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Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018
Evan Phillips and the Impact U21 men excited to get going
by Randy Pascal

Evan Phillips is feeling much more comfortable this summer.

Now in his second year as head coach of the GSSC (Greater Sudbury Soccer Club) Impact U21 men's team, and with a couple of seasons spent alongside Cambrian mentor Giuseppe Politi and the Golden Shield OCAA crew, the native of Etobicoke is transitioning quite smoothly from his role as player to coach.

It certainly doesn't hurt that early season signs point to a somewhat deeper arsenal at his disposal, with OSL (Ontario Soccer League) play now two weeks away.

“We have a few more bodies this year, it looks like,” said Phillips at practice last Sunday night. “We're a little younger, but I think a little better, in just about every situation. We have more striking options, besides Kristian (Shuttleworth).”

The all-star goaltender turned coach acknowledged that a couple of key contributors from the 2017 team had aged out, though he believes that Laurentian Voyageurs' rookie midfielder Carver Grenon will step in seamlessly to the role that Evan Stronach tackled 12 months ago.

“It's looking good, we're pretty optimistic,” said Phillips. “This is still a hard division, with all GTA teams, but we're excited.” Committed to his professional up-grades, Phillips had spent the weekend in Barrie, completing the first part of his provincial “C” licensing, returning north just in time to make sure that his troops were directed as they embark on a very short outdoor pre-season stretch.

“We started today, the first time outside, and the first thing we are doing is defensive awareness, making sure we are defensively sound,” he said. “After that, the rest will come. We are offensively talented and we're going to score goals. I have no issues there. The early emphasis is not giving up bad goals.”

Like Phillips, attacking winger Aidan Martel returns for a second summer of competition with the Impact. And just like his coach, he sees the key to success in their 16 game schedule lying largely with how well this team defends. “It's mostly about just keeping our shape defensively, playing together, and not getting down on our mistakes,” suggested the 18 year-old senior at St Charles College.

“It's a matter of shifting together as a team. As the ball switches sides, you move as a unit, staying compact, and don't give up any lanes.” Martel will be attending Laurentian University in the fall, looking to include his involvement with the Voyageurs varsity men's team with the busy schedule his Kinesiology program will demand.

In preparation for hitting the pitch for OUA play, he has targetted a couple of areas of his game that require some extra attention. “My decision making,” he stated, without hesitation. “When I get the ball, I have to work on knowing what I'm going to do before I have it. And running off the ball is huge, not even just to get the ball.”

“If you make a run to the outside, you can free up a striker by taking your man with you and freeze him out.” Just completing his first year at L.U. in Law and Justice, though not a member of the varsity team, St Benedict Catholic Secondary School graduate James Pinheiro has also decided to return for one more year of competitive summer soccer.

Certainly part of the motivation for the 19 year-old right fullback came from the advancement his game enjoyed when faced with the increased level of play to which the Impact were exposed last summer.

“Overall, for myself personally, what improved was my physicality,” said Pinheiro. “I know that this was something I really needed to work on during the off-season, especially considering I play the position of defender. In U21, you're playing big guys, guys that are playing university or college. I learned very early on that when you're playing OSL, you need to play quick, and that's something I improved on as well.”

The GSSC U21 men's team will endure an unusual schedule this summer, with six of their first seven games on the road. It starts off the weekend of May 26th and 27th, with matches opposite the Woodbridge Strikers and Whitby Iroquois. Following one home game against North Toronto (June 2nd at Delki Dozzi), it's back down south for back to back weekends.

The 2018 GSSC Impact U21 men's lineup features Carter Hanson, Nicholas Walker, Domynik Huot, James Pinheiro, Brandon Moxam, Ahmed Bilgasem, Gianfranco Carniel, Aidan Martel, Kristian Shuttleworth, Brendyn Sauve, Josh Alvarenga, Isaac Oliveira, Kevin Martin Rojas, Jacxsen Cress, Ben Runciman, Noah LaSorsa, Noah Gascon, Mathieu Archambeault, Kiel Cress, John Squarzolo and Carver Grenon.

In other GSSC news, the decision has been made to pull the plug on fielding an Open Women's team. With commitment becoming a major issue at practices, there simply did not appear to be enough of a core to move forward without fear of suiting up with less than 11 players at times. The Impact will still retain their U21 Women's team under the guidance of Mike Spourdalakis.

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