CANADA CALL-UP FOR NITROS GRADUATE RALPH
Herdman invites TFC teenager Priso to Florida camp
HEAD OF THE CLASS...Nitros alumni Ralph Priso earns his first Canada call-up at the age of 18
NORTH TORONTO NITROS SOCCER graduate Ralph Priso of Toronto FC has capped a memorable 2020 with the best Christmas gift he could have wished for – a call-up to the Canadian Men’s National Team.
The 18-year-old TFC midfielder, who made his MLS breakthrough this year, will be part of coach John Herdman’s squad for the international camp in Bradenton, Florida, next month.
This closed-doors get-together gives Herdman one final chance to connect with his players ahead of the FIFA World Cup qualifiers which are scheduled to begin in March 2021.
Despite all the frustrations and obstacles of 2020 it has been a year to remember for Ralph who joined Nitros from childhood club Clairlea Westview when he was 12 years old.
Priso has come through the Canadian National team set-up at both U15 and U17 level and believes his campaign at the latter level taught him some valuable lessons for the step up.
He said: “With the 17s in the World Cup in my eyes we did what we were expected to do in qualifying but when we got to the Finals we lost all three games.
“We lost to the hosts Brazil there who were the best team I have EVER played against.
“Those guys were on a different level and we got destroyed 4-1 but I felt then that with a lot of hard work I could play with them.”
This year Priso’s work ethic and class in midfield earned him big game minutes alongside Toronto FC midfield general Michael Bradley towards the end of title-winning coach Greg Vanney’s reign at the club.
Now he has the chance to impress Herdman in a camp that will include two training matches as well as an inter-squad scrimmage as the national coach assesses a squad of experienced players and young prospects.
Herdman reasoned: “As a step towards FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, the January camp provides our Men’s National Team with an opportunity to re-immerse the group both tactically and culturally towards competitive matches in March.”
The men’s national team face a busy 2021 with FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, Concacaf Men’s Olympic Qualifying and the Concacaf Gold Cup.
In the World Cup games Canada will host Bermuda at home on Thursday March 25 and then travel away to face Cayman Islands on Sunday March 28.
Canada’s initial group also includes Suriname and Aruba and Herdman’s side will be hot favourites to advance to the next stage.
That puts them into a play-off situation over two games against another CONCACAF group winner with three teams then joining
Costa Rica, USA, Honduras, Jamaica and Mexico for an eight-team round robin that will see the top three go through to Qatar 2022.
The fourth-placed team in that tournament will face an intercontinental play-off.
It’s a long and winding road to make Qatar but Nitros alumni Ralph now has a chance to take his first steps on it in the Florida sunshine next month.
And for Nitros Technical Director Billy Wilson Ralph’s achievements are a source of pride for everyone at the club.
He said: “This call up to the National Team camp caps a special year for Ralph and everyone at North Toronto Soccer is extremely proud of his recent accomplishments.
“It’s important that young players in the Toronto community have local examples of what can be achieved in the game and Ralph continues to demonstrate what is possible when you combine talent with hard work.”
GK- Maxime Crépeau | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC
GK- James Pantemis | CAN / Impact de Montréal
GK- Dayne St. Clair | USA / Minnesota United FC
CB- Derek Cornelius | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC
CB- Belal Halbouni | GER / SV Werder Bremen II
CB- Kamal Miller | CAN / Impact de Montréal
CB- Frank Sturing | NED / FC Den Bosch
CB- Joel Waterman | CAN / Impact de Montréal
FB- Samuel Adekugbe | NOR / Vålerenga Fotball
FB- Zorhan Bassong | CAN / Impact de Montréal
FB- Zachary Brault-Guillard | CAN / Impact de Montréal
FB- Tajon Buchanan | USA / New England Revolution
FB- Cristián Gutierrez | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC
FB- Alistair Johnston | USA / Nashville SC
FB- Richie Laryea | CAN / Toronto FC
M- Tesho Akindele | USA / Orlando City SC
M- Marco Bustos | CAN / Pacific FC
M- Liam Fraser | CAN / Toronto FC
M- Mark-Anthony Kaye | USA / Los Angeles FC
M- Noble Okello | CAN / Toronto FC
M- Jonathan Osorio | CAN / Toronto FC
M- Samuel Piette | CAN / Impact de Montréal
M- Ralph Priso | CAN / Toronto FC
F- Ayo Akinola | CAN / Toronto FC
F- Lucas Cavallini | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC
F- Marcelo Flores | ENG / Arsenal U-18
F- Jayden Nelson | CAN / Toronto FC
F- Theo Corbeanu | ENG / Wolverhampton Wolves
WORK ETHIC IS THE CORE OF DOUG'S DNA
Nitros President and TD hail award winner Blair
CENTRE OF THE ACTION...Executive Director Doug Blair (third from right) representing the club
NORTH TORONTO NITROS President Peter Ellement has hailed Ontario Soccer Meritorious Service Award winner Doug Blair as a true 24/7 soccer administrator.
Nitros Executive Director Doug landed the prestigious accolade at the annual Centre Circle Awards and for those working on the inside it is a richly deserved reward for a body of work that now stretches over 27 years at the club.
Peter saluted Doug’s unswerving dedication to the role and he revealed: “Doug has brought a 24/7 dedication to his executive role.
“He is very respectful of others and naturally brings a collaborative approach to problem-solving.
“Doug is passionate about achieving the best outcome for NT players and families.
“His good judgment is enhanced by his extensive knowledge of the local and provincial soccer landscape.
“Doug’s affable demeanour has allowed him to develop helpful relationships across the Toronto soccer landscape: with NTSC staff, players and families, suppliers, city staff and councillors and foundation donors.”
Over the last three decades Doug has been at the core of Nitros as the club has developed into the powerhouse franchise it has become in 2020.
The soccer landscape has changed so much in that time and the club President knows the influence the former General Manager now Executive Director has played in steering Nitros through the challenges they have faced.
He stressed: “Doug was instrumental during the rapid growth and transformation of the club that has occurred over the past decade, when more formal policies and procedures were put in place and the number of staff and players grew rapidly.
“It is a huge challenge to implement and sustain excellence in any organisation, perhaps especially so in a non-profit, and he has managed to do so.
“His strong relationships with the city and school boards helped the club increase local field access, both indoor and outdoor, a big convenience for our families.
“The player subsidy program and Special Olympics program have had a wonderful community impact, not to mention the pride that those programs bring to all the club's stakeholders.”
With a worldwide pandemic upon us this has been perhaps the most difficult year any club board will ever face.
Doug’s calm leadership has been key in guiding those on the Technical Staff and in the boardroom through the toughest of times.
Peter pointed out: “Doug gives those of us on the board the confidence that the club's policies are being implemented day to day.
“When we discuss matters at our board meetings, he is able to quickly and reliably summarise the issues from various perspectives.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, an enormously challenging period for everyone, the board has been fortunate to have Doug dealing with the club's operational and financial issues while providing safe programs.”
PRAISE...Peter Ellement, with predecessor Michael Eubanks, and Billy Wilson
For Technical Director Billy Wilson, Doug has been a huge presence as he sets about the detailed and structured work of delivering on the Technical Vision.
Billy told ntsoccer.com: “Doug is the backbone of this organisation and someone who has always shown tremendous leadership and unwavering support during my time at the club.
“Doug has always been invested in our Technical Vision and has a strong understanding of the evidence-based practices that underpin our Technical Operations which he supports on a daily basis.”
Doug is held in high esteem by every coach in the Technical Room and his wisdom and experience has helped them all at some point in their journeys.
Billy stressed: “That cannot be underestimated. Not only is Doug one of the most experienced of the Executive Directors in youth sports, he has also gained so much institutional knowledge over the last 25 years.
“It is his knowledge of the North Toronto community, our club processes and values and his extensive network across the province that really sets him apart.”
Billy remains amazed at the energy levels Doug brings to his job day to day.
He had no hesitation when asked which quality in the Blair DNA stands out the most.
Billy smiled: “Work ethic, it has to be.
“Doug has been part of the club for the past 27 years and has been responsible for the organisation’s remarkable growth during that time.
“He is 100% invested in providing the North Toronto community with an inclusive youth soccer club that is an industry leader in every possible way.
“Doug’s commitment and passion to the NT Soccer brand is infectious and inspires all of the Club’s staff.”
The Meritorious Service Award for Doug has given the club as a whole a chance to take a breath in what has been a hectic and at times hugely difficult year.
It is an opportunity to reflect on the Executive Director’s stellar contribution at Nitros, a time to realise what has been built.
Technical Director Billy reasoned: “I think you only have to look at how far the club has come over the past 25 years to see some of Doug’s key achievements.
“The club was previously considered a recreational-minded organisation but under Doug’s leadership it has progressed to competing with the very best organisations in the country.
“It continues to establish itself as a leader in all areas of youth soccer.
“We now have the largest full-time technical staff in the country which means that North Toronto have dedicated professional Technical Staff leading and coaching our programs.
“This itself has been the foundation for much of the organisation’s rapid growth and success and Doug had the vision to make this happen.”
DOUG'S CAREER AT NITROS MERITS TOP AWARD
Ontario Soccer honours club's Executive Director Blair
A SERVANT TO SOCCER...Doug Blair with the accolade he landed at the 2020 Centre Circle Awards
NORTH TORONTO NITROS’ Executive Director Doug Blair has been honoured at Ontario Soccer’s prestigious Centre Circle Awards for 2020 with an accolade for Meritorious Service to the game.
Doug accepted his award in an online ceremony as a 27-year journey with the club, from volunteer recreational convenor to his current post, was given the recognition it richly deserves.
The Nitros Executive Director has seen tremendous growth in the club in that time and there have been many landmark achievements in a story of progression and success on and off the field.
Yet for Doug the inspiration remains heartfelt and grounded, the players and the effect the positive environment Nitros creates can have on their lives.
Doug stressed: “Being recognised with an award such as this is hugely appreciated.
“The real reward for me, though, is the positive impact that we have on the players and families who make our organisation an important part of their lives.
“Not only the few who progress to the higher levels of the sport, but all of those we are helping to develop a love of soccer.”
Doug began to get more deeply involved at Nitros 14 years ago and was elected a Director of the club in 2008.
He has seen Nitros grow from just a few part-time staff to today’s organisation which has 18 full-time and 15 part-time employees, more than 100 on the seasonal workforce and over 700 volunteers.
Last year the club had over 5,500 separate Program registrations across recreational and competitive, indoor and outdoor seasons and Academy and Summer Camp.
Doug has been the man at the helm of that growth, agreeing long-term field license agreements with school boards and private concerns, helping to establish the Special Olympics program and creating and expanding our player subsidy program for families in need of support.
Taking plaudits for those endeavours doesn’t come naturally, though, and he insisted: “To be honest I just feel very honoured to be receiving this award.
“It’s humbling to be joining the other recipients – from the 2020 list and those of past years - whom I both respect and admire.
“Like many, I became involved in community soccer because of my children.
“Along the way, there have been many individuals in North Toronto and other clubs, the TSA, in league management and at Ontario Soccer who helped teach me the many aspects of the game and shared their knowledge and experience with me.”
In this most challenging of years against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic Doug’s calm leadership has been crucial in helping to keep the club on course and the kids training on the fields.
No matter the obstacles and restrictions Nitros have had to face, he has spearheaded the efforts to ensure a safe environment for our players to continue learning to play the game they love.
Last week it was typical that Doug preferred the Nitros players who were signing for NCAA and Canadian universities to grab the limelight than for any in-depth coverage of this award to be prioritised.
Now there is a little time to reflect on the nearly three decades of involvement with the club that have seen Nitros maintain the Ontario Soccer Club Excellence Gold standards, become one of the founding OPDL franchises and then receive the new Canada Soccer National Youth Club License.
Doug has also helped to extend the player pathway for elite players by joining League1 Ontario and been a part of establishing a College Prep program designed to increase player contact with those Canadian and US colleges and universities.
It’s a daunting list of achievements and a complex and stellar body of soccer work behind the scenes to look back upon.
Yet the driving force will always remain for Doug a clear and simple one.
He reasoned: “I am thankful to all who have helped and encouraged me, and above all, to every young player who has inspired me.”
- NORTH TORONTO NITROS graduate Ralph Priso, the first ever player from our club to clinch a professional top team squad contract with Major League Soccer’s Toronto FC, made his first MLS start in Sunday's 2-1 win over Inter Miami.
- In the first two parts of our ntsoccer.com series on this landmark signing for Nitros we talked to Ralph about his life working with Michael Bradley and the impact his adventures playing for the Canadian youth national teams have had on his career to date.
- Now here in our concluding chapter TFC Academy director Anthony Capotosto praises Nitros' role in Ralph's development and gives us the inside story on his elevation to top team status.
QUALITY PLAYER - AND A QUALITY PERSON
TFC Academy chief Caps hails Ralph after winning debut
ALL SMILES...Ralph followed up his appearance off the bench with a winning start against Miami
RALPH PRISO walked into the pressure of his first start with Toronto FC shoulder to shoulder with Captain America Michael Bradley and helped drive his team to a crucial 2-1 win over star-studded Inter Miami.
Back home in The 6ix TFC Academy Director Anthony Capotosto wasn’t surprised one little bit.
Highly-respected coach and soccer administrator Caps has watched Ralph grow up as a player since he graduated to the MLS franchise from North Toronto Nitros Soccer.
And the TFC chief paid tribute to the work done at Nitros as Priso took a significant step forward in his career at Rentschler Field in Hartford, Connecticut, on Sunday night.
Capotosto told ntsoccer.com: “I have been very impressed by Ralph the player and person since he came to our Academy. It was very clear that Ralph came from a quality environment when he made the transition from NTSC to TFC.
“He quickly emerged as one of the top performing 2002 born players in the Academy, while also catching the eye of the National team staff, ultimately representing Canada at the U-17 World Cup in Brazil.
“I’ll always remember Ralph’s passion for the game during his time in the Academy and, in particular, that incredible winning goal he scored against Columbus Crew in the Generation Adidas qualifying game at BMO training ground.
“It has been a real pleasure to work with Ralph and see his progression over the years.”
Ralph is the 25th player from the Academy at TFC to make the jump to a first team squad now under the stewardship of title-winning Head Coach Greg Vanney.
For Caps and his staff it is Mission Accomplished when they take that journey but he shares the same emotions as everyone at NT as we watch the progress of the first player from our club to make the TFC first team.
The TFC Academy Director smiled: “There is always a great sense of pride when an Academy player signs with the first team. There are a number of people in our club who have supported Ralph’s development and it’s great to see him get an opportunity to play at the professional level.
“Everyone in the Academy is proud of Ralph and we look forward to following his career moving forward.”
After getting some minutes off the bench in the 5-0 reverse at the hands of Philadelphia Union, Priso was handed the start against David Beckham’s MLS project Miami new boys at the weekend.
Ralph was up against the likes of French superstar Blaise Matuidi, who has made bank at the likes of Paris Saint Germain and Juventus in a glittering career, and scored at the weekend to put Inter ahead.
Miami could afford to hold Argentine legend Gonzalo Higuain – who has starred for both Napoli and Juve in Serie A - in reserve at the weekend.
Those are the circles Ralph is mixing in right now but he thrived in the game as Ayo Akinola levelled and Alejandro Pozuelo’s late penalty sealed it for the Reds.
GUIDING LIGHTS...Anthony Capotosto (left) and TFC Head Coach Greg Vanney
Caps knew he would relish the challenge, though, and he reasoned: “Ralph is a fierce competitor and he understands what it takes to win. He is an explosive player who possesses both the technical and physical attributes that are required to play in MLS.
“He can recover balls effectively in midfield to initiate counter-attacks, while at the same time dictating the tempo of the game in possession.”
Capotosto’s former post as Head Coach at University of Toronto saw him work with ex-Nitros coach Ilya Orlov – who is now in charge there – as one of his assistants.
That and his coaching ties with other members of the Nitros Technical Staff through shared courses on the Canada Soccer Pathway mean he knows the club well.
Caps values the links with our club and the others throughout the province who feed their best prospects into the TFC system and he pointed out: “These sort of relationships are critical.
“As much as we can talk about Ralph’s pathway within our Academy, the same time can be spent looking at his development in our community.
“It is through our collaboration with local clubs that we are able to provide these types of opportunities for players to play for their hometown club at the professional level. We are very grateful for the ongoing relationship we have with North Toronto Nitros Soccer and all the clubs we work with in the soccer community.”
Capotosto carries with him a natural humility. When a player like Ralph emerges there is often an undignified scramble to be the one who claims the lion’s share of the credit for nurturing him.
The truth generally is that many influences at different times build and hone a special talent – and ultimately it comes down to the desire and will to improve within the PLAYER himself.
Caps acknowledges the role NT and Ralph’s first coaching mentor Hermann Kingue will have played and he said: “I hesitate to say that we “produced” Ralph in our Academy.
“Our job as a staff is the create the best possible learning environment every day, one that is conducive to both learning and improvement.
“We do our best to create an environment that is highly competitive, challenging, promotes attention to detail, and holds everyone accountable. And by that I mean both the players and the staff.
“A player like Ralph ultimately flourished in that environment and propelled HIMSELF forward in our development pathway.”
After that winning debut when it mattered most for TFC, everyone at Nitros will be watching the next steps for Ralph Priso.
- NORTH TORONTO NITROS SOCCER graduate Ralph Priso has become the first ever player from our club to clinch a professional top team squad contract with Major League Soccer’s Toronto FC.
- In a three-part series ntsoccer.com talks to Ralph and TFC Academy director Anthony Capotosto about the midfielder’s journey so far as he bids for stardom in MLS.
- Here in Part Two Priso tells us about the lessons he has learned playing in the red of Canada.
BRAZIL HUMBLING TAUGHT ME SO MUCH
Ralph will never forget clashing with Samba stars
NITROS DAYS...Ralph with coaching mentor Hermann Kingue (right) and Henry McIntosh
RALPH PRISO learned some cruel World Cup lessons against the Samba soccer masters of Brazil and vowed to use the pain of defeat as fuel to improve.
Earlier this month the 18-year-old North Toronto Nitros Soccer graduate became the first player from our club to secure a top team squad contract with Toronto FC.
Ralph made his debut for the Reds off the bench in the 5-0 humbling for Greg Vanney’s side at the hands of Philadelphia Union as injury-haunted TFC bid to get healthy again ahead of the Major League Soccer Play-Offs.
After that reverse was followed by a 1-0 loss to New York City FC, Priso is desperate to help his side get back on the rails on Sunday (November 1) against MLS newcomers Inter Miami.
