself all alone in behind them.
The all-time Wanderers leading scorer, he’s also done pretty well historically against York, scoring five goals in previous league games against them. Because of that, as he bore in on goal, it felt like a foregone conclusion that he’d slot home his fifth goal of the CPL season.
There, however, is where 18-year-old Adisa De Rosario came into play. In just his third appearance for the club after joining from Toronto FC II on loan to help York gather U21 minutes, the goalkeeper did well to rush off his line, making a huge kick stop on Morelli to keep the game 1-0.
Doing well to get out and cut off the angle, while showing great flexibility and athleticism on the play, it was an excellent bit of goalkeeping from the youngster.
It’d pay off for his team, too, as they’d level the score through Austin Ricci less than 10 minutes later, paving the way for them to grab a Roger Thompson winner in the 62nd minute.
And while there was a lot to hone in on from the rest of the game, from the continued form of Ricci with his goal, Thompon’s first CPL goal, or more, it’s hard to go much further than De Rosario’s stop as the moment of the game.
With it, it’s put York in an excellent position, too. Thanks to the win, they now sit in a playoff spot, finding themselves tied for fourth with Atlético Ottawa.
Then, even more importantly, they’ve made some good strides in their quest to grab Canadian U21 minutes, as they gained over 200 minutes in their game against Halifax, putting them up to 1296 out of the 2000 they need.
But as De Rosario’s performance showed, or that of those such as Noah Abatneh, Trivine Esprit and Carson Buschman Dormond in front of him, these kids can provide value to York on this push, as well.
De Rosario’s the biggest example - in just three appearances, he’s already prevented 1.91 xG above expected (for context, usual starter Niko Giantsopoulous has conceded 3.39 below expected), which has helped York grab two draws and a win across those games.
For context, that’s already the second-highest xG prevented in the CPL, only behind Rayane Yesli. Of course, it’s a small sample size, but it’s certainly encouraging to see from the youngster, who’s rising to the challenge in front of him.
And that’s exactly what York will want to see at the moment. Their playoff hopes remain very much alive, especially with a four-game homestand now awaiting them, but they’ll need their U21 Canadians to step up while they mount a push, putting up performances like this one as they chase the remaining 704 minutes they need to get to cross that 2000 minute threshold.
Heater incoming for Woobens Pacius?
Having scored just one goal in his past nine games, Woobens Pacius picked a perfect time to find his goalscoring touch, as he nabbed a hat trick in a 3-0 Forge win over Vancouver.
As a result, that allowed Forge to snap a four-game winless run, just in time for a crucial home clash against league leaders Cavalry, who they now trail by only four points.
With that, Pacius also became the second-ever CPL player (after Alejandro Díaz) to nab multiple hat tricks in the CPL, while also joining teammate Terran Campbell as the only players to do so this season.
Yet, this outburst has been coming for Pacius. Heading into the Vancouver game, he’d only scored four goals on 4.3 xG, with the latter number putting him in the top 10 in the CPL.
Therefore, while he hadn’t been underperforming his numbers massively, he was due for an outburst of sorts, especially when compared to his past goalscoring numbers.
Having scored 19 goals across 50 CPL regular season and playoff games before this year, an average of 0.38 a game, it meant that the four goals he’d scored in 22 games (0.18 a game) was quite below what many were used to seeing from him.
To be fair, he’s also shown growth in other areas of his game - he’s already got a career-high three assists this year, for example - but his main job for Forge is to find the back of the net.
Because of that, they’ll be pleased to see him find his goalscoring boots, as it helped them grab a crucial road win against a tough Vancouver side, one that could’ve easily gotten more out of the game.
Especially in the first half, where Vancouver hardly gave up anything to Forge, the fact that Pacius grabbed two goals on less than 0.4 xG is the sort of finishing that Forge will be pleased with from their striker, making the penalty to complete his hat trick just gravy.
Now, however, it’ll be intriguing to see if Pacius can use this to heat up. Now up to fourth in the Golden Boot race, and sixth in the xG chart, there’s no reason why he can’t keep scoring, as it’s not as if he’s not getting chances to do so.
Plus, as seen in past seasons, he’s a streaky scorer, one that can get hot in bunches.
Therefore, Forge will be banking on him perhaps pushing for double digits over their last five games, and maybe even for the Golden Boot (currently led by Campbell and Ollie Bassett at 10), especially after he finished second in that race last year.
