If York9 FC went under the knife this winter, it was some delicate surgery.
Jimmy Brennan kept only one attacker from last season, with Ryan Telfer’s return offering Y9 some valuable consistency up top going into the 2o20 campaign. Cleaning up the attacking group was top of mind for an otherwise solid Y9 squad that finished third in the Fall season in 2019.
Goalkeeper of the Year nominee Nathan Ingham remains the No. 1 choice. Through 26 matches in 2019, the Keswick, Ont., native made a league-leading 89 saves – almost four per match – and held a respectable save percentage (72.36) through it all. Ingham was absolutely pelted in Year 1, and came out looking like a champ.
Diyaeddine Abzi, Roger Thompson, Luca Gasparotto, Morey Doner
Diyaeddine Abzi could be the best player on this York9 team and he’s only 21. A gazelle of a left fullback, the Quebecer is set to eat up significant minutes again in 2020.
In the middle, ironman Luca Gasparotto is joined by an injury-prone Roger Thompson. If he stays healthy, Thompson could shine this year. Albeit a small sample size, the Brampton native came on strong after injuries hampered most of his 2019 campaign, placing near the top of all CPL defenders in blocked shots, line-breaking passes, successful passes, and successful aerial duels per 90 minutes, according to Sportlogiq.
Manny Aparicio and Joe Di Chiara keep their midfield roles while ex-Ottawa Fury player Chris Mannella joins on as a deep-lying presence.
Captain Aparicio returns as an important link between attack and defence. Solid passing range and able to work at speed, the 24-year-old will be tasked with making noise going forward, with Wataru Murofushi just behind in the depth chart.
Di Chiara will also play a key role as a box-to-box midfielder after he made more successful passes (44.21) and final-third line-breaking passes (1.95) per 90 minutes than 90 per cent of CPL midfielders last season. If anything, this combination is too defensively sound, but both Di Chiara and Manella bring such effectiveness tracking back it’s hard to look twice.
While last on this list, the newcomer Mannella is probably the first on the team sheet for Y9. A tidy No. 6, Mannella is coming off a 31-appearance, 2,000-minute campaign with the Ottawa Fury, mostly in the midfield hole. The 25-year-old may even slip between the centre backs to allow Y9’s fullbacks to push up.
Ryan Telfer, Gabriel Vasconcelos, Michael Petrasso
York9’s attacking core is as tried-and-true as they come in the CPL, combining two best XI-quality wingers with a talented international striker.
Let’s start with the CPL’s history maker: Ryan Telfer. Now a permanent member of the Nine Stripes, Telfer is looking to improve on a breakout 2019 campaign; eight goals, 26 starts, and a CPL Best XI honour. As good at cutting in as taking the play to the wings, Telfer will look to combine inside.
Gabriel Vasconcelos represents the biggest question mark around Y9’s attack, but still earns a coveted starting spot. Corinthians-trained, is this 23-year-old Brazilian too good to be true? He’s certainly worth a starting spot. Early scout reports suggested Vasconcelos is a tricky dribbler with above-average pace and a strong defensive work rate. He usually plays on the right, but watch for Brennan to keep Petrasso in his usual role. Perhaps he plays as an inside forward, looking to get the ball on his dominant right foot?
Finally, Petrasso arrives as the easiest choice among these attackers; impressive on a poor Valour FC side last season, experience at a high level, and home in York Region, playing with some familiar faces. He’s Y9’s big off-season splash.
Ezequiel Carrasco, Matthew Arnone, Fugo Segawa, Wataru Murofushi, Kyle Porter, Max Ferrari, Ijah Halley, Lowell Wright, Isaiah Johnston, Julian Altobelli, Álvaro Rivero
Plenty of unknowns with York9 FC’s depth as six players are set for professional debuts (Ferrari, Halley, Wright, Johnston, Altobelli and Carrasco). Balancing that inexperience are CPLers such as Arnone, Porter, Murofushi – who all made more than 25+ appearances last season. Late Spanish addition Álvaro Rivero will likely be integrated somewhat slowly into their attacking core.
The Nine Stripes’ fearless leader comes into Year 2 of professional coaching with expectations. This Y9 squad is really, really promising. Can Jim Brennan turn that promise into results and, ideally, a 2020 CPL Championship?