As he prepares for that one in the TFC competitive bubble in Hartford, Connecticut, Ralph took time out to speak to ntsoccer.com about his journey so far.
And he believes the experiences he has had in the Canadian national team set-up have been crucial in showing him the path he must take now to reach the top.
Last year Ralph made the trip to Brazil with the Canada U17 squad to play in the World Cup Finals.
He reflected: “With the World Cup in my eyes we did what we were expected to do in qualifying but when we got to the Finals we lost all three games.
“We lost to the hosts Brazil there who were the best team I have EVER played against.
“Those guys were on a different level and we got destroyed 4-1 but I felt then that with a lot of hard work I could play with them.
“The sad thing there was we lost to Angola and New Zealand too and in those games we were simply not aggressive enough. We went out there expecting to win and it taught me another crucial lesson on focus.
“The games are played on the field and not on paper and we messed up. I learned then that you have to be engaged at all times and you can’t under-estimate teams.”
THEY WERE BRAZIL-IANT...Ralph in action against Brazil, the World Cup clash was an education
Since joining Nitros at the age of 12 from his childhood side Clairlea-Westview, Ralph has brought honour and pride to the club as he has progressed through the ranks with Canada.
He captained the U15 squad as his star began to rise and every experience with the Maple Leaf on his chest has been one to savour.
Ralph recalled: “I went to U15 CONCACAF Finals with Canada and it was an eye-opener, I realised there just how much improvement of my technique I have to work on.
“We lost to the USA in the section then beat Costa Rica and Trinidad before losing to Mexico in the semi-finals.
“To me that is Canada beating the teams they SHOULD be beating but we weren’t able to compete against the USA and Mexico and it showed me again that I had to improve.”
In Part Three of our exclusive Ralph Priso series marking his signing at TFC next week we will talk to TFC Academy Director Anrthony Capotosto about the pride he feels in the player’s elevation to Vanney’s title-challenging squad.
Ralph has come through every challenge thrown at him so far and enjoyed his days with TFC II even though they were often interrupted by international duty.
He revealed: “I only played around five games in the USL because I had the World Cup with Canada U17s but I liked the level there. The jump up in standard to the first team is huge, though, and that’s what I have to get used to now.
“It has been a pretty seamless transition, however, in the USL because the TFC team is generally younger and those guys on the other franchises just don’t want to lose to you. It challenges you and it brings far more intensity than you face in Academy games.”
Ralph’s time with his Nitros coaching mentor Hermann Kingue was laced with humility and a work ethic that saw him always going the extra mile to develop as a player.
Inside now he carries a quiet self-belief he will need as he bids to break into one of the best midfields in the league.
Ralph stressed: “I wasn’t surprised to get the contract with the first team squad because I felt I had shown that I could play at the level. So, no, I wasn’t surprised I got an offer but I was little shocked that it started right away and that I am a part of the end of this season now.
“I went to pre-season in January but I got injured halfway through and missed Part Two. That was disappointing and then Coronavirus struck and the team then went to Orlando for MLS Is Back.
“When they came home from there I was given the shout to start training with the first team.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has meant that Ralph is breaking into the first team in a season like no other.
He has to get used to being constantly away from his family and friends with the team now sequestered at their temporary base in the States travelling back and forth from there to matches.
Ralph confessed: “Life in “The Bubble” can get boring, this stretch has been coming up for three weeks and you get home for maybe two days at a time.
“We are here now until Sunday and then we might get some back home in Toronto after that.
“Listen, you get used to it and I adapt because this is what I wanted and dreamed of.”
RALPH ON TFC LEARNING CURVE
Bradley the mentor for Nitros graduate Priso
- NORTH TORONTO NITROS SOCCER graduate Ralph Priso last week clinched a professional first-team squad contract with Major League Soccer’s Toronto FC.
- In a three-part series ntsoccer.com talks to Ralph and TFC Academy director Anthony Capotosto about the midfielder’s journey so far as he bids for stardom in MLS.
- Here in Part One Priso tells us about life in the TFC bubble and his education in the Beautiful Game under the gaze of stars like Captain America Michael Bradley.
LEARNING PROCESS...Ralph Priso has midfield mentors like Michael Bradley now at Toronto FC
EVERY day is a school day and for Ralph Priso the teachers are Michael Bradley and Alejandro Pozuelo.
The Toronto FC midfielder, who began to learn the game growing up at North Toronto Nitros, is now taking the crucial next steps in his soccer education.
Elevated to his hometown MLS franchise’s first team squad by Head Coach Greg Vanney at the age of 18, Ralph is living his dream.
As TFC battle it out to win another Eastern Conference title Nitros graduate Priso is beginning the battle to earn a starting slot. The midfield area where Ralph’s explosive athleticism flourishes features the likes of American international captain Bradley, Spanish superstar Pozuelo and local hero Jonathan Osorio.
Priso relishes every minute of every training session as he starts to takes those first formative steps as a professional player.
And he told ntsoccer.com: “The speed is obviously a lot quicker from TFC Academy and in the first two or three sessions it was difficult to get into a rhythm.
“It was so fast but now I have adjusted and I don’t think I look out of place any more. I look like I belong. I watch the likes of Michael and Alejandro and I try to take little pieces from them every day.
“I think we have the best midfield in the MLS so it’s going to be hard to break into that but I can learn so much.”
Veteran Bradley is now 33 and fighting back from a knee injury that has kept him away from his central defensive midfield beat but now he is ready to return to the TFC ranks at a critical stage of a season disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the team sequestered in their competitive bubble in East Hartford, Connecticut, Ralph has plenty of time to pick the brains of the USA skipper who can draw on the vast experience of 151 appearances for his country.
CAPTAIN AND TUTOR...Michael Bradley is playing a key role in the development of Ralph Priso
Priso soaks up that wisdom and knowledge on and off the field and he revealed: “Michael plays in my position and in every passing drill or game in training he is giving me tips on what type of ball to play or what the weight of the pass should be.
“Body position, how I should receive it, all those small but vital parts of the process. He helps me a lot. There are little areas of technique I have to work on now like reading of the game defensively.
“Right now I can make tackles and recover balls because I am athletic but I have to put myself in the spots earlier and that would make the job a lot easier. Also I need to be able to play on the half-turn on my weaker left foot.
“I am comfortable on my dominant side but I need to learn little things like that to take the next step.”
He will work through those lessons with Bradley as a mentor but some very important steps in the journey so far were taken under the watchful eyes of his Nitros coach Hermann Kingue. Priso loved his days with the club and working under the former Cameroon international midfielder.
Ralph recalled: “Hermann was the reason I came to Nitros because he saw me at my first club Clairlea-Westview and I had been there from the age of three until I was 11.
“I was the best player on the team there but Hermann thought I needed the next step to develop and I trusted him.”
When you watch Ralph play you see a thrilling mix for a modern-day midfielder. He has the discipline and humility to do the ugly side of the Beautiful Game and win the ball back, then he can explode into action with imagination and creativity.
That is a way of playing that Hermann was committed to nurturing and Ralph reasoned: “He helped me a lot in my attitude towards training and my intensity.
“Hermann taught me how to defend and then when I was attacking he just told me to express myself. He never inhibited me. That has been massive because I can bring more dribbling to the first team and that’s sometimes not seen a lot in the game now.
“Hermann helped me develop that skill as a kid and I listened to every word because he had been a top-quality midfielder himself.”
Those days in the green jersey will always be precious to Priso, he will always carry the memories with him.
Right now life is about training in that bubble in the States and figuring out a way to convince coach Vanney to allow him to climb off the bench and into his MLS debut with the pressure on.
Yet in a break from practice on the line to ntsoccer.com he loved the chance to reminisce a little and he laughed: “I was a 12-year-old kid when I came to Nitros and I can remember my first goal like it was yesterday. It was against Whitby at their field and a corner came in on the edge of the six-yard box back to goal.
“I took a touch on my right foot then swivelled to score on my left and it was just such a great feeling.”
Like national team female players Rebecca Quinn, Olivia Smith and Sonia Walk before him Ralph is now a touchstone figure for all young Nitros players.
The club will follow every chapter in his story now and he recognises he can be an inspiration to all those who will be working to perfect their craft at Downsview or Soccerplex this winter.
Ralph stressed: “My advice to any young Nitros player reading this would be to remember that you never know who is watching.
“Also I would say train how you play, if I had learned that a lot earlier I would be further on in my career than I am right now. In the Academy at TFC I knew I was one of the better players and I coasted.
“I didn’t improve and develop as quickly as I could have and I should have been working on my weak points more.”
For now Ralph is focused on his improvement in the rarified environment of the TFC bubble as the club battle the likes of Philadelphia Union for the Eastern title crown in this season like no other.
Greg Vanney knows he has a prospect on his hands, the intriguing factor is when he will unleash Priso to get those MLS minutes he craves.
Ralph confessed: “This year I would just love to get off the bench in the games that remain. I want to show in every minute I get that if the coach needs me later in the season in the Play-Offs then he can trust me and count on me.
“Next season I want to appear in maybe a third of the games and become someone they can rely upon and know deep down that they’re not unsure of me.
“My goal is simple, to become a player someone like Michael Bradley can trust to give the ball.”
SECOND TIME AROUND A JOY FOR AARON
Coach Lucas returns to lead U8 and U9 Boys
BACK WITH A SMILE...Aaron Lucas back on the field coaching with a mix of soccer - and fun!
NORTH TORONTO NITROS SOCCER is delighted to announce the return of Aaron Lucas to the club and his appointment as Head Coach of our U8 and U9 Boys squads.
Aaron first came to the club as an 18-year-old rookie coach before returning home to England to study.
Now he is back with a key role in the Nitros Development Pathway and it is an appointment he is relishing.
Aaron told ntsoccer.com “It’s been brilliant to be back, in a time where there’s a lot of craziness and uncertainty in the world, I’ve been welcomed by everyone which has helped me settle back in quickly.
“It’s been a joy to be back on the field and see so many familiar faces.”
Under the astute leadership of Program Manager Tom Waud, the Nitros Development Pathway has a structured curriculum designed to ensure our young players have solid foundations in the game as they begin their journey at the club.
Aaron believes that recipe of gaining a soccer education while playing with a smile on your face is crucial.
And he reasoned: “Ultimately this is the age they play to have fun. If I, along with my colleagues, can create an environment where they can have a great time at practice and not be afraid to make mistakes, develop their social skills and, of course, develop their understanding of the game then that’s great.
“There are a lot of life lessons and skills that they begin to learn over these ages and if I can help create the start of that foundation with them to carry though our programs and their lives then I’m happy.”
Having left for a spell to go back home and continue his education before returning to Toronto, Aaron is in a somewhat unique category.
He has seen the Nitros of 2015 and the Nitros of 2020 and is in a perfect position to judge the evolution of the club.
Aaron reflected: “There’s been a lot of work for many years by the club to continue developing and to create the best opportunity possible for any of our players, whether they be 4 years old or 18.
“There is a real desire to provide as many opportunities and environments on and off the field for them to develop as players and as people. That is a factor that I have always believed separates us from others.
“I feel there is also a real belief in personal development here and a commitment to investing in the players and staff.
“For me, the calibre of staff we have now at the club is unbelievable. Everyone brings something different to the table here.
“It was like a large family years ago and nothing has changed now.”
Aaron’s return has meant a reunion with a lot of friends inside the Technical Staff and a chance to make some new ones.
He always kept tabs on what was happening at his favourite Canadian club when he was away.
And he stressed: “I loved my time here at the club and have always been incredibly grateful for the opportunity they gave a young 18-year-old coach from England.
“It was a tough decision to leave and go back but it was one I had to make for my development.
“When I moved home to start my degree, I kept up to date with my friends and colleagues about the goings on here.
“I was never at any time particularly out of touch with the Nitros.
“It wasn’t necessarily a goal as such to return as you never know how life works out but I always thought that should the opportunity arise, I knew I’d want to be a part of it.
“It’s been brilliant to hear about the club’s continuous development and now it’s even better to be a part of it.”
So five years on from the first chapter of his coaching life at Nitros Aaron begins another.
It’s one he feels will be written at a club that may be evolving but keeps that care for the players at its heart. Always.
Aaron said: “It’s five years more evolved as a club now from the day I left, so change is natural. I think the structure of our pathway from recreational soccer all the way through to League1 has become so much more organised and it is now one that the players will benefit from hugely.
“There’s some terrific work being done by everyone both on and off the field is so many different areas.
“It’s been brilliant to see so many familiar faces still playing amongst the club albeit they are older and taller! I believe that level of player retention is a testament to the club and our staff all the way through.”
PABLO HAS A DUTCH OF CLASS
Hempelmann eyeing a future in Europe
ARMED AND RED-DY...triple OPDL winner Pablo Hempelmann in action for Nitros
NORTH TORONTO NITROS SOCCER graduate Pablo Hempelmann is aiming for a future in Europe after a successful trial stint at Dutch club NAC Breda.
The gifted striker – reared in the Nitros 03 Boys squad since he was a kid under the watchful gaze of coach and mentor Marko Milanovic – returned home from Holland at the weekend.
Pablo has already impressed Academy coaches in a training spell at German giants Eintracht Frankfurt and the Dutch trip was another significant step in his soccer education.
NAC Breda, who play in the 19,000 capacity Rat Verlegh Stadion, are aiming to rebuild the club on top youth talent after falling out of Holland’s top league the Eredivisie.
Pablo would relish the chance to place a Canadian flag amidst those on their multi-national squad roster.
This week ntsoccer.com spoke to Pablo about his experience in Breda and he revealed: “I was able to get the trial at NAC Breda through an agent who was interested in me after watching several of my games with Nitros.
“Playing in Germany was a great experience and prepared me well in understanding the expectations at these top academies.
“Although the style of soccer was very similar at Eintracht Frankfurt and at NAC Breda, I enjoyed the style in Holland a bit more.”
Pablo’s technical ability has been honed at Nitros since he was a spindly-legged U9 youngster who just loved to trick rivals and score goals.
Now he is moving in a soccer world that treasures players with the creative brain to pick the lock of organised defences.
After growing up on the level of detail Marko has drilled into his players Pablo soaked up the experience in the NAC Academy.
And he revealed: “The training was very intense and focused primarily on improving players' technical abilities as well as their tactical understanding of the game.
“These are two essential aspects that I recognise now are needed to perform at the highest level.”
Holland is a tried and trusted proving ground for imported youngsters who value tactical development and first team football ahead of filling a jersey in an Academy at more storied clubs.
Uruguay striker Luis Suarez, now starring for Atletico Madrid after his summer departure from Barcelona, spent five years in Dutch football at Groningen and Ajax before the move to Liverpool that shot him to international stardom.
Pablo believes a future in Holland if he can clinch one would be a telling factor in taking him to the next level.
He reasoned: “Holland has definitely been one of the primary countries in producing young talent over the years.
“I think it is down to how much they train players' technical/tactical abilities. In Holland you learn how to make quick and effective decisions under pressure while staying composed, as many of their drills in practice are in tight spaces.
“On top of this when we were training on the full pitch and in the video analysis sessions the coaches would explain different ways to break through the other team’s pressing.”
Pablo is now a serious student of the Beautiful Game, a keen mind has been honed on success with a Nitros squad that won three OPDL titles on the spin.
Sadly, the COVID-19 outbreak denied him the chance to play with his childhood team-mates and friends in League One for NT this outdoor season.
He has shrugged that off, though, to keep taking forward steps in his soccer career and he said: “At NAC we would review different passing patterns for specific positions in preparation for matches.
“While I was at Breda the team I was training with had three games and before each game we would go over how to break down a different set of tactics that the opposing team would be playing.
“I think doing this before every match day really prepares players to react to whatever defence or offense is thrown at them.”
For Nitros coach Marko this spell in the development of players like Pablo and his team-mate Kael Dimitrov, who is shining in the Academy of Bulgarian champions FC Ludogorets, is a poignant one.
He has been there every step of the way watching Pablo grow up in the game.
There is a little tug at the heartstrings for every coach knowing his time working with a special talent is nearing an end.
KIDS' STUFF...Pablo at Nitros with ex-team-mate Dylan Lopes who is now playing in Portugal
For Marko, though, it will be job done if Pablo makes it in Europe and the coach believes it will also be a testimony to the humility that is part of the player’s DNA.
Coach Milanovic stressed: “That quality is so important as Pablo always stays humble, focused and working. He has a great ability to keep his emotions in check when he is on the field and rarely seems overwhelmed or nervous, regardless of the occasion.
“Pablo has many qualities as a player. His ability to create in the final third, via pass, dribble or shot, is something that's special.
“Most teams these days are very well organised and a player like Pablo, who can open up an organised block, is hard to find.
“Furthermore, when it comes to technical proficiency, he is one of the best youth players that I've been around.”
Pablo has grown up in a soccer household, his goalkeeper brother Patricio is also a long-time Nitro and the no1 in our College Prep squad where they play together at the moment.
During lockdown one of the Zoom assignments the players were given was to do video presentations on special topics chosen by the coaching staff.
For Pablo and Patti that meant describing to the squad how much they have helped each other’s soccer careers.
Marko insisted: “Pablo’s brother Patricio has helped him a lot over the years. Patricio is much more outgoing and open than Pablo and I always felt that it was a nice balance between the two.
“Patricio is also an excellent goalkeeper which naturally was a perfect match given that Pablo was always more of an attacking player.
“They would spend countless hours on the field, Pablo shooting and finishing and Patti doing his thing.
“My first memories of Pablo go back to U-9. Pablo has always had a smile on his face, he loved to have a ball at his feet and he loved to play. Nothing has changed.”
Now Europe is calling and Pablo is praying he has done enough in his trial stints to earn the chance to continue his soccer journey.
He confessed: “Of course, it would be fun to play another season at NT with the team I've been with since I was a kid.
“However, I think now is the time to make a big step to Europe.
“I am very excited to have had these experiences in Holland and Germany and I am just hoping I can move over there as soon as possible.”
YOUTH HONOUR FOR NITROS DOUBLE ACT
Maunder and King secure prestigious new License
MARC OF PROGRESS...Nitros coach Maunder adds Youth License to his Canadian A
NORTH TORONTO NITROS SOCCER’S Marc Maunder and Iain King are amongst the first 20 coaches in the country to be awarded the new Canada Soccer Youth License.
Manager of Player Development Marc and Manager of Coach Development Iain were in a successful ground-breaking group that includes Canada Soccer Hall of Fame member and former national team and Tottenham Hotspur star Paul Stalteri.