As some big games loom for the defending champions, they’ll need to string together some wins to both push into the playoffs and for the title, and in-form Pacius will only help in that quest.
And if they can get him and Campbell going at the same time? Watch out, as they’re the league’s top-scoring duo for a reason, as they can strike fear into opposing defenders.
William Akio and Ayman Sellouf show value of supersubs for Cavalry, Pacific:
Cavalry and Pacific managed to hold onto first and second spot in the CPL table this weekend, thanks to key victories over Ottawa and Valour, respectively.
Not only that, but both grabbed the wins in pretty dramatic fashion, too - Pacific needed an 85th-minute winner from Ayman Sellouf, while Cavalry had to wait until the 97th minute for a winner from William Akio to grab all three points.
Yet, while both clubs will be pleased with the fact that they grabbed the wins, they’ll also be happy with the lesson that these wins showed - the importance of depth at this time of year.
Now 21 matchweeks into the season, it’s been a gruelling campaign, especially for those who made the semi-finals of the Canadian Championship like Forge or Pacific.
You add in the injuries that some teams have dealt with, it has made for a tough summer for most teams.
But that’s also really allowed depth players to step up and shine, providing value to their clubs in key moments.
Of course, it’s hard to call the likes of Akio and Sellouf your typical depth pieces - you’d have to imagine they start on most teams in the CPL, given that Akio now has five goals in seven appearances since signing with Cavalry this summer, while Sellouf is tied for the CPL lead with 13 goal contributions.
Yet, there’s a reason why teams like Cavalry and Pacific are where they are in the table - they have enough depth to put out a strong starting XI every game, and then still bring players like Akio and Sellouf off the bench.
And now, that can pay off at this time of the year. With teams tiring out as they deal with the grind of a schedule, travel and more, it’s important to be able to keep the roster fresh for these key moments.
Therefore, look for those players to continue to step up over the next few weeks. Of course, the stars will shine bright - this is the time when you want them to step up the most - but don’t discount the value that players can bring in roles such as the ones that Akio and Sellouf played this past weekend for their teams.
🚨GOAL🔱🔱@Pacificfccpl have regained their lead over Valour! Tidy finish from Ayman Sellouf to make it 2-1 late, after Easton Ongaro nearly scored a thunderbolt just moments earlier— OneSoccer (@onesoccer) September 2, 2023
Player of the Week: Woobens Pacius
It was a pretty efficient showing for Pacius against Vancouver, as he managed to grab a hat trick inside just 47 minutes for Forge in their win.
As a result, he’s an easy shoo-in for Player of the Week, especially given how rare hat tricks are - there have now been just seven in league history.
Safe to say, it shows why they’re so special, and something that Pacius will be quite proud of to now have two of those seven under his belt.
Goal of the Week: Luke Singh
The unfortunate thing about Ottawa’s late loss to Cavalry? It meant that it took attention away from the absolute peach of a goal that Luke Singh scored to equalize that match in the 88th minute.
Despite being a centre back, Singh showed the touch and dexterity of a striker on the shot, finding the top corner with an acrobatic finish, scoring a goal that absolutely should be nominated for goal of the year.
Not bad at all from him.
You gotta see this: Tommy Wheeldon Jr
If you weren’t watching the Ottawa game, you missed out on a beauty.
Just look at what it meant to Cavalry’s head coach, Tommy Wheeldon Jr., who celebrated his team’s late winner in style.
He’s closer than ever to a first Cavalry trophy, and it’s gotten the best out of his team at a crucial moment, as they’ve risen to the occasion at the perfect time.
What I’m watching this week: Forge vs. Cavalry
It’s a rematch of the first-ever CPL final, as Forge hosts Cavalry in a huge game for both teams this weekend.
Should Cavalry win, they could carve out as much as a seven-point lead atop the table, while a Forge win could see their lead reduced to just one. Safe to say, this could be a game that could end up deciding the title race.
Because of that, it’ll be intriguing to see how both teams look in this one. Especially given that Cavalry humbled Forge with a 3-0 thumping in their last meeting, this game will be filled with all sorts of intensity from both sides.
Therefore, look for both teams to come out swinging, and provide some new looks tactically, as they look to add to their list of classics with another good match.