York9 FC youngsters shine in Island Games comeback against Atlético Ottawa

York9 FC’s young players are the real deal.

The Nine Stripes were rescued by a second-half infusion of youth on Saturday to grab a 2-2 draw against expansion side Atlético Ottawa in their 2020 Canadian Premier League debut.

Chief among that crop of teenage substitutions was Lowell Wright. The 16-year-old became the youngest goalscorer in CPL history in the 60th minute. A penalty soon after, converted by Joseph Di Chiara, and a controversial red card handed Jimmy Brennan’s team a valuable point at The Island Games.

But, halfway through the second half, it appeared nothing good – at least from a historical sense – would come from Y9’s debut on Prince Edward Island. Ottawa was rampant against a shorthanded York9 side, who were without Manny Aparicio, Chris Mannella, and Michael Petrasso due to injury.

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Goals from Mohamed Kourouma and Malcolm Shaw gave Ottawa a dream start in their first match and put York9 on the back foot.

“I was disappointed at half – we had a good conversation, but we still came out flat-footed,” Brennan said in reference to the goal conceded just after the halftime break.  “They scored in transition. That should never happen to us. We need to see out these games.

“It was mental lapses especially when you get into injury time, you know halftime is coming. Just silly mistakes.

“Brought the young boys out to give us some life, and it worked.”

In pre-game discussions, Brennan mentioned a need to be tactically flexible against Ottawa. That flexibility started with a diamond midfield and usual centre back Matthew Arnone playing as a destroyer in front of a back-four.

Changes were necessary, according to Brennan, whose side struggled to contain Ottawa attackers Francisco Acuña and Mohamed Kourouma.

“It was scrappy so it was hard to get the rhythm,” Brennan admitted of his side’s first match in nearly 300 days. “Went to that 4-3-3 to put pressure on the fullbacks… you could see they got tired.”

Wright, who came on in that second-half change-up, scored a historic goal (at age 16 years, 11 months, and 26 days), besting 17-year-old Tyler Attardo’s record for Valour FC last season.

What’s more, the 16-year-old goalscorer got his historic marker from a well-worked chance from fellow teenager and debutant substitution Max Ferrari.

“They’ve got talent… and it shows the belief we have in them,” Brennan said. “I didn’t want them to start and put a lot of pressure on them.

“You have to gradually bring them in. Now, they know now they can compete, and keep pace with the professional game.”

Brennan offered an update on the trio of former Canadian men’s national team players, calling for a full bill of health “in a game or two.”

“Petrasso is getting back to full fitness. Chris, we’re hoping in the next week to get him back.”

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