Marc adds the Youth License to his Canadian A honour while UEFA A coach Iain also lands this award on the next step of his professional development journey.
The new Youth License is especially designed for coaches working in the game with players aged 13-18.
For Marc the last two hectic years of his life have seen him juggle his Nitros responsibilities with a crammed calendar of professional growth as he has racked up his Canadian A License and now the Youth qualification to go alongside it.
He stressed: “We had superb facilitators and it was also great to learn from such a range of experiences in the classroom from both Europe and around Canada.
“I am so grateful that Nitros support my development to allow me to improve myself and the players that I work with day in and day out.”
As experienced coaches now, Marc and Iain share a fascination with the psychology of soccer and the social and mental health problems that developing young players can face.
This was studied in-depth on the course and was one of the key takeaways for Marc.
He told ntsoccer.com: “Having a license specially constructed to focus on the youth and the challenges they face as a Generation Z player is invaluable.
“I feel that it allows for coaches to be better prepared for all the obstacles they will face. It shows you the way to create a better environment that is both healthy and challenging for our players.”
The Canada Soccer Youth Licence content involves theoretical and practical components focusing on the holistic, effective coaching of youth players.
From helping to build Nitros’ coaching curriculums to fitness sessions and tactical studies Marc and Iain brought back a host of knowledge that has already been implemented at the club.
Iain was delighted to continue his coach education journey in his adopted country after previously earning his UEFA A License in his homeland of Scotland.
And he said: “It was a privilege to be in that environment and to get the chance to work with the likes of Paul Stalteri, who has seen and done it all at the likes of Spurs and Werder Bremen as well as Canada.
LEARNING HIS SPURS...Iain with Tottenham and Canada legend Paul Stalteri
“It was fascinating to see the detail and nuances in the session he constructed as part of his assessment. That kind of learning inspires you to drag up your own standards.
“We also had superb facilitators in Jason de Vos, Stuart Neely, Bobby Lennox and Ray Clarke and it’s about gleaning all you can when you are lucky enough to be employed by a club with the foresight to place you in this sort of company.
“The Youth License was a fantastic experience and opened my mind to so many aspects of caring for players that go beyond the Xs and Os of the tactics board.”
More information on Canada Soccer’s Youth Licence program can be found at: https://www.canadasoccer.com/coach/coach-education-and-certification/youth-licence/
The Canadian Youth License Class of 2020
Chris Bascelli (West Ottawa SC)
Jason Beckford (Vaughan SC)
David Benning (Pickering SC)
Jordan Brown (Brams United)
Pavel Cancura (TFC-Ottawa)
Tom Croft (FC Durham Academy)
Anthony Capotosto (Toronto FC)
Matt Ferreira (Ontario Soccer)
Chris Grierson (Oakville SC)
Paul Harris (Ottawa South United)
Gregory Jespersen (Waterloo SC)
Iain King (North Toronto SC)
Selvin Lammie (Ontario Soccer)
Marc Maunder (North Toronto)
Bryan Rosenfeld (Ontario Soccer)
Paul Stalteri (Woodbridge SC / York9 FC)
Patrick Tobo (Ontario Soccer)
Miranda Wiley (Cambridge United)
Simon Wilshaw (Ottawa South United)
Mike Whyatt (Halifax City SC)
* North Toronto Nitros Soccer is proud of the work that Marc and Iain do to help to inspire and innovate on our Talented Pathway and Competitive Program.
To find out more about our Talented Pathway Program Click Here
To learn about our Competitive Program Click Here
NITROS SIX LAND NEW CHILDREN'S LICENSE
Amongst first 21 coaches in Canada to gain the award
TRAILBLAZERS...Development Pathway managers Waud and King
SIX North Toronto Nitros Soccer coaches are amongst the first 21 in the nation to be awarded the Canada Soccer Children’s Licence.
Technical Director Billy Wilson, Nitros Development Manager Tom Waud, Recreation Manager Nic Hurtado, Advanced Development Manager Andy King, Octavian Ghidanac and Rachel Murray have all earned the new honour which has been specially designed for coaches working full-time in the game with players aged from 5-12 years old.
Canada Soccer announced the initial recipients from the Pilot Scheme this week with the Nitros staff all delighted to have taken another significant step on their coaching development journey.
Nitros’ coaching structure in this critical area of development now truly reflects the importance the club places on these formative years for our players.
After seven years at the club Development Pathway Manager Tom Waud, whose professional background is in teaching, is passionate about putting the building blocks in place from the first time a boy or girl shrugs on a Nitros jersey.
Reflecting on the Children’s Licence experience Tom told ntsoccer.com: “It was a great experience to be present with so many like-minded coaches in the same location.
“The two-week period we enjoyed together was a non-stop learning environment.”
Tom relished the Children’s Licence experience and the added bonus was having so many Nitros colleagues in the group.
The six coaches from NT emerged from the course with a fresh perspective on the way forward.
And Tom stressed: “Having so many qualified Children’s License coaches working with our already talented players is a huge asset in player development and a major plus for the future of our club.
“All the learning and the tools provided to us have been implemented within the Grassroots program and the coaches can really see the difference in the players.
“I’d like to thank Canada Soccer and all the coach educators who supported us through our learning and development.
“These are exciting times within the Grassroots program at North Toronto Soccer, we’re thrilled about getting back to the field and continuing with the work in player development.”
The new Children’s License is part of a revamp of the coaching qualifications in Canada and Nitros were determined to have our staff at the forefront of this.
For Andy King, Advanced Development Pathway Manager who oversees the U11 and U12 divisions of the club, that is a key factor.
He reasoned: “The fact that so many North Toronto staff were involved in this inaugural Children’s License shows how dedicated the club is to both the staff and, most importantly, the needs of our players.
“The principles and methods discussed during the course have heavily influenced the way we run our programs between the ages of 8 and 12 years old.
“Parents, players and coaches at NT will continue to feel the benefits of this course for years to come.
“I would like to thank the club for the opportunity to be involved and for their continuous support with Coach Education for all of our staff.”
The Children’s License is a key piece of the work being done to streamline and clarify the coaching process in Canada.
That endeavour is spearheaded by Canada Soccer’s Director of Development Jason de Vos with Manager of Coach Education Stuart Neely designing and driving forward the delivery of the content.
Nitros coach Andy believes it’s a recipe that’s working and he said: “I’d like to commend Canada Soccer on the updated pathway for coaches in this country.
“It is a much clearer vision for coaches who wish to focus on a specific area of player development and the Children’s License was a great example of that.
“The content was both engaging and challenging as the coaches delved into age and stage-specific material that was backed up by both research and science.
“I highly recommend it to any coach who enjoys working with Grassroots players.”
More information on Canada Soccer’s Children’s Licence program can be found at: https://www.canadasoccer.com/coach/coach-education-and-certification/childrens-licence/
2020 Canada Soccer Children’s Licence recipients
Name (Current organization):
Hollie Babut (Pickering FC)
Tommy Bianchi (Markham SC)
Marco Bonofiglio (Richmond Hill SC)
Matt Ferreira (Ontario Soccer)
Luca Forno (Vaughan SC)
Octavian Ghidanac (North Toronto)
Jhon Ardila Gonzalez
Paul Harris (Ottawa South United)
Nicolas Hurtado (North Toronto)
Unika Hypolite (Richmond Hill SC)
Dave Kelly (Ontario Soccer)
Andy King (North Toronto)
Alessia Mattucci (Vaughan SC)
Sam Medeiros (Mooredale SC)
Ramin Mohammadi (Ontario Tech University)
Rachel Murray (North Toronto)
David Shankland (Burlington SC)
Henrich Svietko (Richmond Hill SC)
Thomas Waud (North Toronto)
Billy Wilson (North Toronto)
Mike Woodbyrne (Hamilton United SC)
North Toronto Nitros Soccer is proud of the work that Tom and Andy help to inspire and innovate on our Development Pathway. To find out more about our Programs for players aged 8-12 years old Click here
NITROS SAY WELCOME TO COACH CARL
Experienced Horton takes over OPDL 07 and 08 Boys
KAEL'S HAVING A BLAST IN BULGARIA
Champs Ludogorets develop Nitros graduate Dimitrov
NORTH TORONTO NITROS SOCCER graduate Kael Dimitrov has wowed the fans at Bulgarian 9-in-a-row champions PFC Ludogorets with two goals on his professional debut.
The 17-year-old left-sided midfielder is making his way in Europe after setting out on a quest to chase his dreams there following his formative days working under coach Marko Milanovic with our highly-rated 2003 OPDL Boys squad.
Kael had at first joined Levski Sofia’s Academy set-up before the chance to move to Bulgaria’s dominant force and experience life at the Eagles Nest Stadium arose.
He grabbed the chance to advance and has got off to a flyer scoring twice in a 4-1 win for the club’s feeder team over FC Dorostol.
Back in Canada coach Marko is thrilled to hear of Kael’s progress in the city of Razgrad where in pre-COVID times 10,500 frenzied fans packed in to the Eagles Nest for every home game to roar on their favourites in an intimidating atmosphere.
Marko reflected: “An opportunity presented itself to go to a club that has had the most success in Bulgarian soccer in the last 10 years and Kael took it.
“The great thing for me is that Ludogorets' U-19 team is often part of the U-19 Champions League that features some of the best European young talent.
“What a platform that will be for him if he can get involved at that level.”
Kael feels at home with his new club, after all they go after the opposition playing fast, attacking football in distinctive forest green shirts. Just like the Nitros!
SOARING WITH THE EAGLES...Nitros product Kael Dimitrov (left no15) enjoys life at Ludogorets
Ludogorets sprung to prominence in Bulgaria a decade ago when pharmaceutical tycoon Kiril Domuschiev took over the club.
They haven’t looked back since and the trophy machine first team Kael aims to play for one day now boasts a multi-national squad laced with Brazilian talent and stars from a host of other countries.
They have faced the likes of Liverpool and Real Madrid in Champions League contests on their rise through the ranks. Kael is at the heart of a driven club fuelled by ambition.
The success of Alphonso Davies with Champions League winners Bayern Munich in Germany has paved the way for Canadian products like Kael to be taken seriously in European circles.
Coach Marko stressed: “Kael's physical profile is something that stands out at the first glance.
“He is fast, tall and left footed. He is technically proficient and hungry to score goals.”
Kael was part of the squad that won a Three-Peat of OPDL crowns before graduating to become Nitros’ League One squad this year.
Now Marko and his old-team-mates are willing him on to take more positive steps in Bulgarian football.
Coach Milanovic said: “I am very proud of Kael's achievements so far and hope that he continues his journey in the same direction.
“After making his professional debut, the goal now is to get more regular minutes at that level.
“At 17, that would be a phenomenal step into the professional game.
Furthermore, Ludogorets will feature in the U-19 Champions League again this year.
“An opportunity could present itself to play against some top European sides such as Bayern, Real, PSG and Red Star Belgrade. You can’t get better exposure than that.”
NITROS CLASH IN WINTER GAMES SEMI
Both squads reach last four of Futsal showpiece at Orillia 2020
ON THE MEDAL TRAIL...Nitros U18s want Gold and Bronze hot on the heels of their Ontario Indoor Cup
NORTH TORONTO NITROS SOCCER will celebrate a truly special match on Saturday as our U-18 Boys squad face off against EACH OTHER in the semi-final of the prestigious Ontario Winter Games Futsal Cup at Orillia 2020.
With two teams making the best eight in the province for the showdown at the Games the hope had always been that Nitros could somehow plot a way for BOTH to be in medal contention come the weekend.
And after two days of drama in the gym at Orillia Secondary School battling it out in the 5 v 5 format of the game that’s just how it has turned out.
College Prep Mens Team Head Coach Marko Milanovic, using the indoor competitions as a way to sharpen his team for League One, took charge of the Green Team.
He saw his squad make a sluggish start to be edged out 3-2 by Bryst Vaughan in their opener.
That only served to give them the jolt needed to reach their best, though, and they overwhelmed North Mississauga Panthers 15-0 and then defeated Unionville 9-0 to ease into qualification for the last four.
Coach Marko told ntsoccer.com: “Friday’s performances were a great response to the opening game when we were nowhere near ourselves and the players knew that.
“We got a reminder of the standards we have set and why we must always strive to meet them in EVERY match we play, whatever the format, whoever we play, wherever we are.”
The Green Team’s progress was all the more commendable when you consider that goalkeeper Patricio Hempelmann - who had school exams and has not arrived in Orillia yet - hasn’t played a minute to date.
Instead outfield players Cristian Cuxom and Tadija Vukas have deputised and played with courage and flair to keep clean sheets in the closing two section games.
The Red Team, coached by the club’s Manager of Coach Development Iain King on this occasion, were embroiled in a hugely competitive section.
They emerged 5-3 winners from a tough opening match against Futsal Club Toronto on Thursday to give themselves a great chance of advancing on Friday.
What followed was a rollercoaster ride as NT were first edged out in the dying seconds to lose a thriller 3-2 to London Athletic.
Then in the decider against Kitchener the Nitros were toiling and 3-1 down when they withdrew outstanding keeper Daniel Delo and pitched in Dennis Escobar to play as a fifth outfield player and go for broke with 10 minutes to go.
In an incredible turnaround they hauled it back to level terms before Jaylen Drummond sent the Nitros contingent wild with an ice-cool finish to win it 4-3.
FACE-OFF...(for l-r) Cristian Cuxom, Tadija Vukas, Daniel Delo and Jaylen Drummond
Iain smiled afterwards: “I think we went through every emotion known to man in that last game, it was unreal.
“We even coped with a red card on Antonio Tripodi at a key time of the match to survive two big minutes a man down late on.
“It was an unbelievable comeback. We said to Jaylen on the bench: “Big players, big moments” and he produced one. It’s a privilege to coach the boys and be involved in such a special event.”
The Kitchener win meant the Red Team topped their section on goal difference but sadly it also put them on a collision course with their team-mates in Saturday’s High Noon semi-final.
It guarantees a Nitros team in the Final but coach Marko confessed: “I would rather have taken our chances against each other for the Gold Medal.
“It’s amazing, though, that whichever of our teams loses in the semi will still have a bronze medal to shoot for in third/fourth game on Sunday.
“This has been another incredible experience for the boys and Iain and I will step out of coaching in the semi. The boys will coach themselves and let the best team win!”
COMPETITIVE OPEN DEVELOPMENT SESSIONS
SMILES BETTER...our successful CSL 05 Girls team under the leadership of coach Humberto Ferreira
NORTH TORONTO NITROS SOCCER’S Competitive Program this week launches our Open Development Session Sundays.
These sessions are designed for players interested in joining our dedicated squads who will play in the Central Soccer League (CSL) and Toronto Soccer Association (TSA) this Outdoor Season.
Nitros currently have 14 teams over the two leagues with a host of excellent sides who will train three times a week and play games as they look to develop and compete across the region.
The Competitive Program is now headed up by Manager of Coach Development Iain King, a UEFA A Licence holder, who is also Head Coach of the CSL 06 Girls and Boys teams.
Iain told ntsoccer.com: “We have worked hard over the winter on a host of initiatives designed to improve our offerings throughout the Competitive Program.
“We now have a Competitive Coaching Curriculum being rolled out after March Break with core training sessions the coaches will deliver alongside their own work.
“Each week the entire Program will work on a specific soccer topic with one core session and one designed by the team’s Head Coach.
“This is married to Competition Day, a series of 5 v 5 games with metrics so the players can judge their progress in the small-sided games they love.
“We feel that week of work gives our players in the Competitive Program the best chance to develop while staying in love with the simple joy of playing the Beautiful Game.”
THE 03 BOYS...flourishing in the CSL under the leadership of their coach, ex-pro player Martinho Kibato
Nitros sides are currently battling for league titles and developing across the Greater Toronto Indoor Soccer League and Provincial Indoor Soccer League in 11 v 11 and The Hangar Leagues in 6 v 6 and you can read about their exploits in the CSL Focus and TSA Inside Track on ntsoccer.com
We also have a dedicated goalkeeping program for our Competitive keepers with sessions headed up by former Jamaican national no1 Shawn Sawyers and ex-NCAA Division One keeper Patricia Koutoulas.
If you are interested in becoming a Nitros keeper in our Competitive Program contact details are also listed below.
If your daughter or son is interested in becoming a Nitro the first Open Development Sunday Sessions are as follows:
COMPETITIVE GOALKEEPING PROGRAM
We have dedicated Goalkeeping Sessions available under the watchful eyes of former Jamaican Mens National Team keeper Shawn Sawyers and NCAA Division One no1 Patricia Koutoulas.
If you are interested in joining our dedicated goalkeeping group and becoming a keeper for one of our squads please contact Competitive Program head Iain King.
GREEN MACHINE TARGET WINTER GAMES GLORY
Futsal Cup is next up for Marko's marvels as they eye League1
AT THE DOUBLE...Juan Pablo Delgadillo (second from right) is hailed after netting in the Ontario Cup Final
NORTH TORONTO NITROS SOCCER’S former 03 Boys OPDL squad - who will graduate to become our League1 side this summer - have targeted The Futsal Cup at the Ontario Winter Games as a final farewell to the youth game.
Head Coach Marko Milanovic’s all-conquering side will travel to the tournament in Orillia from Thursday February 27 to Sunday March 1 with high hopes after lifting the Ontario Indoor Cup last weekend.
This week the squad were in Florida for a warm weather week of training and high-quality games against college and university sides as they prepare for their own next steps in education and soccer and the beckoning season in League1.
When they return next week the focus will shift to the prestigious Ontario Winter Games when Nitros will have two squads - one in each pool - desperate for success against the best of the province in the 5 v 5 format of the game.
Milanovic’s side have a hard-earned reputation to protect in Orillia having won three OPDL titles on the spin in a stellar spell at that level in Ontario.
Those successes led to the club’s decision to go with their young guns as our League1 side on our eagerly-awaited return to this platform.
For now, though, the focus of both Nitros squads will be trying to lift the Futsal Cup - even if they have to beat each other to do it!
Coach Marko reflected: “Winter Games, much like Ontario Cup, will be another event where we will try to improve a portion of our game.
“Our focus is on 11v11 soccer and outdoor and we use these exciting and fun events to improve individually and collectively.”
Marko will be backed up by League1 assistant coach Iain King and hard-working Team Managers Frank Maccarone and Diego Casa for the trip to Orillia.
The players already enjoy the culture of one Competition Day training session each week dedicated to 5 v 5 games against each other.
And Milanovic insisted: “In regards to results, with all due respect to all the other great clubs in the competition, our goal is always to win it all.
