While Rob Marchese kept York United fans entertained with his amazing work putting together announcement videos that are second to none, Angus McNab and Martin Nash were putting plenty of deals together in the behind-the-scenes work, and York United – who announced a ten-player departure list a few days before Christmas – have replenished their squad with exciting players coming from rival Canadian Premier League clubs and teams across Europe. Of course, the vast majority of them are from the great white north, but McNab and Nash seem to have an affinity with Dutch players. The Netherlands has always been home to groundbreaking tactical innovations, and Nash will hope to pick that out of Lassana Faye and Oussama Alou.
Some very smart business was made, yes, but it is a guarantee that not everyone will work out the potential they have – [cough cough] Daniel Obbekjær, William Wallace. The formula of a successful CPL move appears to be an intra-league transfer or a Canadian player who has taken the field for an MLS franchise. See Ashtone Morgan as a good example.
There are a plethora of athletes fitting this mould who will suit up in blue and green in 2023. You have Elijah Adekugbe, a key cog who is a player by day, rapper by night, and could still find time to watch his brother Sam in person at the Qatar World Cup. Adekugbe suffered a brutal Achilles injury that forced him off the pitch entirely in 2021. Luckily he could rebound last season, partaking in 813 minutes of action across twenty contests. He played both legs of a well-contested semifinal to Forge before the Cavs bowed out once again in the playoffs.
Adekugbe has worked with various members of the personnel at York: Nash and Mauro Eustaqio, who is another sibling of a Canadian men’s national team player who went to the World Cup. Niko Giantsopolous was also in Alberta for a period from 2019-20. Adekugbe may take a while to settle in, as he has admitted to never living in the eastern part of Canada, but he will be around familiar faces and once the juices start flowing he can be an invaluable piece of the puzzle.
Jérémy Gagnon-Laparé could very well be paired with Adekugbe. Both occupy a defensive midfield role, and both are too good to spend time on the bench. Thus, a two-headed midfield dragon will aid Tass Mourdoukoutas, Roger Thompson, and co. on the backline. Gagnon-Laparé is held in high regard as one of the CPLs best at his position. Taking the field for Halifax Wanderers in the past two campaigns, he’s suited up forty-seven times, accumulating five assists, being an overall ultra-consistent player, and a bright spot in a bleak season for Halifax.
S. 2 Ep. 21: Canada Doing What Canada Does – FC13 Podcast
Flipping to the other side of the ball and you have Brian Wright, who came back to his home, albeit not from a long distance, following a spell with Atletico Ottawa. He is a prolific scorer and did in fact do just that three times against York United in 2022. He played far less than young star Ballou Tabla (who has moved on to Europe), and three minutes more than the striker who started the final for Ottleti, Malcolm Shaw, yet had a goal tally that trumped both of theirs. Although Wright will back up Osaze De Rosario, there is no way that Nash won’t put aside 30-45 minutes per match to let Wright cook. It’s either that or some ridiculous tactical formation is coming, which isn’t out of the picture, but both are better finishers despite carrying passing tools. (Five combined assists in 2022.) It would be beneficial for the two to take turns on the pitch because you can free up an extra spot in the midfield or on defence.
There is no doubt in my mind that the trifecta listed above will be great given their knowledge of the league from contesting it. Out of the contingent moving into the CPL, there is quite a wide demographic. Clement Bayiha joins from Hamarkameratene and has experience with CF Montreal (yes, that does mean for a time the French legend Thierry Henry was his coach) and Ottawa Fury. The left-back has featured in Canada’s U-20 side and even scored a goal against Martinique.
I feel like it will be either Gagnon-Laparé or Bayiha who shows up and shows out more than any of the other signings. Both will bring defensive solidity to a team that struggled to find an identity while defending. Bayiha does seem to be someone who will quite literally go the extra mile and help out the offence. As long as Bayiha has the lungs to go up and down the pitch his versatility is a massive strength.
The expectations are deservedly very high for this group of Nine Stripes. These new additions will serve main roles to help the team tick as it navigates through the final months of preparation leading up to the big dance. Hopefully, the anticipated friendly between York and Houston Dynamo 2 on March 8th will see some of the recent acquisitions in action and we can get a glimpse of what they can offer.
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