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On-field bonding: York9 building chemistry the old-fashioned way
Canadian Premier League

Some CPL coaches have taken unorthodox approaches to teambuilding – think Jeff Paulus’s Alberta wilderness retreat.

However, York9 FC head coach Jimmy Brennan is hoping to foster chemistry directly in the place it’ll be most useful: The soccer pitch.

He’s had his squad training six days a week since camp opened on March 1, and his players have been acquainting (or, in some cases, reacquainting) themselves with each other’s habits since well before that.

“The players are buying into it,” Brennan told CanPL.ca. “They understand that everybody’s new, (they) have never played together with each other.”

While it’s true that most of York9’s players are in alien territory at the first training camp for a new club, they’re not necessarily strangers to one another; players like Ryan Telfer, Michael Cox, Daniel Gogarty, and Colm Vance all suited up for York University in the past four years, and a handful of younger players saw time with Vaughan Azzurri of League1 Ontario last year.

Even Simon Adjei and Roger Thompson butted heads in Sweden’s Division 1 – both players saw 90 minutes against each other in 2015 in a 5-0 win for Thompson’s Trelleborg over Adjei’s Husqvarna.

Although they haven’t played a game yet, Brennan is seeing his squad transform rapidly into a cohesive team.

“We’ve been really happy,” he said. “It’s been great for us, seeing how passionate the guys are for the club already.”

The fact that so many players feel a connection to the Nine Stripes so early should be no surprise. In fact, that was something Brennan was looking for specifically when building his roster.

“We wanted a lot of local guys playing for York9 that would have a connection with the club,” Brennan added. “We’ve been fortunate enough that we’ve got a lot of guys that are from York Region, or have played in York Region.”

Brennan and the rest of the front office have thus ensured that York9 aren’t quite starting from nothing. Perhaps more than some of his rival teams, he’s got a foundation on which to build a club with a uniform identity inside and out.

That, of course, is by design. Brennan knows better than most what it’s like to start a football club from scratch, having been through the same process with Toronto FC twelve years ago. He’s seen first-hand that any head start he can give his club could go a long way, and in terms of on-field product he may already have more to work with than Mo Johnston had back in 2007.

“You try to put something together that’s going to be an easy transition for the players coming into a new environment,” he explained. “You don’t know how the players are going to handle it, or what their expectations are.”

It seems the players York9 has chosen are more than comfortable with each other already. From just a few weeks of camp, they have the makings of a squad with exactly the kind of shared motivation Brennan was hoping for when building his roster.

With how hard Brennan’s had them working in training, it’ll be no surprise if the Nine Stripes are one of the most in-sync sides when the CPL season gets off the mark.