“It's not possible to win all the time but our goals never change.”
It’s been a hectic month so far as the preparations for League1 kick into top gear.
The trip to Florida was preceded by a 4-1 victory in the Ontario Cup Final over London Athletic Canadian Futbol Club with goals from Juan Pablo Delgadillo (2), Alessandro Fargione and Pablo Hempelmann sealing more silverware for a dedicated and humble group of players.
Marko smiled: “The tournament was a great way for the boys to begin to close down their chapter in the youth game.
“The competition was challenging as most teams carried 2002 born players, while our squad is predominantly made up of 2003s.
“Ontario Cup is one competition that we never had a chance to compete in before. When you are in OPDL you are on winter break when it is played.
“Now this team is no longer in the OPDL it mean this was our first one and we're very satisfied with our performance and the trophy.”
These days every OPDL team within the Nitros set-up - and a host of teams at CSL level - have the Competition Day culture ingrained in their training regimes.
One day is given up to 5 v 5 or 6 v 6 games with metrics kept to measure which players excel in those situations each week, whoever their team-mates are or what changing challenges are thrown at them.
It’s a concept championed by shrewd Toronto FC Academy Director Anthony Capotosto with TFC measuring their Academy players in an environment players love to take part in.
Capotosto is currently completing the Canadian Youth Licence Pilot Project alongside Marko, Nitros’ Manager of Player Development Marc Maunder and Manager of Coach Development King.
There the four coaches swapped ideas on the Competition Day culture and ideas grew.
TFC supremo Caps is now also set to give a coaching workshop on the TFC Academy’s playing principles at the upcoming March Break Coach Education Week for all of our Technical Staff.
For Milanovic the use of Small-Sided Games is something he made a crucial part of this team’s growth right from the start.
Marko has always looked to Futsal and indoor leagues to help players develop and he reasoned: “Small-sided games are a must for any youth player. I don't think that there are any clubs around Ontario that don't use SSG format.
“We have used it on a regular basis, often because of limitations with our facilities, but also as a preference to teach a certain concept or a skill.
“There is a place for it in the senior soccer as well and we will continue to use it. As a result, Ontario Indoor Cup (6v6) came to us as a very familiar format and the players revelled in it.”
AROMATARIO JETS OUT ON ITALIAN ADVENTURE
Nitros' midfielder's trial stint starts at Serie B Frosinone
THE MENTOR...Nitros League1 midfielder Anthony Aromatario with Head Coach Marko Milanovic
ANTHONY AROMATARIO watched midfield maestro Andrea Pirlo dictate a game for AC Milan on TV and the seeds of a dream began to grow.
On Saturday that childhood ambition to one day emulate his hero takes one tiny step closer as the 16-year-old North Toronto Nitros League1 midfielder jets out for a three-month trial in Italy with Serie B club Frosinone.
The elegant Aromatario will be steeped in the soccer culture of one of the game’s true hotbeds as he eats, sleeps and dreams the game in a bid to seal a future as a professional.
It’s a Tuesday afternoon after another pre-season session at Downsview Hangar when he sits down with ntsoccer.com to discuss the trip.
Training for a club now coached by Italian legend Alessandro Nesta - nicknamed The Minister of Defence in his playing days - seems a world away.
It will be reality soon enough, though, and Anthony reflected: “My ambition is to play in Italy, it always has been.
“Growing up my hero was Andrea Pirlo just because of how he played and passed the ball and I guess it grew from there.
“This is my second trip over to Italy, last year I went to Citadella - who are in Serie B - and I also went to Serie C Vicenza and Este who are in Serie D to train.
“That was a great experience and this is the next step, to go over there for three months and really be immersed in it this time.”
Pirlo, capped 116 times for Italy in a glittering career that included stellar spells at AC Milan and Juventus, ended his playing days with a swan song for New York City in Major League Soccer.
THE IDOL AND THE COACH...Anthony's idol Andrea Pirlo and Frosinone boss Alessandro Nesta
For Anthony, though, it will always be the times spent gracing the Rossoneri, the Bianconeri or the Azzurri that he draws on for inspiration.
Aromatario is a key part of Marko MIlanovic’s all-conquering 03 Boys side who won three OPDL titles on the spin before graduating to become our League1 squad for this coming season.
Before that challenge begins in May he checks out of the preparations with his team-mates, the coaching staff and the club cheering him on as he embarks on this European adventure.
There is no question that he has the soccer toolkit to survive and thrive in that demanding environment.
Mesmerising close control, the vision to spot a pass, the range to find his targets with both feet, an uncanny ability to use his body to shield and keep possession or draw fouls.
Aromatario is a baller for sure and he is certain that his decision to move to NT and work with coach Marko three years ago was key in making him the player he is now.
He stressed: “On the field in Italy last summer I found it was just like North Toronto, our practices are very intense and they prepare you.
“It was fun and the style of play suited me, they want you to control the game and decide the pace of play when you have the ball just as Marko has taught us here.
“Marko has been a fantastic coach for me, I would not be in this situation without him.
“When I first came I loved his coaching from the first night, it is very detailed.
“The little details are the difference between good players and great players and that’s the way he teaches the game.”
On Sunday at Varsity Stadium our young League1 side got their first taste of what life will be like playing against men when they faced Alliance United in an exhibition match.
Alliance, expertly guided by Nitros alumni Ilya Orlov who is now also Head Coach of the University of Toronto men’s program, performed superbly to finish third in the regular season last time out losing just once.
Nitros’ 4-3 win was a huge morale boost for Milanovic’s young side but they are realistic enough to know that pre-season means very little when the real stuff starts.
For Aromatario it was more important to gauge if they can cope with the age gap they are going to face week in, week out.
Anthony confessed: “There was a little bit of fear there inside, a worry of how we would could physically against a proper League1 side.
“I know how to use my body on the field but we are playing against men now and that makes it more of a challenge.
“I felt good in the game, though, and even managed to steal a goal off Pablo Hempelmann from a couple of yards out!”
Now the focus shifts to Italy and three huge months in the development of one of Nitros’ most gifted emerging talents.
Last summer gave Anthony a taste of what life as a soccer player in Italy is like, now he wants more.
ITALIAN JOB...Anthony at Citadella with skipper Manuel Iori and Academy Director Cristian La Grotteria
He revealed: “I will keep up with my schoolwork online and dedicate myself to that and my soccer for the next three months.
“The club have sorted out all my arrangements and my dad and my grandpa will be there with me for a few weeks to get me settled in before I tackle life on my own.
“It is all a big learning experience for me but it is one I will look forward to.”
For any kid stepping out of their comfort zone in Canada playing against the best Europe has to offer is a daunting prospect.
Aromatario, though, has the perfect mix to cope. Natural ability backed by the education he has received in the game have schooled him in what he needs to succeed.
He possesses the required ingredients of a quiet confidence in himself as a player, blended with down to earth humility as a person.
From now until May he knows it has to be single-mindedness, eyes on the prize.
He stressed: “I have the chance also to look at other clubs like Pescara and Perugia and I know they will look at me too.
“I wanted to have options when I get my Italian passport and not just bet on one team.
“Playing in Italy is what I want in my life and for the next three months all of my focus is on achieving that goal.”
NITROS ACADEMY UNVEIL EARLY BIRD DEALS
ACADEMY LIFE...our 05s OPDL Girls prospect Teija Murray-Powell with her team-mates before moving
to the Regional Excellence Program. TJ's coach Marc Maunder will once more be an Academy mainstay
NORTH TORONTO NITROS SOCCER has unveiled its 2020 Academy Schedule with Early Bird Deals and Discount Packages - just in time for the holiday season as families get down to planning for next year.
This year Academy will be based at the parents’ favourite venue of Eglinton Park for ALL of our programs from the U7 boys and girls right up to our League1 Women’s and Men’s squads who will return to the top level of Provincial soccer this summer.
And there are now a host of ways to get the week of top soccer coaching and fun booked early for your daughter or son and be rewarded with big savings:
EARLY BIRD DISCOUNT PART ONE
* If you register and pay for your week before March 31, 2020 you can save a whopping $60 on the cost of Academy Week with your package coming in at $465.
EARLY BIRD DISCOUNT PART TWO
* If you register and pay for your week TWO WEEKS BEFORE your team’s Academy Week then you save $30 on Academy Week and will pay $495.
DISCOUNT FOR SIBLINGS AND MULTIPLE WEEKS
* We often find that some Nitros players enjoy Academy so much they book up for a SECOND week on one of the open weeks outside of their team’s visit. Now if you choose that option you will save $20 after your first registration.
* Also if you have more than one child in the Nitros Family then again you will save $20 after your first registration.
The core cost for Academy this year is set at $525 but by offering the deal package now ahead of the holiday season Nitros hope our committed players and their families will benefit.
The club’s Manager of Coach Development Iain King is taking on the role of Academy Manager this summer as part of his new remit.
And Iain told ntsoccer.com: “We wanted to make the deal package available to parents ahead of the holiday season as I know how hectic the summers become for our players and their families.
“Academy Weeks are special times in the soccer development of Nitros players. This is their chance to work with our superb coaching staff for a dedicated week of full-time sessions and they get the night off from regular practice to recover.
“I feel the social aspect of Academy is crucial in both team-building and individuals building new friendships. The players eat, train, play and laugh together.
“From soccer tennis to swimming in their rest periods we will also have multi-sport opportunities and a special Skill Zone for the individual development of technique as an added bonus this year.
“We have looked to theme each of the eight weeks for the groups coming in. They will have a challenging technical curriculum, small-sided games against tough inter-club opposition and the challenges to improve them as players.
“Within all that they will leave every day with a smile on their face, our aim is to give every child the right mix of a detailed focus on soccer and fun activities too.
“And, of course, every Friday we will have our 4 v 4 World Cup tournament which is a Nitros tradition and something the kids love.”
To register your son/daughter for Nitros Academy 2020 just follow this link:
COLLEGE PREP TEAM GET LOWDOWN ON UBC
IN CLASS AND ON THE GRASS...University of British Columbia's Michael Girard works with the Nitros
NORTH TORONTO NITROS SOCCER’S Women’s College Prep team soaked up a recent visit from the prestigious University of British Columbia program.
The UBC Thunderbirds - under the guidance of highly-rated Head Coach Jesse Symons - are one of Canada’s top university sides.
And through our growing network of contacts in this sphere Nitros’ Head Coach Chris Vickers welcomed UBC’s goalkeeping guru Michael Girard to our club to outline the Thunderbirds program to our players.
The visit, which included an on-field session, a presentation and a Q and A with Michael, was a huge success.
And Chris told ntsoccer.com: “Visits like this are key for players to get a feel for how a university coach may deliver a session as well as their expectations and demands within it.
“The College Prep Program continues to develop at pace with clinic sessions like these allowing our players to build relationships with coaches and schools.
“It also allows the schools to see the quality that our club and programs possess.”
For the players the UBC visit began to spark their imagination and start them thinking about the recruitment process and what coaches are looking for.
Chris reasoned: “The players from all of our groups who participated really enjoyed the session, the interactions with the coach and the presentation Michael made.
“The feedback specifically from some players was that as of now they truly wanted to really start to dig into starting the recruitment process for schooling.”
As the College Prep Program at Nitros continues to grow visits like these become cornerstones of the way forward.
Chris is currently talking to his contacts within the game both in Canada and the USA and other school visits are in the pipeline.
Dates and specifics are being ironed out and when they happen we’ll keep you up to date here on ntsoccer.com.
Chris stressed: “To have UBC Thunderbirds visit us was a big boost because they are known for their earlier recruitment of players and their quality soccer program.
“Their program is one that shouts out to a lot of players, especially within our programs.
“It shows this past year their capabilities that they were crowned national champions of 2019.”
NITROS MAKE LEAGUE1 ONTARIO RETURN
PROVING GROUND...Niba MacDonald starred for Nitros in League1 and now plays for Honved of Hungary
NORTH TORONTO NITROS SOCCER are BACK in League1 Ontario with new-look men’s and women’s teams for the 2020 season.
The thrilling news was confirmed today by the league’s hierarchy and Nitros will return with Marko Milanovic in charge of the men’s side and Chris Vickers as Head Coach of the women’s squad.
OPDL counterparts Hamilton United Elite are also in the fold for the season to come next year and League1 Ontario Men’s Division Commissioner, Dino Rossi said: “We are delighted to be in a position to grow our men's division for the 2020 season and are very confident that both Hamilton United and North Toronto will prove to be excellent additions.
“Both clubs have an excellent reputation for player development in the OPDL and their new League1 teams will serve as the natural progression for the top players from within their clubs as well as for the top talent within their respective communities.”
North Toronto Nitros Soccer will return to League1 in 2020 with both men’s and women’s teams, providing a full senior high-performance pathway for players based in downtown Toronto.
“Welcoming the North Toronto Nitros to the women’s division is great for the league’s continued growth in providing complete pathways for players in Ontario,” said League1 Ontario Women’s Division Commissioner, Carmelina Moscato.
“For a club with impressive operational and technical standards, it is only fitting that their journey from OPDL has organically led to a team in League1, completing the Talented Player Pathway for women. The Nitros will have the opportunity to add a strong squad, talented coaches, and professionalism to the league.”
After first competing in the League1 men’s division during the 2016 and 2017 seasons, North Toronto will refresh with a full League1 program for all players in 2020.
Last time out the men's team was a proving ground for talents like defender Niba MacDonald who won outstanding player recognition from League1 and has gone on to play in Slovakia and now in Hungary with Honved.
“North Toronto Nitros Soccer is excited to be part of League1 Ontario,” said Doug Blair, Executive Director of North Toronto SC.
“We look forward to expanding the player pathway for talented and committed young women and men, providing high performance training and the top level of Ontario league competition to post-OPDL and post-secondary players.”
Hamilton United Elite will build on the success of their existing League1 Ontario program, featuring teams in the women’s division and men’s reserve division, with the addition of a men’s team in the 2020 men’s division.
“Hamilton United is thrilled to announce a men’s squad to League1 Ontario for the 2020 season,” said Hamilton United executive, Luigi Iantomasi. “Adding a League1 men’s squad completes the talented pathway model that Hamilton United has always strived for. Women’s, and now men’s, League1 squads provide the best opportunities for players within our District and surrounding areas.”
“Our new men’s team will feature a young core group of players, mixed with some cagey veterans, to challenge the old guard,” he added.
A total of 33 teams will compete in the League1 Ontario 2020 season, showcasing 18 men’s teams and 15 women’s teams.
The League1 license holders approved for 2020 are:
• Alliance United
• Aurora FC
• Darby FC
• DeRo United FC
• Durham United FA
• FC London
• FC Oshawa
• Hamilton United SC
• Masters FA Saints
• North Mississauga SC
• North Toronto SC
• Oakville Blue Devils
• Ottawa South United SC
• Pro Stars FC
• Sigma FC
• Toronto Skillz
• Unionville-Milliken SC
• Vaughan SC
• Windsor TFC Stars
• Woodbridge SC
About League1 Ontario
League1 Ontario is the province of Ontario’s pro-am, standards-based, senior league. Founded in 2014, the league began with a ten team men’s division, which has now grown to 18 teams in the men’s division and includes a separate 14 team women’s division.
League1 Ontario serves as a stepping-stone between the high-performance youth level and elite amateur and professional levels of the game. Owned and managed by Canadian Soccer Business (CSB) and sanctioned by FIFA through the bodies of Canada Soccer and Ontario Soccer, the league’s primary focus is the showcase and development of Canada’s future stars.
DEBUT JUST THE START FOR HISTORY MAKER LIV
TD Billy hails dedication of Canada's youngest ever player and pride of Nitros
IN THE RECORD BOOKS...Liv was just 15 years and 94 days old when she faced the mighty Brazil
OLIVIA SMITH is in the history books now as Canada’s youngest ever international soccer player.
Earlier this month the North Toronto Nitros Soccer alumni - aged just 15 years and 94 days - made her debut in the famous red shirt against the might of Brazil in the China Four Nations Tournament in Yongchuan.
The disappointment of the 4-0 defeat for Kenneth Heiner-Moller’s side within the OPDL franchises of Whitby and NT was tempered by the sense of pride both clubs felt.
Liv first grew up as a player at Whitby before making the move to North Toronto to work with coach Marko Milanovic who would become a mentor in a vital stage of her development.
Now the first steps in what promises to be a headline-hitting career have been made after Liv came on as an 86th minute substitute for Jordyn Huitema against the Brazilians.
Nitros Technical Director Billy Wilson believes this is just the start for a precocious talent and he told ntsoccer.com: “Liv has all the tools to kick on and become a fantastic player for Canada for years to come.
“Many young players who are thrust into the spotlight at such a young age struggle to deal with the level of expectation or forget the hard graft that got them there.
“But I have no concerns Liv will harness this experience and use this opportunity to take her game to the next level.
“She will continue to have the great support network around her in her family, Brandon Frith at Ontario REX, and the other staff at Canada Soccer.”
The youngest ever player record was previously held by Kara Lang, who was 15 and 130 days when she made her CWNT debut on March 1, 2002.
Jessie Fleming and Huitema were also 15 when they played their first games with the national side.
Now a player who became such a popular figure within Nitros with her infectious smile and sense of fun married to a burning desire to improve has set a new mark.
Smith following up her debut with another appearance off the bench in the 3-0 win over New Zealand in Game Two in China, almost grabbing her first Canada goal with a shot that whistled just past the post.
Billy believes the accolades coming Olivia’s way now have been hard-earned on the training field.
He reasoned: “To represent your country at such a young age is a tremendous achievement for any player.
“It is a testament to Olivia's talent and dedication to her development.”
Smith’s next target will be to stay in Heiner-Moller’s thoughts as the team build up their bid to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games through a five-match schedule at the eight-nation 2020 Concacaf Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
Canada will face Mexico, Jamaica and St. Kitts and Nevis in Group B after which the top two nations in the group will cross over to alternate Concacaf Semi-Finals against the top-two nations in Group A.
The two winners of those Concacaf Semi-finals on February 7 next year will qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games as well as advance to the Sunday February 9 Concacaf Final in Carson, Los Angeles.
For now, though, as Nitros’ OPDL players prepare to head into their winter break Olivia is there as a symbol of what can be achieved if your hunger to better yourself as a player never fades.
NT Technical Director Billy reflected: “I know that Olivia has a special relationship with Marko and she thoroughly enjoyed her time at North Toronto Soccer.
“I firmly believe that with the coaches we have at the club and the program that the guys have developed, this really is a great place for any young and dedicated player to develop.
