York9 looks to Dominican as focus shifts to ‘small details’

YORK REGION — The Canadian Premier League has been described in innumerable ways by countless people, but “cultural revolution” might be a new one. Yet, that’s the title granted this week by York9 FC assistant coach Carmine Isacco.

Bleary-eyed and grumpy, this reporter can’t help but envy how chipper York9’s players and staff are on the training pitch at 7 a.m.  They share the kind of spirited energy that only comes from something as big as, well, a “cultural revolution,” I suppose.

There’s a palpable anticipation hanging in the stuffy indoor air; the Nine Stripes find it hard to believe they have another month to wait before gameday in Hamilton.

They’ll head down to the Dominican Republic on Friday, where they’ll finally enter the homestretch of their preparations before the season begins. That inaugural game can’t come soon enough, though.

“I’m just excited to play again,” defender Luca Gasparotto told “It’s been a long time for myself, and for a lot of these guys who haven’t played in a long time. Just to have that gameday feeling, and having the games mean a lot – especially that first game – we’re all looking forward to that.”

Gasparotto’s last competitive match was April 7, 2018, when he started for Greenock Morton in a 3-2 loss in the Scottish Championship. The Canadian centre-back is understandably itching to get back out there.

Fortunately, the prevailing mood in York Region is that this club is pretty close to match ready. They spent Friday morning refining their attacking strategy with Isacco, and a 90-minute scrimmage on Saturday put those tactics to the test.

“We want to concentrate on details now; small group details, relationships between our top two or striker, our midfielders, our wingbacks and centre-backs,” said Isacco.

“All those things need to be refined, just understanding situations and how we have to be in certain moments. The most important way to do that is put them in those moments and play.”

Gasparotto echoed Isacco’s sentiment, perhaps even more impressed with how quickly things have come together at his club.

“The difference between now and the first week is incredible,” he effused. “We’re getting to know each other more – who’s going to make runs where, and the type of styles that each player has.”

Even though the Nine Stripes will welcome the sun down in the Caribbean – Gasparotto joked that his teammates complain when it rains, let alone the snow that fell on the GTA over the weekend – they’ll be just as eager to get back home and open the season.

April 27 has been circled on the calendar for a while, but that first match is becoming more real by the day. York9’s staff and players can feel how close they are, and it’s becoming harder and harder to wait.

“Hopefully, the same feeling that fans and the Canadian soccer community got during the national anthem of that first (Toronto FC) game, it’s going to be replicated and better,” said Isacco.

“We don’t have too many moments (like this) in our national game. This is going to be a special one for sure.”

Now, just four more weeks to wait…