While other clubs can’t keep their new kits behind closed doors until release day, York United had trouble containing new signing Jonathan Grant. Eagle-eyed Canadian Premier League fans would have picked him out trialling with the squad in early February as preseason opened up. Some may have forgotten that, but when the refreshing sight of a York player announcement popped up on your phone, it could only be one guy.
Currently in Houston preparing for a friendly with Houston Dynamo 2 of MLS Next Pro, Grant adds to a defence that is very much in a “good, not great” state of affairs. Grant, however, certainly helps the situation. A three-time CPL champion with Forge FC, the Pickering native has plenty to offer as a multi-use defender. Most commonly featuring at right-back for the Hamiltonians, Grant could be deployed in the spine of the team as well, especially if the unfortunately-injury-prone Roger Thompson goes down again.
Grant, as a common starter for the Hammers, does have experience in big-time matches outside of Canada. He has earned 11 appearances in the now-defunct CONCACAF League, which includes a massive outing against Salvadoran giants FAS in which he picked up both a goal and an assist while playing the full 90 in a second leg away from home. “The experience he brings to the group is really helpful,” says York president and CEO Angus McNab, “we feel that he can contribute at both right-back and centre-back for us.”
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Grant has also appeared in 1,215 minutes in the USL Championship for FC Montreal and Sporting Kansas City II over multiple seasons. He was part of an SKC II side that in 2016 reached the USL Championship Final, losing to the New York Red Bulls’ second team.
“Johnny has been one of the best defenders in the CPL from day one,” says head coach Martin Nash. He’s a top pro and has what we are looking for in a defender.” But will he crack the starting XI? York carries a lot of talented individuals on the back end, the caveat is that when put together, the puzzle looks… incomplete. There’s no better way to put it. Grant will compete against Paris Gee and Clement Bayiha for the fullback role, with Gee being the one who will be harder to knock off his perch. There is also Lassana Faye, someone who might be a bit of a wild card but given his past experience has the talent to beat the mentioned players to it.
Back to Grant now. The Canadian/Guyanese is taking aim at a rebound year after only participating in seven matches and averaging 11 minutes per contest in 2022. “He’s been willing to work, prove his fitness, and earn a spot,” added McNab. Grant obviously knew going into his stint with the Nine Stripes that it was purely training, and nothing would come easy if he wants to be a reliable outlet in Nash’s setup. If he gets on with a rough start it could end his campaign before it begins – again. It is also worth noting that Grant is on a simple one-year contract, so if chaos ensues and he does not have the same form that two-time teammate Mo Babouli did after donning blue and green following a Forge spell when he came, well, it won’t be a messy breakup.
I do hope, as Grant will, that this works out. Because if it does, the payoff will be immense. Grant has more experience in this league, as a day-one, than most. He is invaluable to what this team can do if they go deep.
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