Frank Anselmo has seen Cambrian College soccer rise up and beat the odds before.
Now, he wants to see it again.
A member of the 1989 indoor soccer team which surprised the larger institutions by working their way through to the OCAA semi-finals, taking the two time defending champion Humber Hawks to double overtime before bowing out, Anselmo was recently named as the new men’s soccer head coach at his alma mater.
And though it has been more than a full generation since the Golden Shield excelled at the indoor game, Anselmo is nothing if not cautiously confident that his new crew can gradually work their forward, in an outdoor setting, up from a 2018 season in which Cambrian finished with a record of 2-6-2 in a highly competitive Central Division.
Yes, the move back to the OCAA East is likely to help Anselmo and company, to some extent. But the long-term growth, the future of the program is much more heavily predicated on the ability of the 52 year life-long Sudbury native to find a healthy mix in the lessons of soccer which he garnered through the bulk of his playing days in the 1980’s and beyond, with the nuances that are critical to the evolution of soccer in the past twenty years.
It’s something that the son of a member of the 1969 Ontario Cup winning Polish White Eagles team (Angelo Anselmo), and a man who first made his appearance in the local senior men’s league at the age of just 14, with C.S. Italia, is keenly aware of.
“Traditional soccer from the sixties and seventies, and even into the eighties, would utilize a system that typically played with a sweeper, an individual positioned in behind the defensive line, sort of an extra defender,” Anselmo explained. “In the late 1980’s and 1990’s, you have these incredible coaches in leagues such as the Premiership, Serie A, La Liga and so on, who totally changed the dynamics of positions.”
“We have formations today that didn’t exist back then, and that is the beauty of it,” continued Anselmo. “These coaches found ways to create formations based on the type of players they had, to throw twists into the opposition. You would never see a formation of 4-2-3-1 back in those days.”
Certainly, the man has a solid network of soccer contacts, noting that he will absolutely be tapping into the likes of L.U. coach and friend Carlo Castrechino, as well as former Cambrian master coach Giuseppe Politi for advice. “I am thrilled that the communication between the Cambrian men’s soccer team and the Laurentian team is what it is,” said Anselmo.
“Carlo is a couple of years younger than me, but I remember the battles we had on the field.”
Still, it is the memory of the incredible run of 1989 that Anselmo clings to most tightly, while trying to envision the heights to which this program might prosper. “There was no outdoor (OCAA) soccer back then, so we approached Craymer Forth about fielding an indoor team,” he recalled. “Craymer was Cambrian soccer.”
“We had to play a pre-season tournament, which we won, and had to play a qualifying tournament, which we won. We showed up at provincials, and nobody even knew who Cambrian was.”
Certainly, a handful of playoff appearances, the first in program history, under the watch of coach Politi, has helped to serve notice to opposing schools about what Cambrian is. But named as head coach just six to seven weeks before the start of the season, Anselmo is far more focused on baby steps, having received solid advice from school administration.
“(Athletic Director) Tim (Yu) gave me his expectations, as far as what the college is looking for,” he said. “Those expectations are extremely achievable, because it’s all about school. We have a group of students who really love the game of soccer and have a passion for it, but must balance to make sure they do the right things.”
“First and foremost is treating their education as the most important thing in their lives. They are student-athletes. Their education is by far the most important thing that we promote here.”
“I am, however, quietly optimistic,” Anselmo added. “These players are showing energy. Moving forward to next year, I can see more positive results and maybe a higher placing, in the standings, once I get my feet wet this year.”
Though he had enjoyed several decades of coaching the indoor game, often times serving as player-coach, Anselmo acknowledged that a jump to this level was certainly not something he envisioned, only a few years ago.
“I got back into it in 2011, and I just really wanted to play one more year of indoor soccer and then hang up the cleats and do what I do best, which is being a better fan than I am a player, and a better fan than I am a coach,” said Anselmo with a smile. “It started with just one season.”
“But the whole process kind of rejuvenated my love for the game and wanting to be around the game.” A game that has changed and grown and morphed, since the time that Anselmo and his indoor teammates of 1989 came ever so close to bringing a soccer banner to Cambrian.
Some thirty years later, that might be a long-shot, but that still is the goal.