“That being said, Olivia's success is down to Olivia and her burning desire to improve.
“North Toronto has been fortunate to be part of her journey to date and we are delighted that she looks back on her time with us with a fond smile.”
NITRO OLIVIA STANDS ON THE BRINK OF HISTORY
GRADUATION DAY...Olivia Smith's invite to the REX Program alongside Jasmine Vilgrain and Sonia Walk
NITROS graduate Olivia Smith is this week poised to become Canada’s youngest EVER international soccer player - at the age of just 15.
Dynamic midfielder Olivia, who moved from Nitros to the Ontario Regional Excellence (REX) Program to continue her development, has been called up by women’s national team coach Kenneth Heiner-Moller for an invitational tournament this week in Yongchuan, China.
It’s a staggering rise for a phenomenal talent who was first reared through the ranks at Whitby before she made the move to NT.
At Nitros coach Marko Milanovic knew he was working with a special player from the first time Olivia stepped on the training field.
He recalled:“Olivia is a player who stands out from the group within five seconds of her gaining possession.
“Her ability to create and finish in the final third is something that I've never seen before from a youth female player.
“All of that becomes even more impressive with the fact that she is still just 15 years old.
“Personally, I love how much she loves the game and competition. It's infectious and it gets everyone excited and pumped.
“It was a privilege to work with Olivia and be a small part of he soccer life.”
Community soccer clubs like North Toronto need inspirational examples such as Olivia and her former clubmate Sonia Walk who is also making big strides towards the CWNT set-up.
Liv and Sonia are North Toronto Nitros Soccer role models, they are figures to encourage female players throughout every NT program.
And Marko insisted: “Their success should have a major impact on aspiring female players at our club.
“It’s so important for our younger players to see that it's possible to reach that level playing at our club, playing for NT.
“More importantly, they should be able to realise that the passion, hard work, desire and dedication that Olivia and Sonia have shown are a MUST to have a chance to reach that level.
“I would highlight passion as the key ingredient here because, often, I feel that youth players are not desperate and hungry enough to be successful.”
WALK OF LIFE...Nitros alumni Sonia Walk with coach Marko Milanovic on a visit to our summer Academy
Olivia was born on August 5, 2004, and if she plays in China she will edge out the current youngest players the now-retired Kara Lang, who is followed by Jessie Fleming and Jordyn Huitema, who were also 15 when they made their senior debuts
One astonishing stat is that Canadian captain Christine Sinclair, who is now 36, had played in 66 internationals - and scored 49 goals for her country - before Smith was even BORN!
Throughout two key years of soccer growth at Nitros Olivia was a hugely popular figure within the club.
It became commonplace for coach Marko to throw her into sessions with his all-conquering 03 Boys side to hone her technique and keep challenging her.
Marko was thrilled to see Smith make the next big step into Rex and now as the rise continues Olivia’s dad Sean has paid tribute to the role played by her Nitros mentor.
Sean said: “I thank Coach Marko for all he did in Olivia’s development. He was a game-changer, he has an absolutely brilliant soccer mind.”
Canada - now ranked no.7 in the world - face no.11 side Brazil on Thursday with China tackling New Zealand in the other clash.
The winners will then face off in a Final on Sunday while the other two teams play off for third place.
Heiner-Moller is using the China tournament to prepare for the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Tournament in January and February of next year.
The Dane first spotted Olivia when he travelled with the youth teams to assess our up and coming talents.
And he said: "She caught my eye, I guess she's been catching a lot of eyes from coaches throughout her career.”
Olivia made made another big impression in May when she was one of several local players summoned to fill out the numbers at a camp in Toronto before a pre-World Cup friendly with Mexico.
Heinier-Moller insisted: "If she comes in and she looks as good as I hope she will then she could definitely see some game action in China.
“This tournament features semi-finals and a final, so we will really get that tournament feeling.
“It is the second time this Fall we will travel to the region where the 2020 Summer Olympic Games will be held, and despite the long travel and limited sessions in advance of tournament play, the benefits of playing two matches in a tournament setting against top international opponents in Asia outweighs the challenges.”
PUTTING FAITH IN YOUTH...Heiner-Moller says if Olivia impresses in training she will play in China
The Canadian women are coming off a 4-0 loss to world no.10 Japan in Shizuoka last month.
Our women’s national team look to still be suffering from the hangover of their early World Cup exit during the summer in France, where Canada was beaten 1-0 by Sweden in the round of 16.
Heiner-Moller will hope that the injection of youthful enthusiasm from the likes of Olivia will lift the squad.
Smith is one of six players in the squad who are aged 21 or younger. The others are Huitema and Jayde Riviere (18), Julia Grosso (19), Deanne Rose (20) and Gabrielle Carle (21).
Olivia has already represented Canada in the U-15 CONCACAF Championship but this is a whole new ball game for the former Nitro.
Heiner-Moller stressed: “These young Canadian players are good enough and when the path presents an opportunity for them to grow as individuals, they should be there in our squad.”
Goalkeepers: Sabrina D'Angelo, Vittsjo GIK (Sweden); Stephanie Labbe, N.C. Courage (NWSL); Kailen Sheridan, Sky Blue FC (NWSL).
Defenders: Lindsay Agnew, Houston Dash (NWSL); Kadeisha Buchanan, Olympique Lyonnais (France); Allysha Chapman, Houston Dash (NWSL); Vanessa Gilles, FC Girondins de Bordeaux (France); Ashley Lawrence, Paris Saint-Germain (France); Rebecca Quinn, Reign FC (NWSL); Jayde Riviere, University of Michigan; Shannon Woeller, Eskilstuna United DFF (Seden); Shelina Zadorsky, Orlando Pride (NWSL).
Midfielders: Gabrielle Carle, Florida State University; Julia Grosso, University of Texas at Austin; Maegan Kelly, Florentia Sangimignano (Italy); Sophie Schmidt, Houston Dash (NWSL); Olivia Smith Ontario REX.
Forwards: Janine Beckie, Manchester City (England); Jordyn Huitema, Paris Saint-Germain (France); Adriana Leon, West Ham United (England); Nichelle Prince, Houston Dash (NWSL); - Deanne Rose, University of Florida; Christine Sinclair, Portland Thorns (NWSL).
CLUB UNVEILS INDOOR GOALKEEPING PROGRAM
SWEET HOME ALABAMA...Head Goalkeeping Coach Justine Bernier in NCAA action
NORTH TORONTO NITROS SOCCER is delighted to announce our comprehensive Goalkeeping Coaching Schedule for the upcoming Fall/Winter season.
This will give keepers across all our programs - from Grassroots to Select, from Competitive to OPDL and League One - access to the expert guidance of our three-strong staff in this division, Justine Bernier, Shawn Sawyers and Patricia Koutoulas.
Head Goalkeeping Coach Justine played NCAA soccer at Alabama and professionally in Norway, also establishing herself in the Canadian WNT squads at both Under-20 and senior level and has made a telling impact at the club over the past year.
Senior Goalkeeping Coach Shawn has 30 international caps for Jamaica and his experience in the game gives our keepers key insights in their development.
Patricia, another who shone at NCAA level for Miami University, is our newest addition and will spend this winter as both an assistant coach in the Competitive Program and building her goalkeeping coaching expertise.
SHAWN THE BALL...Coach Sawyers played at the top level for the Jamaican national team
The schedule our expert team will follow with our goalkeepers this Fall/Winter is as follows:
Soccerplex Dome 6-8pm OPDL and League One - Justine Bernier
Downsview Dome 7-9pm OPDL - Shawn Sawyers
Soccerplex Dome 6-8pm OPDL - Justine Bernier
Downsview Dome 7-9pm OPDL Shawn Sawyers
Downsview Hangar 6-7pm Competitive (CSL,TSA) and Grassroots - Shawn Sawyers
Soccerplex Dome 6-8pm Grassroots and Select Patricia Koutoulas
Downsview Dome 8am-12noon OPDL and League One Justine Bernier
Downsview Dome 8am-9.30am League One Shawn Sawyers
Downsview Dome 9.30-10-30am Competitive (CSL, TSA) Shawn Sawyers
NEW ADDITION...Patricia Koutoulas, also an NCAA star, begins her Nitros coaching journey
Head Goalkeeping Coach Justine is looking ahead to a hectic but enjoyable indoor season guiding our prospects between the sticks from Grassroots through our Competitive and OPDL programs and she said: "We have worked hard with the Technical staff to find a schedule that means the keepers can mesh their work with myself, Shawn and Patricia with their sessions with their teams.
"The role of the goalkeeper in the modern game in evolving so quickly and it is so important that we have a tailored program in place to help our young athletes cope with the technical, tactical and psychological demands of what is a key role on the soccer field."
If any parents have any questions about the Goalkeeping Schedule for Fall/Winter 2019/2020 please e-mail our Head Goalkeeping Coach on firstname.lastname@example.org
BILLY HAILS PLAYERS, COACHES AS 39 MAKE PROVINCIALS
SOMETHING TO LIVE UP TO...last season 15 Nitros made it through to land places on Team Ontario squads
NORTH TORONTO NITROS SOCCER has landed a tremendous haul of 39 PLAYERS who will be vying for Team Ontario places in the Provincial Screening Competition.
Over the U13, U14 and U15 age groups in both boys and girls, the best in the province will gather at Ontario Soccer Centre in Vaughan to begin the process of finding the eventual squads of 22 at each level.
Further screening events take place in January and March as the pool of talent is whittled down to the final lists and those prized places on them.
The first event this weekend sees six of our OPDL rookie U13 Girls squad take the field. Team Ontario at U13, U14 and U15 will play provincial rivals Quebec in a trio of three-game series of matches in 2020.
Nitros Soccer Technical Director Billy Wilson is proud of the players who will represent our club and of the coaching effort from the Technical staff that it took to help get them there.
And he told ntsoccer.com: “To have such a large number of players selected to the Provincial Screening Competition by Ontario Soccer is a testament to the great work being done by our Technical Staff and the dedication of our young players.
“The club’s OPDL program has evolved over the past 12 months and together with the staff working at the Nitros Development Program we now have a player development plan that is aligned from grassroots through to OPDL.
“From the 39 players selected to PSC many of these players have been with the club since their formative years in grassroots football so the player pathway at North Toronto Nitros Soccer is there for all to see.”
The Nitros who will take part this weekend are as follows:
Adam Kaminsky, Christian Chong, Jamie Benayon-Abraham, Joonho Lee, Josh Altaras, Michael Lee, Theo Martin
Alana Carras, Hailey Chapman, Avery Rogers, Emma Inciarte, Izzy Friedman, Malena Patera
Abdullah Noor, Danny Iwamoto, Jovan Nairne, Liam Rowe, Tommie Macleod
Courtney Poon, Juliana Otano, Kayla Briggs, Lauren Root, Sarah Flood, Sarah Giles, Sophia Cockett, Victoria Godinho, Maya Sanchez-Ceccarelli
Abdul Hamad, Aidan Hugo, Bilal Abou Reslan, De’Kwon Barrow, Dino Custovic, Justin Jamal, Nicolas Caramico, Nima Khodaii, Noah Durao, Ronan Woodroffe
Jessica Collantes, Rufina Abdurusul
KING IS GIVEN NEW COACHING ROLE AT NITROS
TRUE COLOURS...new Manager of Coach Development Iain King with his former 06 Girls OPDL squad
NORTH TORONTO NITROS SOCCER is delighted to announce the appointment of Iain King as Manager of Coach Development.
Iain has been an integral part of the Nitros Technical staff over the past two and a half years, working with various age groups and teams across three different programs; Competitive, Grassroots Development and this past season in the OPDL.
Now the UEFA A Licence coach, one of three Nitros staff currently in the midst of the first ever Canadian Youth Licence as he continues hie learning in the game, faces a new challenge at Nitros.
Nitros Technical Director Billy Wilson said: "In this newly created position, Iain will be responsible for providing oversight and support to the club's coaching staff at the U13 - U21 age groups.
"Iain will work closely with all of our competitive coaches to ensure they all receive the necessary support and mentorship required to be successful in their roles of developing our young players both on and off the field."
Iain now joins the club's Technical Managers Group and officially begins his new role on Monday October 7 ahead of the beginning of the indoor training season on October 15.
MALAJ LANDS DREAM MOVE TO TORONTO FC
NITROS DNA...Albert (fourth from right back row) with his team-mates and coach Ian Skitch
NORTH TORONTO NITROS SOCCER 06 Boys prospect Albert Malaj has signed for the prestigious Toronto FC Academy program.
Gifted left-sided player Albert, who can operate across the defence or in midfield, played his last Under-13 OPDL game for the club at Waterloo on Saturday morning.
He said farewell to the team-mates he has learned the game with up until now and joins the TFC Major League Soccer Academy set-up full-time today (Monday).
For Nitros Technical Director Billy Wilson Albert’s progress is just reward for the dedication to improvement he has shown at the club.
Billy smiled: “The club are thrilled that Albert will be taking that next step up and joining TFC Academy on a full-time basis.
“Our Nitros Development and OPDL Programs are designed to develop not only good footballers, but well-rounded individuals.
“I think that along with his undoubted talent, Albert personifies these values.
“We look forward to watching Albert develop at the Academy level and hopefully soon a few of his current team-mates will be joining him.”
Over the last 18 months 04s Boys midfielder Adrian Panaite, 05 born and playing a year up, and 07s goalkeeper Ryan Tiltack and defender Jack Hayeems all graduated from Nitros to make the grade at TFC.
Albert now becomes the fourth player in the recent past to make the move from our boys’ programs.
This mirrors the success on the female side where the club has now built a flourishing reputation of producing scholarship athletes who have joined top University soccer programs in both Canada and the USA.
Each success brings with it pride for the staff in the coaching room and Albert’s age group Head Coach Ian Skitch reflected that.
He said: “Working with Albert has been a joy. He attitude is first class - one of the best I’ve come across - and he has been absolutely impeccable since Day One.
“It’s a bit bittersweet in that I’m sorry to see him leave us but I am delighted he has the opportunity to kick on to the next level.
“It will be a great opportunity for others to rise and fill the void he leaves behind in our program.”
TJ: NITROS' ROLE MODELS INSPIRED ME TO REX
BREAKING UP IS HARD TO DO...Tejia Murray-Powell with coach Marc Maunder and some of the 05s Girls at Academy recently
NORTH TORONTO NITROS SOCCER 05s Girls midfielder Tejia Murray-Powell has won a slot on the prestigious Canada Soccer Regional Excellence Program (REX).
Popular playmaker TJ’s class and creative gifts on the field means she will leave Head Coach Marc Maunder’s side at the end of this current season to move into the elite full-time training environment that hones Ontario’s best to challenge for national team slots.
Tejia is now preparing for a life-changing move on the next step of her soccer career and she told ntsoccer.com: “I start there full-time in October after our season ends with Nitros.
“Then the plan is I will go to the Bill Crothers School in Unionville in January to complete the switch.
“There I can have my lessons during the day and be on-site for all of my training in the afternoon.
“I’m a little nervous to be sure but the feeling is more one of excitement, this is what I have worked for.”
Murray-Powell’s high soccer IQ, vision and pass execution at U14 level saw REX scouts recognise her developing talent.
For TJ herself she felt she needed the challenge she has found at Nitros to take the next strides forward.
And she reflected: “I have been at Nitros for three years now since I switched from Whitby.
“Every time we played against North Toronto I was always so impressed with the way they played.
“They always stick to passing the ball and focusing on that and I felt I could progress more at this club, that was the thinking behind my move.”
Nitros’ proven track record of developing players within our female program means talents like TJ have role models now.
And she confessed: “I looked at the likes of Sonia Walk and Olivia Mancini and what they have achieved with REX and the national team set-up.
“I just thought: “I want a piece of that.”
“They are a true inspiration to a lot of girls my age now, you know that this club has a proven record of taking players to REX and the national teams.
“I just felt I could do that and when Sonia played in the CONCACAF World Cup that just seemed like an achievable dream for me too.”
Right now in girls’ football with the focus elsewhere sometimes wholly on the production of powerful athletes first it is so refreshing to watch a player with Murray-Powell’s imagination and craft.
She is a pick the lock player who can find solutions from the tightest situations to create chances and score goals herself.
And she smiled: “I think my best position is as an attacking midfielder, I have freedom there and can play most like myself.
“That’s where I can hunt the ball and read situations to get at teams.”
At Nitros the toughest aspect of the progress of players like TJ is that when they graduate upwards we have to wave goodbye to them.
Yet that is the role of a true development environment and Tejia will always know the debt she owes coach Marc and the club for helping her onto the next level.
She stressed: “I have improved so much as a player here in my technique and knowledge of the game.
“Marc has taught me a lot of new things as a coach and the girls are so competitive and play so quick in practice.
“I will be so sad to leave and that’s why I insisted that I wanted to finish my season here.
“Leaving my friends here will be the hardest part.."
MORGAN READY TO ROAR FOR TIGERS
NEW COLOURS...Nitro Morgan Leon has joined Dalhousie Tigers and looks forward to University life in Halifax, Nova Scotia
MORGAN LEON’S Nitros journey started at the age of eight - it ends with her winning a coveted placed on the prestigious Dalhousie Tigers roster for the coming season.
The gifted midfielder moves to the heralded University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, aiming for a Bachelor of Science degree off the field and success on it under the guidance of Head Coach Cindy Tye.
Morgan has her sights set on her Tigers debut now as her new side tackle Saint Mary’s in the Charity Shield on Friday August 23.
And as she looked ahead to her big adventure out East she spoke to ntsoccer.com about the debt she owes to a Nitros’ female program that continues to produce University class players who thrive in both Canada and America.
Morgan stressed: “In my opinion, Nitros empower women. They provide their players with the opportunity to succeed and grow both as a person and an athlete.
“Through participating in programs like Ontario Player Development League (OPDL) and the Ontario Women's Soccer League (OWSL), it has meant that young players like myself have been able to thrive and get the exposure to play in front of Universities like Dalhousie.”
At Nitros there is now a clearly established pathway for our female players, one that has taken so many to top University sides, the Regional Excellence Program and the Canadian National Teams.
For Morgan it is the attention to detail in building technique that sets the club apart.
She reasoned: “Growing up as a Nitros player my game has always continued to get better.
“From learning how to kick a ball to making smart decisions on the pitch, the club has guided me to be the best player I can be.
“I began my career playing at Nitros at the age of just eight and all I remember from the off is how welcome I felt.
“Over the years I have had so many good memories, especially when my team would go away for travel tournaments.
