York9 FC has been very busy this off-season.
The Nine Stripes haven’t rested on their laurels after an impressive third-place showing in last season’s overall CPL standings, with club managing consultant Angus McNab signing a number of newcomers this winter.
Canadian veterans Michael Petrasso and Chris Mannella, and Argentine Brian López were added to an-already impressive Y9 midfield. Winger Ryan Telfer returned to the squad after a short stint playing abroad. Fugo Segawa and Matthew Arnone are new faces in the back line, while Brazilians Gabriel Vasconcelos and Jacó, Jamaican Nicholas Hamilton, and Peru’s Adrián Ugarriza give York a new-look attack.
A strong argument can be made that York9 boasts one of the best and deepest rosters in the CPL at the moment. Midfielder Joseph Di Chiara, one of York’s returning players from 2019, feels the slew of off-season additions is indicative of the club’s ambition to contend in 2020, whenever the season might kick off.
“We kept a good core group of guys who had a huge influence on last year’s results and team, and adding the little pieces is a big boost,” Di Chiara told CanPL.ca
“Having Telfer come back, having Mannella and Petrasso as experienced guys coming in, hopefully that puts us in the running to compete for the top spot. I think with these moves it shows that we’re being serious about wanting to win.”
He later added: “Even last year, we had a pretty strong midfield. This year to add upon it, having that strong core and that big engine in the middle, (the newcomers are) going to add some positives and strength to our squad.”
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A number of soccer pundits view York9 as the team most likely to give Forge FC and Cavalry FC a run for their money in 2020. Di Chiara believes the moves made by Y9 this winter set them up to seriously push last year’s CPL finalists for top bragging rights in the league this year.
“Cavalry and Forge are the top tier of the league, so everyone wants to compete with them. The additions we’ve made show that once the season rolls around we’ll go for it,” Di Chiara stated.
Di Chiara was a bit of an unsung hero for Y9 in 2020 as the club’s defensive linchpin in midfield. He appeared in 27 games in all competitions (logging just under 2,000 minutes in playing time), and while his focus was on stopping the other team from scoring, he also managed to contribute to Y9’s attack with a pair of goals and an assist.
Still, he admits that he needs to improve the offensive aspects of the game, and feels that the addition of Mannella might give him more attacking freedom.
“I think I did a pretty good job of winning balls and disrupting the other team last year because I was playing a little more of a defensive role. Maybe with the introduction of Mannella, he can take over that holding position and I can get forward more, improve offensively and help the team out that way,” Di Chiara offered.
“I know I can help the team out defensively. Last season I did a strong job in that, so maybe this year I can improve on the offensive side of the game.”
Like the seven other CPL clubs, York9 recently returned to training following a suspension due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Players must still adhere to strict social distancing protocols, so these training sessions are not like the ones the players are used to, but Di Chiara is overjoyed just to be back on the pitch following a two-month layover.
“For me, a huge thing is just trying to get back into a routine again. Now, you have some sort of normalcy – going back to training and getting a routine going, that’s huge for me,” Di Chiara said.
“That’s an important thing to have now; even if we’re training in small groups with social distancing, it’s great to be able to get up and get back to training again after being home for two months.”