“A lot of my best friends that I have made over time have come from my soccer team. Nitros really is like a family.”
Learning to play under pressure, to develop a sure first touch and an understanding of the field around you.
Key pieces of the jigsaw that fell into place for Morgan first under the tutelage of the highly-respected Bill Sutherland at Nitros before she moved onto the OPDL stage.
There she worked with the club’s Head of OPDL Marc Maunder who specialises in developing our leading female talents.
Morgan reflected: “Coach Bill taught me to play the ball into space and have the confidence to play the ball out of pressure.
“When I was 12 years old I went into OPDL with Marc being the coach. Learning how to play out of the back and playing on the counter-attack really helped the strategy of my game.”
Forward-thinking soccer clubs refuse to stand still.
That’s why, despite all the successes of the female program, Nitros Technical Director Billy Wilson wanted to strengthen further with the introduction of the College Prep team under the watchful eyes of Head Coach Chris Vickers.
The experienced Englishman knows the womens’ game inside-out and Morgan paid tribute to the impact he had as the side lifted the OWSL title last season.
She revealed: “Chris has helped me with my confidence and decision-making. His support has also allowed me to flourish in what is a very competitive environment now.”
Morgan - who is planning to declare biology as her major in her second year at Dalhousie - joins a program determined to improve this season.
The Tigers lost out in the quarter-finals, the first stage of their Conference play-offs, last term after a strong regular season record.
And Coach Tye believes Morgan can be a key element in taking them deeper into the title reckoning this time around.
She said: “Morgan is solid technically and has great vision and awareness.
“She is responsible defensively and has the ability to help us maintain possession in attack making best decisions.
“We are excited to add a player like Morgan who comes with a reputation of loving to train and she will grow inside our program.”
From grassroots to College Prep, Morgan Leon has come through a textbook Nitros journey.
Now her story goes to the next chapter and she smiled: “I am very excited to be joining Dalhousie Tigers.
“It’s great that Nitros established the College Prep program at just the right time for players like myself.
“Being able to play Canadian and American Universities is awesome. Getting exposed to how these teams play, really helped me know what to expect for next year.
“Joining the Tigers will help me grow as a player and create opportunities for me to excel but I’ll never forget where it all started.”
08s GIRLS ARE TWO GOOD IN ROCHESTER!
TAKE IT AS RED...the victorious 08s Girls White squad with the coaching staff after their win in the Lakefront Classic
NORTH TORONTO NITROS SOCCER’S 08 Girls squad made their first road trip to the States for the Lakefront Classic in Rochester - and returned with two out of the three squads winning the tournament.
The club’s female program has a lofty reputation to live up to given the work put in over the last decade to churn out a conveyor belt of players who have earned Provincial, Regional Excellence and Canadian National Team slots.
There are high hopes for both the 07s and 08s to carry on that success story and the first steps for the U11s in America were promising under the guidance of Head Coach Euan Montgomerie.
The top Green squad scorched to victory in their Final after winning every group game as they beat host club Lakefront SC 5-1 on their own turf.
And that was followed up by the White squad also triumphing with a 2-1 clinching win of their own over Pittsford Mustangs.
Euan reflected: “All three divisions of girls teams played a fantastic brand of soccer over the weekend with two winning their flights.
“They faced different challenges such as no heading, no retreat line, very direct play from US teams but they all coped very well.
“They also coped extremely well in high pressure situations with them playing in Finals for the first time and with one team holding their nerve to win on penalties.
“However, as much as it was great to win two flights, I got as much pleasure seeing all the girls cheer each other on at different games, showing a real togetherness.”
For the 07s Girls this was their second trip to the Rochester tournament and another key step in their development.
In November these girls will make the switch from Grassroots to Competitive within the club as they will make up the squads at OPDL (Provincial), CSL (Regional) and TSA (District) level.
In 2018 the 07s set a record for the club at this level sweeping all three flights and that weekend was always going to be very tough to replicate.
This tournament can be a shock to the system for developing Canadian players, when our new OPDL 06 Girls played there they were technically sound and losing Finalists but left stunned at the size and speed of their American rivals.
This time round the 07s also discovered the fine margins of tournament play in the USA.
All three squads were edged out in the group stages in extremely tight matches.
Head Coach Euan sensed the disappointment of his players but was philosophical as this gifted group looks to the challenges ahead in the next six months.
He stressed: “As with the 08s, all of the rosters had to cope with a very direct physical style of play from the US teams.
“Whilst it was a mixed weekend in terms of results, there was some fantastic skill and passages of play from all three rosters.
“Playing in a high pressure environment where a lot of the games were won or lost by one goal should help them enormously moving forward for the summer season and onto the next stage of their development.”
SUCCESSFUL MISSION FOR THE DOUBLE 07s!
A TIME TO LEARN...the 07s Boys Greens take instructions from coach Andy King and Grassroots manager Tom Waud
TWO tournament wins, four Finals appearances and a rollercoaster of emotions in a fun-packed soccer weekend Stateside.
The North Toronto Nitros Soccer U11 and U12 Boys squads’ annual trip to the Lakefront Classic in Rochester is always a highlight of the club’s travel calendar and yet again it didn’t disappoint.
Our 07s Boys Green and White squads both won their brackets with their counterparts in the 08s groups at the same level both reaching the Final of their competitions before being edged out.
Throughout the entire boys program all six teams who travelled did the club proud and for Head Coach Andy King it was an experience to treasure.
The gifted 07s Green squad clinched their title with a 1-0 win over Toronto rivals East York in the Final.
At the same time on an adjacent pitch the White team were securing their own glory with a 2-1 clincher over American rivals Rochester Lancers Academy.
That meant a scene to remember as both teams ran towards each other at time-up to celebrate and Andy smiled: “The most rewarding moment was seeing the two winners charge towards each other to celebrate each others’ success as both finals ended at the same time.
“There is a real feeling of togetherness within this pool and that is something our program is very big on promoting to the players.
“It certainly bodes well as players move towards the 11v11 game after the Summer season.”
Our club has high hopes for this 07s Boys program with the depth of talent that has been nurtured in it.
Last year the White squad secured the Rochester honours but for many of the Green squad players this was a chance to bury the memory of a gut-wrenching last-gasp semi-final loss in 2018.
They did that in style and the triumphs are a fitting bookend as their time in the Grassroots division begins to draw to a close.
Andy is excited to see the next steps of this group’s journey and he reasoned: “I think credit has to go to the outstanding coaching staff who have worked with this talented pool over the past five years in the various development programs at NTSC.
“It was great to see all three teams win their groups before moving on to the knockout rounds, playing some breathtaking soccer on the way.”
For the 08s Boys this was their first experience of a scores and standings tournament in the States.
The Rochester experience gives our teams - brought up to play out from the back in a passing philosophy - a first look at very different styles of the Beautiful Game.
Andy confessed: “I think it was a real eye opener for them to see a very contrasting style of play from many of the US teams that they faced.
“Those teams were very direct and physical which gave the players very different challenges and problems to solve, especially given that heading is banned at U11 in the States! The boys stood up to those challenges very admirably.”
The Lakefront Classic has been a great proving ground for young Nitros players over the last few years.
North Toronto Nitros Soccer is now a name respected and known at U11 and U12 level because of our exploits winning flights over both the boys and girls programs there.
That first feeling of scores and standings was something the competitive 08s boys relished and Head Coach Andy said: “I was delighted that all of the U11 teams experienced some success and put in some excellent performances.
“I think they’ll learn just as much from the taste of elimination, how it felt to lose on penalties or to concede a late goal in a game.
“Overall it was a great learning experience for all and one that we’d like to do all over again.”
The Grassroots teams now return to their summer seasons in the Toronto Soccer Association leagues and look forward to their weeks in the Nitros Academy.
For the 07s Boys the next steps will be OPDL, CSL and TSA soccer with the 08s this winter taking over their mantle as the top group in the boys program.
ADAM HEMATI: FROM NITROS TO FACING XAVI
TACKLING AN ICON....Adam Hemati (left) in a midfield duel with Barcelona legend Xavi as Persepolis take on Qatar's Al Saad
FROM Nitros to facing the legendary Xavi and playing in front of 110,000 fans in the Asian Champions League Final.
Adam Hemati is living a soccer life less ordinary.
The 24-year-old midfielder is now starring for Iranian giants Persepolis in a land dominated by his club’s bitter rivalry with their historic foes Esteghlal.
Yet Hemati’s roots lie in The 6ix with North Toronto Nitros Soccer where he grew up as a player under the watchful gaze of coach Hermann Kingue.
Adam credits Hermann with giving him the self-belief to craft a soccer future in Iran and he reflected: “We played against Kashima Antlers of Japan in the Asian Champions League Final and in the home leg we had 110,000 fans at the game.
“I was standing in the line-up thinking: “How did I get here from Nitros!”
“It was an unbelievable experience and one I will never forget.
“We drew that one 0-0 but lost out 2-0 on aggregate in the end.
“I played against Xavi in the run to the Final and I got a picture with him which was something to treasure against someone I had watched all those times for Barcelona and Spain.
“Someone else beat me to his jersey, though!
“It was his last ever game for his final club as a player, Al Saad of Qatar, against my team which was pretty special.”
At Nitros there is a mantra inside the coaching room that our experienced and cosmopolitan technical staff all truly stick to and believe in.
Players don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
For Adam, Hermann sums that approach up and he recalled: “Coach Kingue came into my football life when I was 15, I’d been with Hearts Azzurri and done well but I needed a new direction.
“That was such a key time in my development, we had promotions and a lot of success together.
“There are things I learned from Hermann then that I still apply to my game now as a professional.
“He has such a depth of inside knowledge of the game and even at a high level now I find players who don’t understand the concepts he taught me.
“Hermann was truly instrumental, those were the four most important years in my development.”
Adam’s parents were born and raised in Iran, he was born and bred in Canada.
This wide world of soccer story took a key twist with the intervention of a battle-hardened former Cameroon international who knew the highs and lows of playing in Europe.
The Hemati family grew to have total trust in Hermann’s guiding presence in their son’s life.
Adam smiled: “My mum and dad would tell Hermann that when I was on the pitch at training he became my father AND my mother.
“And, yes, I remember that in training he would be yelling and screaming sometimes and pulling us into the right positions but it showed the passion he has. That he cares.
“When you feel that the guy who is developing you cares more than you do it pushes you.
“In training he could be so vocal and then in games he would sit quietly and watch.
“In the game you got to express yourself and in training that was your learning time. He gives you both.
“He kept you on a chain in practice and then he set you free in the match, that helped me so much.”
Three years ago, still in the midst of his schooling at Ryerson University, the chance arose for Adam to travel to his parents’ homeland and train with the country’s biggest club Persepolis.
It was an opportunity that was to change the course of his life yet at first he confesses he treated that trip as a soccer holiday.
Adam stressed: “I got super-lucky to have that chance but I was looking at it as an experience to enjoy so to be honest I just had fun on the field.
“I did well and the coach liked me and wanted to sign me but I was still at school back here at Ryerson.
“They told me to go back and finish school and then I returned on trial and I got my contract.
“In Year One I played one game for eight minutes with the first team. That was pretty difficult.
“It was tough for me, I was living on the bench and it took a toll but mentally I got through it.
“Now I have had a lot more playing time and I have scored my first goal and played in a lot of big games.
“Our average attendance for games is between 45,000 to 55,000 people. The fans there are crazy, there are two big teams.
“There is Persepolis and Esteghlal and it is like Manchester United and Chelsea, Red v Blue.”
We caught up with Adam to share a coffee with coach Hermann and fellow Nitros alumni Niba MacDonald of Slovakia’s FC Nitra in the bustle of Yonge and Eglinton.
Both players were relishing their vacations back home before they return to two very different lands for pre-season training.
For Adam life now has strict guidelines compared to his upbringing in The 6ix.
He revealed: “I have moved to an Islamic country with a different culture, no drinking, no clubs.
“In truth that has helped me, I just focus on my football and I have no other barriers, the language I knew because of my family.
“It’s so much easier for me than it has been for Niba who has adapted to a new country in Europe where he didn’t speak a word of the language at first.
“He has faced so many difficulties and overcome them, it’s very impressive to me.
“With me I have my family ties there and I worry only about my football.
“That’s why whenever I think about Niba’s situation I take my hat off to his determination to succeed. It’s not easy.”
Hemati and MacDonald are shining examples of what can be achieved with an inner strength and a core devotion to improving yourself as a player.
So what would they say to the aspiring Nitros players who dream of following in their cleat marks and making it to the world of professional soccer?
Adam said: “If I had some advice for any young Nitros player reading this it would be to always believe in yourself to the fullest.
“There will always be a coach or even a team-mate who doesn’t think you are good enough.
“Every coach I had besides Hermann told me I wasn’t good enough or I didn’t understand the game enough to get to the top level.
“When I was a youth player they’d pick the fastest and the strongest and that wasn’t me.
“I tried to to come early to practice and be the last to leave and I took the views of those who didn’t rate me as a personal challenge to me.
“So to young players I’d say the most important aspect is your work ethic. Train outside of the Nitros as well as when you are there, that’s what makes the difference.”
NIBA MacDONALD: STARRING IN SLOVAKIA
OVERCOMING OBSTACLES....Niba MacDonald is focused on improving as a player in Slovakia with FC Nitra
NIBA MacDONALD needed a platform to show the world what he has as a soccer player, Hermann Kingue and North Toronto Nitros gave him it.
That’s the way the 24-year-old defender sees it and he will always have a debt of gratitude to his mentor and the club who helped mould him.
The Cameroon star is sparkling right now for FC Nitra in the top division of Slovakian football.
Yet just four years ago making it big in Europe was a distant dream and he recalled: “When I first came to Canada in 2015 I didn’t have the opportunity to play but Hermann gave me that chance.
“I will always be grateful for that because without that kindness I wouldn’t be where I am today.
“I played Under-21 with him and then we got the chance to play in League One when North Toronto got the licence.
“That was huge for me, it was a platform and I got to Europe on the back of that.
“League One got me noticed, I won some individual awards there that raised my profile and it meant I could have a shot at Europe which was my dream.”
Hermann’s empathy with the battles his countryman faced was a key component in Niba’s rise.
MacDonald had found a kindred spirit who could coach, coax and cajole the best out of him.
Niba revealed: “I learned so much from Hermann and I will always be grateful to him.
“Hermann has experience on the field as a pro player in Europe and also now as an excellent coach.
“He told me what I would need to make it, when Hermann is on the field it is business and he is demanding of you but players need that.”
Niba was a stand-out in League One, powerful and dominant as he stamped his authority on the division.
It was a key part of his education but more testing lessons were to come as he chased his dreams in Europe.
PRIZE GUY....League One rivals voted Niba one of the division's star men, a talent confirmed with a move to Europe
He confessed: “This has been a tough adventure for me in Slovakia and such a learning experience, I am there on my own.
“I have to concentrate in every session because I know at that level one bad session and I can lose my slot in the team.
“It’s tougher for foreign players there as you always have to play every game like a FINAL to prove you are worth the slot above the native players.
“The league has sides like Slovan Bratislava who make Champions League and Europa League and the pace is so high.
“I am back on vacation right now and I watched the Toronto FC game and the pace of MLS seemed so slow compared to what I am experiencing.”
Life in what is still a developing league like Slovakia’s throws challenges at a player that some in North America couldn’t imagine.
The quality of the soccer is at times not matched by the strength of the infrastructure behind the clubs.
Niba admitted: “There are different experiences in Europe, you have worries if you will be paid on time in some countries.
“Yet right now money simply can’t be the main focus for me, I just want to keep playing at a good level and getting better as a player.
“It’s not about the money for me right now, that can come in good time God willing.
“It’s about playing and improving, my contract is up at FC Nitra this summer so I have to see what is on the on the table whether it be there or elsewhere.”
Whatever the next step is MacDonald has proved his worth in a very demanding environment.
His club FC Nitra finished ninth in the Slovakian top bracket last season and he feels he has grown so much as a player.
Niba said: “Our home gates are around 8,000 fans and the biggest team in the league is the champions and that very famous name in European football in Slovan Bratislava.
“The biggest difference from life in Canada when I arrived in Slovakia was just the sheer pace of play.
“At first it was difficult to adapt but I kept at in training because I was driven by the image of coming back to Canada and people saying I had failed there.
“The language barrier is still there for me but I can speak a little of it now as I have a teacher and keep learning each day.
“We got past in English at first and I taught myself to cook my own food every day and you get by. You have to.”
Niba remains close with his former League One team-mates at Nitros and knows the size of the club now in the youth ranks.
He believes the pathway is there for those with the desire and talent to follow in his footsteps.
So what does he think is the most important quality an ambitious young Nitros player should have?
He stressed: “For me it is summed up in one word. Belief. Keep fighting and working hard because God gave you talent in this game.
“You are blessed with the opportunity you have at this club, believe me, I come from a tougher upbringing in Cameroon.
“If one other word follows belief in importance it would be hunger. That has to come from within when you come from a nice family background and you are not worrying about anything else outside of the game.
“You have to have that hunger to improve and become the best player you can be.”
HERMANN'S PRIDE IN ADAM AND NIBA
THE MAN IN IRAN...a joyful Adam Hemati celebrates his first goal for Persepolis, a developing career crafted at the Nitros
ADAM HEMATI and Niba MacDonald are now plying their trade as professional soccer players in the starkly contrasting leagues of Iran and Slovakia.
Yet they will never forget the debt they owe to North Toronto Nitros Soccer and our vastly experienced coach Hermann Kingue.
Both players see Hermann, now head of Nitros’ Competitive Programs, as the key mentor in their soccer lives.
In an in-depth special on ntsoccer.com today we speak to both players about their rise from Nitros to the pro world but first we asked Coach Kingue if he always believed they had what it takes to make it.
Hermann, himself a former professional player in Europe with Cameroon international honours, recalled: “Adam was always first to practice even though he didn’t live locally, in four years together I think he missed two sessions.
“That gives you right away an idea of the determination of the player.
“He didn’t care what people said around him and who doubted him, he had that desire inside and I know he could make it.”
Whilst Adam’s key development took place in the older ages of the Nitros’ youth programs it was the advent of League One that proved key for Niba.
Hermann was in charge of Nitros’ men’s side who shone at that level and the two had a deep connection as MacDonald hails from Kingue’s homeland of Cameroon.
There they have both experienced the hardships of a very different soccer landscape to the one they have found in Canada.
Hermann smiled: “I remember at first that Niba was astonished by the facilities we practiced on here in North Toronto.
“I remember one session we arrived at the grass field and it was beautiful and freshly cut.
“MacDonald smiled at me and said: “At home people might EAT this grass rather than play football on it!”
“He wanted to play on there 24 hours that day and not go home. Again I knew he had what you need inside to make it.”
Last week both players were back in Toronto on their summer vacations before they return to Asia and Europe to continue their developing careers.
That gave ntsoccer.com the chance to catch up with them to find out about the effect our club - and Hermann - had on their lives.
For coach Kingue there is just a feeling of pride in the two Nitros alumni, not just as players but as PEOPLE.
He reasoned: “We have two players from Nitros who have made it in the top leagues in Iran and Slovakia.
“We talk a lot about culture now and these two should be an inspiration to the young players at the club.
“My experience is that too many young Canadian players take everything for granted.
“They are not as focused as they should be and they should use Adam and Niba as examples of what can be achieved.”
OLIVIA: FROM HOUSE LEAGUE TO CANADA CALL-UP
FLY THE FLAG...Olivia celebrates her call-up with her club coach Marc Maunder at OPDL's opening outdoor practice this week
NORTH TORONTO NITROS SOCCER’S Olivia Mancini has been called up to the Canada Women’s National Team U-17 camp in Markham next month.
From House League with Nitros to Team Canada it’s the next step in a thrilling journey for the combative, left-sided central defender who is a hugely popular figure throughout the club.
Olivia is part of a squad gathered from the length and breadth of the country for the get-together from May 5-10.
She will train alongside players from Canada Soccer’s Super REX Centres in British Columbia, Ontario and Québec as well as Regional EXCEL Centres from across the nation.
This week ntsoccer.com caught up with our latest National Team prospect after OPDL training at Esther Shiner Stadium and Liv smiled: “It’s incredible to think that I have been at this club since I was six years old playing in the House League at Eglinton Park.
“This club has been such a huge part of my life and from Nico Gerrard to Andy King and Marc Maunder now all the coaches have helped me so much.
“The new Technical Director Billy Wilson has also been a big influence in the next steps, giving me opportunities and encouraging me to kick on.
“I have been in the REX sessions before and I had heard some talk about a possible national call-up which is exciting but you stay focused then when it comes true? That’s different!
“I am really proud of what I have achieved so far but I don’t want to stop here.”
Mancini follows in the cleat marks of her club mate Sonia Walk who, under the guidance of Nitros coach Marko Milanovic, blossomed into a player who was a key member of the Canada U17 squad.
For Olivia, Sonia’s story is something she has drawn on as she goes from strength to strength in her own journey.
And she reasoned: “With me what Sonia Walk has achieved is without doubt an inspiration because I knew she had also started with Nitros when she was really young, at U9 I think.
“Like me she grew up as a player here and to watch her play for Canada and get an MVP award just makes you both admire that - and want to match it.”
News of Liv’s call-up delighted Nitros Technical Director Billy Wilson who said: “It is terrific for Olivia to make this next step, she has grown up as a player in the OPDL environment to complete with the best of the best from across the country and deserves huge credit.
“She has had a taste of the REX already and this camp will be a national experience under the watchful eyes of the National EXCEL staff.”
Hot on the heels of a historic fourth place finish at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Uruguay last year, with Nitros alumni Sonia at holding midfield in that line-up, Canada Soccer’s women’s youth teams are looking ahead to international competitions through 2020 at the U-15, U-17 and U-20 levels.
FOLLOWING IN THE FOOTSTEPS...Nitros alumni Sonia Walk, an inspiration for Liv, with coach Marko Milanovic at Academy
The May 2019 camp will feature 27 players at the U-17 level many of whom like Olivia are taking part in their first national camp.
Olivia, though, will see some familiar faces in the Team Canada locker-room with Nitros alumni Nicola Golen, now at DeRo United, and Olivia Smith also in the squad.
All of these girls are now role models for those who will follow in their wake at the club and Billy stressed: “It’s inspirational for any young player in the North Toronto set-up right now because the pathway in our female program is so well-defined.
“Especially on the female side of the game in Canada there is an advanced path there if you are good enough.
“So for us to have a player who has been with our club since she was six years old to reach these heights is such a tribute to the program.”
Beyond the May camp, Canada will hold additional national U-17 camps in September and December as well as national U-20 camps in July and August 2019.
The ultimate goal for these players is to help Canada to qualify for - and shine in - the 2020 edition of the U17 World Cup which will be held in India.
Olivia’s first task is to impress in this one, though, and her club coach Marc Maunder is thrilled for his dedicated player.
He saluted the work being done within the Ontario Player Development League and he insisted: “The female OPDL program is once again showing success developing players for the high performance arenas.
“I feel congratulations are due to the players and coaches involved in creating such a healthy environment.
“Olivia’s selection is recognition for all the hard work she has put in to get to this level.”
It all begins this weekend for Olivia in Markham and while she admits to some butterflies in the pit of her stomach it’s an experience she is going to cherish.
She revealed: “I have meetings, fitness testing and training sessions to look forward to and while there are nerves there I am relishing the chance I have now.
“I have to look to concentrate on what I can bring at that level, speed, my strength on my left foot at centre-back. And my tackling I guess!
“My ultimate dreams are firstly to play for the full Canadian team and then play professionally if I can.”
JOY AS 15 NITROS MAKE TEAM ONTARIO SQUADS
A HIGH PERFORMANCE ENVIRONMENT...only 22 of the best in the province made each Team Ontario squad for this weekend
NORTH TORONTO NITROS SOCCER will this week have a fabulous FIFTEEN players representing our club for the Ontario Soccer Provincial Teams against Quebec in the prestigious annual series.
We have players in five of the six different age groups in another impressive haul for NT and everyone at the club is proud of their achievement and wishes them every shred of good fortune in the series of matches.
Each year the competition gets tougher to land these honours and each year our young players step up to the mark.
Standards are improving throughout the province on both the male and female sides and Nitros Technical Director Billy Wilson, who coached at Provincial level in his time at Ontario Soccer, said: “It is a massive honour for any young player to represent the province as a member of the Ontario Soccer Provincial Team.
“The Club is delighted that 15 of our players have been selected to participate in the inter-provincial competition series against Quebec.”
At Under-14s Girls keeper Maya Sanchez-Ceccarelli and the gifted Teija Murray-Powell represent Nitros with their club mates Rufina Abdurusul, Jessica Collantes and Olivia Mancini getting the call at 15s.
A year up in the U16 bracket Tierra Garniss and Alya Ruken - making her third Provincial squad in succession - look ahead to clashing with the best Quebec has to offer.
On the boys side at U15s talented front men Dino Custovic and Abdul Hamad are Nitros' chosen ones.
And at 16s our all-conquering double OPDL champions are recognised with SIX of coach Marko Milanovic’s players making the trip.
Anthony Aromatario, striker De’kwon Barrow, Dennis Escobar, Pablo Hempelmann. Kael Dimitrov and Andrew Tenai will form the backbone of Team Ontario at that level.
TD Billy told ntsoccer.com that each Nitros player who has made the cut now has a duty to act as a role model for every up and coming player at the club.
He stressed: “To be recognised as one of the top 22 players in your age group in the province that provides 70% of National Team players is a testament to the talent and dedication of each individual.
“That has to inspire some of our younger players coming through our OPDL and Grassroots programs.”
Team Ontario began the series with Quebec today (Friday) at the Centre Sportif Rosanne-Laflamme in Saint-Hubert.
“This is an annual benchmark for our Ontario players to measure themselves against some of the best competition in the country,” said Gary Miller, Ontario Soccer Director of Soccer Operations.
“This competition is an opportunity to see players before they progress to higher levels of the game and proudly represent their Club or Academy and Ontario.”
The Ontario provincial teams will play squads from Quebec, three times over the three days, offering them the opportunity to play against top-level competition in a high-performance environment. This Inter-Provincial Competition includes Canada Soccer Excel Technical Staff on hand to scout players for potential invites to the Canada Soccer National Excel program.
In addition, scouts from Toronto FC, Canadian and North American universities will be in attendance.
“Even in this condensed competition format, this weekend offers a good gauge of how well Ontario Clubs and Academies are developing players,” said Bryan Rosenfeld, Senior Manager of High Performance. “These types of competitions set them up well for the next stage of their development and their careers.”
The Provincial program is available to all Ontario Soccer registered players who are competing at either an U14, U15 or U16 age group.
The Ontario Provincial Development League (OPDL) is the primary venue in which potential Provincial Team Players are detected.
06 BOYS REACH LAST FOUR IN THE CAPITAL
RED-DY TO LISTEN...the OPDL rookies are fully focused on this team talk from Technical Director Billy Wilson in Ottawa
NORTH TORONTO NITROS SOCCER 06 OPDL Boys geared up for their first season at Provincial level with a trip to Ottawa for the Wesley Clover Cup and stormed to a last four finish.
The boys - who will be guided by the vastly experienced Ian Skitch for the new campaign when he begins his NT tenure next week - were coached by the club’s Technical Director Billy Wilson for this experience.
And it was a positive trip for the U13 squad to the nation’s capital both on and off the field.
Billy has relished working with the group as the club await the arrival of new coach Ian and the Nitros TD said: “The Ottawa trip provided the boys with a valuable opportunity to not only get some additional 11v11 game time but it also allowed the boys to grow as a group OFF the field which is always important when a new team is put together.”
The boys kicked off the tournament with a 1-1 draw with Etoile de L’est Rush in their first section match with Charlie Connolly grabbing the Nitros goal.
They then found top gear in game two as they outclassed OGSC Hornets Regional side 8-1 to set up a crucial third game to come out of the group stages.
Goals in the second clash came from a Jackson Sorger hat-trick, Albert Malaj (2), Anthony Williams, Christian Chong and Michael Lee.
Part of the learning experience on these trips is producing a performance when it is needed and the 06 Boys were up to the challenge in their third outing.
A controlled display of attacking football against OISC 2006 gave the team a 5-0 triumph with Albert Malaj (2), Yoav Yshaia, Michael Lee and Adam Bielanski on target this time.
The team had come out of the section unbeaten, scoring 14 goals for the loss of just two.
And Billy reflected: “We selected this tournament as we knew the teams participating would provide us with a different kind of competition from what we are used to in the GTA and especially the OPDL.
A TALL ORDER...Nitros skipper Albert Malaj meets up with one of his counterparts before a Wesley Clover Cup clash
"The teams from Quebec were very athletic and favoured a more direct approach which is something that is new to many of our boys but I felt that the team coped well with the physical advantage of their opponents and it didn’t prevent us from imposing ourselves and sticking to our identity which we have been working on over the indoor season."
That victory set up a semi-final clash against a tough and physical Chomedy side from Quebec and although Nitros made a good start with a goal from Theo Martin they were eventually defeated 4-1 as their rivals’ power told in the second-half.
For coach Billy, though, the Ottawa excursion showed the promise the boys have ahead of their first OPDL season.
And he said: “This is an exciting group of young players who have real clarity in terms of how the game should be played, which is aligned to North Toronto Soccers entire OPDL program and they are excited to challenge themselves against the best players and teams from across the province.”
With their Ottawa memories now in their lockers the 06 Boys are deep in preparations for the big OPDL kick-off next weekend.
They will face Hamilton United in their opener on Saturday May 4 at the Ontario Soccer Stadium as excitement rises ahead of the new campaign.
NITROS CSL GIRLS LIFT DOUBLE THEN SHINE IN CINCINATTI
HITTIN' THE ROAD...the Nitros 02 Hangar League champions get set to head for the Cincinatti Blue Chip showcase
NORTH TORONTO NITROS SOCCER’S 2002 Girls CSL squad have completed a glory double in the fiercely competitive indoor Hangar League after winning the Play-Off Final for the second year on the spin.
Head Coach Shane O’Flaherty’s side battled back bravely from being two goals behind against SC Toronto in the big shootout to once more clinch the title.
Goals from Tara Davis (2), Camille Flammia and Rosie Nicholls gave Nitros a dramatic 4-3 win after they had edged a tight semi-final against their own club mates from the 2003 team a week earlier.
And proud coach Shane said: “It’s a great achievement for the girls to do the league and Play-Off double and be back to back Play-Off Champions.
“In the Final in truth we started slowly and SC took their chances well to be 3-1 up at the break.
“It was an important team talk then and I feel they took the words on board and sparked themselves to life in the second-half.
“Tara scored early in the second period and when SC received two yellow cards - which meant they were down to four players for a little over a minute - we piled on the pressure and got an equaliser through Rosie Nicholls.
“To be honest when SC got back to full strength I thought the game looked destined to a penalty shootout but the girls had other ideas.
“Tara popped up with the winner to complete what was a terrific comeback and I was thrilled for the team.”
Seven days before that tense Final the 02s just pipped a very well-organised 03s squad 1-0 with a match-clinching strike from the gifted Paige Reynolds proving the difference between two well-matched sides.
Shane stressed: “I was very impressed with our younger opponents that night, they defended so well.
“We hit the woodwork on occasions but they also had chances and they were a tough side to get the better of.”
For 03s coach Callum Fleming, one of the club’s emerging talents in the technical area and a former League One midfielder with Nitros, the last four showdown simply whetted his appetite for the outdoor season.
He said: “I felt for the girls as they put a lot of effort into the preparation for that match.
“They stuck to the game plan really well and defended so well against our older club mates and could easily have sneaked it.”
Hot on the heels of that Hangar League double Shane’s squad headed for the States for the Cincinnati Blue Chip college showcase.
Against Cleveland in the opener Emma Mazzei got Nitros off to a flyer with a stunning 25-yard volley that would spark a thrilling 6-2 win.
Mia Vandekas made it two and although the Americans pulled one back Tara Davis got in one on one on the keeper to score and make it 3-1.
Coach Shane was delighted with the adventure his team were showing and he reflected: “That was summed up when Katherine Rita bombed forward from the left-back position to play a nice one-two with the striker before coolly slotting home from close range.”
Cleveland again battled back to make it 4-2 but Nitros put the game to bed when great hustling from Arianna Bill saw her win the ball just inside her own half.
She looked up to see Vandekas in space and played a ball over the top for Mia to run onto.
Shane smiled: “Mia actually had acres of space to advance into and give herself a close range shot but she had other ideas and decided to smash it into the top corner from 25 yards out!”
With five minutes left some great work from 03s call up striker Sammy York ended with her being fouled in the box which resulted in a penalty.
Captain Rosie Nichols stepped up to slot the ball home and ensure it was a raucous and victorious bus journey back to the hotel.
The team’s second showcase clash against Ohio saw them face tougher opposition and they went down to a 3-0 defeat.
Shane stressed: “I felt we were a little unlucky in that one as the first goal was a deflection from a corner kick off one of our players.
“They had real pace in attack, though, and it took us until after the break to adjust to that and organise our offside trap to catch them on multiple occasions.
“By then we were two down but still in the game until we lost a third one on the counter-attack as we pushed forward.”
As ever in the States at this time of year there is always the risk of a pre-season tournament being affected by the weather.
That’s how it proved for the girls with Game Three called off but it was still a rewarding trip.
For hard-working coach Shane the build-up to the outdoor season is complicated by the fact that he is in the throes of completing his UEFA B coaching licence as another member of the Nitros’ Technical Staff improves their standing in the game.
Shane revealed: “I have been working all winter on my licence and now have one trip back home to Ireland to hopefully complete it.
“There are times when it is difficult fitting all the assignments around my day job and practice and games with the girls but it will be worth it in the end.”
Shane’s dedication to this squad has certainly brought results over the past two years.
He told ntsoccer.com: “They are a great group to work with and they have had another excellent winter season.
“We are all looking forward to seeing what we can achieve together this summer.”
NITROS LAUNCH BEYOND PULSE TECHNOLOGY
FINGER ON THE PULSE...Nitros OPDL 06 girls attacker Samara Golger gets ready to put on her SmartBelt and get to work
NORTH TORONTO NITROS SOCCER has stepped into a new era for the club with our OPDL teams as the players wear their state of the art Beyond Pulse heart-rate monitors on the practice fields.
The club’s partnership with the groundbreaking technology firm means that the coaches and players can have instant access to key metrics on their performance in a session.
This helps the Nitros coaches to plan the right type of dynamic and exciting practices to keep our players engaged and active every time they step on the pitch.
For the players it’s a vital and innovative tool to help measure elements of their performance as they learn to take ownership of their own development.
NT Technical Director Billy Wilson was at the heart of opening night as he guided the 06 Boys and the 04 girls OPDL squads through their first sessions with the new technology.
And Billy told ntsoccer.com: “The correct periodisation of training is so important for clubs and coaches to understand as we seek to provide players with access to appropriate training environments.
“A massive part of creating and periodising any training program is understanding the exact times that players can be pushed physically, and when they require the training load to be reduced during times of rest and recovery.
“By adopting technology such as Beyond Pulse we are now able to gather data and track player progression.
“Most importantly it means we can INDIVIDUALISE the workload that each player experiences on a weekly basis to ensure the needs of each player is considered during our planning.”
The easy to use SmartBelts that the players wear with a disc-sized monitor under their practice shirts measure four key areas that the coaches can assess immediately after the session.
Heart Rate, Active Participation, Distance Covered and At Speed (maximum sprint rate) data is captured from all the players as they play and fed into the Beyond Pulse app at the end of each workout.
The coaches can then use this to help determine which activities brought the level of engagement and intensity they wanted and how their overall session flowed.
They can also look in-depth at the players’ involvement and pinpoint areas of improvement working together with each athlete.
OPDL Hub coaches Marc Maunder, Marko Milanovic and Iain King have now had two weeks of pre-season to monitor the launch of the system during practices at Downsview Dome and the club’s winter training base at Toronto Soccerplex.
Beyond Pulse has been a resounding success as the coaches now educate themselves in how to use the data wisely as it helps to determine the load they place on the players each night.
Billy reasoned: “The data collected serves as an innovative coach development tool for our staff as we can now access reports that show the activity levels of each player within the training environment.
“By monitoring the individual players activity levels we can evaluate whether the session allowed players the appropriate time on task to achieve the session objectives set out.
“Was the warm up completed properly? Was there a good flow to the session? Did the coach minimise the time spent during coaching interventions?”
Nitros decided to make the move into this exciting partnership with Beyond Pulse after a fascinating presentation last June by former Manchester United midfielder Mark Wilson who is head of Brand and Partnerships with Beyond Pulse.
Mark and his former Reds team-mate Danny Webber met with the club’s coaching staff to unveil the Beyond Pulse blueprint and discuss how it could be tailored to the Nitros programs.
Nine months later BP’s head of Education and Research Michael Sup was delighted to hear the hugely positive feedback of how the system worked on opening night.
Michael said: “It is really exciting for us to have North Toronto Soccer Club using our technology.
“Our goal is to help empower coaches with an insight in to their sessions that perhaps they never had before.
“It has been a pleasure working with the North Toronto staff because they see the value in the data to help support all components of player-centred learning.”
The journey of education for the coaches with Beyond Pulse is in its infancy but already the coaching room is comparing notes on sessions, seeing what functions brought the desired intensity to practice.
Importantly, too the technology can help a coach frame the sessions that should perhaps be more detailed and technical and about rest recovery than pushing players to the limit.
Michael feels that is a key factor in using Beyond Pulse and he stressed: “By encouraging their coaches to reflect on the data after each session, this supports them in planning and delivering engaging sessions for the players – something that is clearly a priority for this youth soccer organisation.
“We are delighted to be working alongside a club with such strong player development values and are thrilled to see the players now starting to enjoy working with their Smart Belts.”
As a club North Toronto Nitros Soccer are always looking at ways to maximise the potential of our young athletes.
This is about using every edge we can to make them the best players they can be and to keep them in love with the Beautiful Game.
Over the first few months of 2019 North Toronto Nitros Soccer has seen another female player, Jill Sutherland, sign a NCAA Division One contract with Central Michigan Chippewas.
On the boys side our 04s OPDL midfielder Adrian Panaite became the latest one to roll off the conveyor belt of talent and join the Toronto FC Major League Soccer Academy side.
To keep racking up achievements and progress like that the coaching staff seek every asset that can help us. Beyond Pulse is now a key part of that tool kit.
SKITCH: I'M SO GLAD I'VE MADE THE SWITCH
A COACHING MENTOR...Ian (far right) before one of the coaching courses he oversaw in Alberta, a project he relished
IAN SKITCH played in NCAA Division One, he has coached at both Provincial and Varsity level, he lives and breathes in this game to work alongside those who strive for excellence.
That’s why the vastly-experienced Skitch believes he has found the perfect environment for his next challenge at North Toronto Nitros Soccer.
The club is delighted to confirm that Ian is making the moving from Alberta to take over as the new Head Coach of our 06 Boys and 04 Girls OPDL squads.
Ian first fell in love with soccer in his hometown of Peterborough, Ontario, and went on play for the Provincial team before landing a scholarship at Philadelphia University where he was an ever-present over his four years in the program.
He would go on to work for Ontario Soccer as a Regional Coach and the move to Nitros is a homecoming he is savouring.
Ian told ntsoccer.com: “Southern Ontario is my home and where our roots are.
“The opportunity to come back and combine my coaching with being close to family and friends is a huge attraction.
“It’s something my wife and I have been thinking about for some time now. Canada is a great country from coast to coast to coast and I love it all but especially the people and places of southern Ontario.”
Ian moved to Ontario Soccer back in 2003 and headed up a highly productive regional training program.
The success of his work there saw him progress into coach education and land a key role a master coach developer.
He remained a key presence in the Provincial Training Centre where he worked with many players who kicked on to represent Canada at both youth and senior levels.
Now he returns to soccer in Ontario in 2019 and as part of the new OPDL Coaching Hub alongside colleagues Marc Maunder, Marko Milanovic and Iain King.
Ian will check into Nitros at the end of April ahead of the big OPDL kick-off on May 4/5 and he smiled: "I used to think I knew the football landscape of Ontario like the back of my hand but I am not too sure that rings true any more!
“I fully recognise times will have changed but I still believe Ontario has the best football culture in the country.
“In my experience the best players to work with are still here, in particular in and around the GTA, so I very much look forward to working with the players at the club.”
It’s seven years now since Ian took the decision to move west and help to transition Alberta Soccer’s coaching program from the old to the new.
He has worked worked tirelessly developing coaches and he leaves believing that the hard graft done in that province has significantly moved the game forward.
Ian reasoned: “The opportunity in Alberta was right in my wheelhouse allowing me to build upon the work I had done in Ontario and take it to a new level working from an almost blank canvas.
“I knew I could operate as an agent of change as sweeping transformations to coaching education programs were being developed and implemented.
“It was also an opportunity to have a different and closer relationship with Canada Soccer as we worked together to facilitate that change and improve our programs.
“Either fairly or unfairly I may have been seen as 'old-school' as I headed west and I saw it as an opportunity to highlight the progressive football person that I really am.
“And I don't think, I KNOW, that we took the program to a new level of efficiency, respect and credibility leaving it in a far better place than when I was coming into the role.”
For North Toronto Nitros Soccer Technical Director Billy Wilson the chance to add another highly respected coach to the mix in the OPDL Coaching Hub was too good to miss.
Billy feels the 06 Boys and 04 Girls will greatly benefit from Ian’s guidance and he said: “In addition to working within North Toronto’s OPDL program, Ian will support the North Toronto Grassroots Development and Competitive programs during the indoor seasons.
“He will also act as a valuable resource in the areas of Coach Development and Technical planning.
“We are confident that the entire North Toronto Soccer organisation will benefit from Ian’s knowledge and experience.”
Nitros’ OPDL athletes come into the program with dreams of their own, whether it be scholarships, playing for Team Ontario, making it pro or simply being part of a rewarding team environment.
Ian’s varied career as a player and coach gives him a unique insight into how he can help the Nitros he will work with achieve those goals.
Adding the title of Varsity Head Coach to his repertoire is a key piece of that as he now has the knowledge of five years working at Concordia University in Edmonton to draw upon.
There Ian has built a successful program and it was a level of soccer that he always wanted to test himself at.
He stressed: “That job has been vital in my continued growth as a coach.
“I had always wanted that challenge and I have enjoyed it tremendously despite that fact that it's warts and all at times.
“I think it will help make me a better leader to the players in our care at Nitros.
“They need quality advice and support to make the best decisions possible about extending their playing careers through the various post secondary systems.
“This is especially relevant as the university system becomes a more legitimate pathway to the professional game.”
Playing in Philly gave Ian memories he cherishes, now he wants to find out what drives a new generation of players at North Toronto.
That will be a big part of a journey he can’t wait to embark upon.
Ian reflected: “I treasure my experience to this day and loved every second of my time in the NCAA.
“Living abroad and having your education essentially paid for was a fantastic experience on a whole host of levels.
“Put simply I was always motivated to be the best I could be and the NCAA gave me the forum but that was a different era.
“It will be interesting now to get to know the players and find out what motivates THEM.
“I want it to be something from the INSIDE, the outside motivations of succeeding in soccer may be exciting but you need to have a true love of the game with passion to learn and grow within it.”
Nitros’ OPDL Coaching Hub now holds two Canadian A Licence holders and two UEFA A Licence coaches.
Ian also brings with him a NSCAA Premier Diploma, The English FA Advanced Youth Award, and the USSF National Youth Licence.
In common with all our coaches his journey of education continues as he is currently an Advanced Coaching Diploma candidate with the Canadian Sport Institute working toward Level 4 and 5 NCCP coach certification.
Now, though, his man focus turns to the Nitros and working with the two OPDL squads he will guide through this coming season.
The call from the North Toronto Nitros Soccer TD came at just the right time.
Ian revealed: To come back to Ontario I wanted to be sure I found a leading, progressive and stable organisation to be a part of and I know I've found that in North Toronto.
“When Billy made the call I was immediately sold about the role and the possibilities it brings.
“I'm an easy sell for those striving for excellence. I like ambition and Billy clearly has that as does this club.”
NITROS ARE UP TO UNIVERSITY EXAMINATION IN STATES
IN THE SEAT OF LEARNING...Nitros and the Yale Bulldogs before our girls' clash against the Ivy League powerhouse team
NORTH TORONTO NITROS College Prep team emerged with a feeling of pride from a weekend of soccer learning at the top level of the American University game.
Head coach Chris Vickers led his side into a tough two-game schedule knowing it would give the girls an invaluable insight into the demanding standard required at this level.
And both on and off the field it was to prove a magnificent experience for the Nitros prospects.
They kicked off on Saturday night with a thrilling 1-1 draw against the University of Bridgeport Purple Knights who are the reigning NCAA Division II champions.
Tierra Garniss grabbed the goal for the Nitros and it’s a performance put into perspective when you consider the Knights lost just four matches in their 25-game campaign on the way to championship glory last season.
Coach Chris reflected: “The University of Bridgeport were a very good team, looking to constantly play through us and they were very creative in the final third, causing a lot of problems for us.
“Yet I feel that going away as a group really helped players gel together.
“From waking up and sharing breakfast through to dinner together they were living in each other’s pockets.
“It allowed the players to have constant interactions with players they may not have had a previous chance to do so with.
“As well as this we had set up group activities to bond the team. On the field, I believe after a great day Saturday around Bridgeport spent together we were in very high spirits and this showed in our game and how well we played that evening.”
NITROS ON THREE...the NT girls get set to step onto the turf in a clash with one of America's top University side
The second clash against Yale University Bulldogs on Sunday morning saw a tougher lesson in Ivy League surroundings in New Haven, Connecticut.
A goal from the prolific Madeline Penman-Derstine was not enough as Yale put the foot on the gas in the second-half to ease to a 5-1 triumph.
That game, though, gave the girls a telling indication of the standards they need to reach as they chase their own dreams at this level of soccer.
Chris told ntsoccer.com: “Yale University were very athletic and again like Bridgeport they always had the courage and quality to try to play through us.
“The quality of opposition in both of these matches was very high and extremely challenging.
“These trips are very important for the players, they give a real perspective of what a soccer environment is like at various styles of schools.
“I believe they are vital excursions because they also expose our players to the standards and values of a university soccer player.”
Over the coming weeks we will have news and interviews from Nitros who have successfully walked the path from club soccer to playing at some of North America’s leading colleges and universities.
North Toronto Nitros Soccer is proud of our alumni and they are an inspiration for the upcoming athletes who are now bidding to follow in their cleat marks.
JOY AS NITROS' TFC THREE CLINCH CONTRACTS
FLYIN' TILTACK...Ryan is on a high after penning his Toronto FC contract this week
NORTH TORONTO NITROS SOCCER’S Grassroots Program has produced THREE of the players who will represent Toronto FC in the Under-12 Major League Soccer Academy set-up this season.
The club was this week proud to see our alumni goalkeepers Ryan Tiltack and Michael Konstantopoulos and defender Jack Hayeems sign on the dotted line for TFC at the BMO Training Academy.
All three players came through our ranks in the gifted 07 Boys group last year and their development is testimony to the hard work they put it while they wore the Nitros colours.
Both Ryan and Jack come from Nitros families with their sisters still playing for the club with Michael growing as a no1 when he came in to replace fellow keeper Tiltack when he first drew attention from our hometown professional club.
Their elevation to the TFC Academy is a big moment for the club who bred them and Manager of Grassroots Tom Waud said: “All of our coaches want what is best for our players.
“With the quality of staff working within our Grassroots programs it was only a matter of time for players to be recognised.
“I feel this is the start of many more to graduate from North Toronto Nitros Soccer to the highest youth level of soccer in North America.”
Tom is currently at the helm of NT’s burgeoning Grassroots division which covers the ages of U8-U12 where the TFC trio graduated from.
The new structure within the club sees a coherent strategy for the developing talents that seeks more than ever to ensure each is nurtured at the right pace with the correct coaching available to them.
Tom stressed: “These players being recognised by TFC is no accident, all three players have worked tirelessly to get this opportunity.
“This is a real team effort, coaches, players and parents who have been involved with these players have helped them develop the tools needed to play at this level.
“Developing players at young ages it a tough task. Patience and perseverance is the key, it takes time for players to improve, there is no miracle potion for success in soccer.”
At NT the coaching staff pride themselves on truly CARING for each player in the program.
That’s something Tom feels is key to the development of the players - and the enjoyment they take from being a Nitro.
He pointed out: “The positive learning environment created by all staff involved with these players is so important.
“The opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them is crucial. These mistakes aren’t failures but learning opportunities.”
A SOCCER STUDENT...Jack Hayeems has a high soccer IQ says former coach Iain King
Iain King, now working in the club’s OPDL Coaching Hub, was Head Coach of the 07 Boys as the TFC three made their final steps towards the big move up.
He gave an insight into the three players and told ntsoccer.com: “Ryan just makes lights-out saves. His quiet dedication to becoming a top level goalkeeper was always evident and he has taken that work-rate and humility into improving at TFC. He has all the tools to make it in my opinion but it’s a long road, it’s up to him now.
“Michael was such a fun character to work with, so keen to get better and follow in Ryan’s footsteps when he came in as his replacement.
“It’s a big tribute to him both as a person and a keeper that it happened so quickly and we only had him for one season.
“Jack Hayeems simply has perhaps the highest soccer IQ of all the kids I have had the privilege to coach here.
“He was an 11-year-old boy and it was like talking to a MAN, he grasps concepts of the game in a heartbeat. A terrific footballer.
“We played an exhibition game recently with our 06 Boys against the TFC 07s at BMO Training Academy and it was a real source of pride to see the three boys with their TFC kit on.
“The whole club is delighted for them and we look forward to their next steps.”
GLOVE STORY...Michael's work ethic saw him graduate to a Pro Academy
THE CULTURE CLUB: TRAVELLING TOGETHER A BIG HIT
TRUE COLOURS...the 05s and 06s girls were together to help launch the club's new identity and kits at Toronto Soccerplex
NORTH TORONTO NITROS SOCCER Head of OPDL Marc Maunder has hailed the growing unity in the club’s female program after another successful adventure Stateside at the weekend.
The 05s and 06s girls squads shared a team bus and hotel as they both competed in the Global Premier Soccer March Madness tournament in Waltham, Massachusetts.
Both squads cheered on their club mates with 05s Head Coach Marc and OPDL Hub coaching colleague Iain King of the 06s working together in the technical area and assisting each other when their own team wasn’t in action.
With the 05s topping their bracket with three straight wins it was an education for the younger team to see their older club mates in action. Thye learned from the 05s intensity and how they prepare for matches.
New friendships were made and cemented on the fun-filled 10-hour trips to the Boston area and back and Marc stressed: “You can’t under-estimate the value of these sort of experiences for young OPDL players.
“Both teams were in the top bracket and played high-level opposition on the field.
“Off it they got a chance to travel, eat and laugh together and that establishment of a club culture rather than just a concentration on stand-alone teams is something we are aiming to enhance in the years to come.”
NORTH TORONTO NITROS SOCCER: THE REBRAND
OUT WITH THE OLD AND IN WITH THE NEW...these logos will disappear and be replaced by our new look
NORTH TORONTO SOCCER CLUB will tomorrow night step into a new era with a new logo and a new identity as we stand on the brink of our 40th season.
The fresh look of North Toronto Nitros Soccer will be officially unveiled at one of the club’s key winter training bases at Toronto Soccerplex.
Our rebranding is the end result of a process that was launched to streamline and modernise our image for the next chapter of our story.
It’s a keynote day for the club’s Executive Director Doug Blair who explained: “We were established in 1980 and North Toronto Soccer Club is this year operating our 40th season of recreational soccer.
“For the past 25 years, the club’s competitive teams have been the North Toronto Nitros.
“The Nitros are increasingly well-known as our teams compete successfully at all levels of soccer in Ontario and in international tournaments.
“Yet it hasn’t always been clear that we are the SAME organisation.
"This club is always growing and changing.
“The club has been operating with two identities and two logos but more than ever we are ONE club.
“In 2019, North Toronto Nitros Soccer is so much more than a house league and a collection of competitive teams.”
The club now has over 5,000 registered youth players who participate in a full range of programs from recreational to the highest level league in the province, the Ontario Player Development League (OPDL).
All North Toronto players have the opportunity to participate in Nitros development programs through U12.
They can also try out for Nitros teams at U13 and older at three levels of competitive leagues and in our Select tournament teams.
And Doug stressed: “We have Nitros players in their teens who are working with our younger players as Game Leaders, Referees, and Development Coaches.
“We feel that is important - within the North Toronto community, in Toronto and Ontario soccer and beyond - to present ourselves as one organisation with a strong identity across all of our development, competitive and recreational programs.”
As we move forward into 2019 the club is providing greatly increased opportunities for younger players to learn and love the game of soccer.
The new Nitros Grassroots Development Program for players U8 to U12 offers a high level of soccer development to all.
Players who are even younger are in Train-to-be-a-Nitro programs.
All of that work meant that our Board and management recognised the need to both unify and strengthen the club’s identity and late last year the rebranding process began.
We have now reviewed the origins of the various club and program identities as well as the club’s position in the North Toronto community and soccer environment.
A decision was then made to consolidate the North Toronto Soccer and North Toronto Nitros into one brand and one logo.
And the timing of the brand launch was based on the introduction of the new design of our Umbro uniform kits in March.
This is where successful graphic designer Robert Disher came in to the story.
It was Robert who crafted the original Nitros logo over two decades ago and, alongside another active NT soccer dad Ian Wiggins, he also came up with the distinctive name Nitros.
At the outset Robert, the father of 2 former North Toronto Soccer players, was given a design brief that had to take into account the criteria of the uses offer new logo.
You will now see it on our uniforms, tracksuits, backpacks, canopy tents and benches.
It will be on our club website and league websites, on social media with our Twitter and Instagram accounts and all of our printed material.
Executive Director Doug said: “We asked Robert for a crest design with a clean, modern look.
“We wanted a stylised soccer ball and the inclusion of the words “North Toronto Soccer” and “Nitros” but not NTSC
“We needed a prominence of our traditional green colour in the lettering, a stylised maple leaf to signify our Canadian roots when we travel and a reference to the establishment of the club in 1980.
“We are excited with the end result and look forward to everyone seeing it.”
The first glance for parents and players of the new look will be on the screens at Soccerplex on Thursday night.
Our first new kits with the rebranding will be worn by our 05s and 06s Girls OPDL squads as they take part in the GPS March Madness tournament in Waltham, Massachusetts, this weekend.
The entire Nitros family will be able to see new crest on social media on Thursday evening with the home page of the club website also being updated.
By Friday morning we will have new signs at the office, new headings and logos throughout the website, new logos on forms and other materials.
Ontario Soccer, Toronto Soccer and the leagues will have the new logos in place within a few days of our launch.
The rebranding process has been strategically completed to see our new brand step into the club’s 40th season with a fresh, modern look ready for the next challenges in our growth.
And for Doug Blair that is a key mission accomplished.
He said: “Going forward, the club will have a single identity and one logo for all the club programs.
“We are North Toronto Nitros Soccer.”