One of five new men's teams to join League1 Ontario for the 2016 season, Toronto Skillz FC has it all in the name; this collection of skilled young players from Scarborough has some current and former youth national players in the squad that benefit from a highly-qualified and experienced technical staff.
Led by technical director and first team head coach Leslie "Tiger" Fitzpatrick - a former professional player with 26 caps for Trinidad and Tobago - Toronto Skillz's League1 team functions as the final step for the youth academy products that Toronto Skillz produces.
Toronto Skillz has a number of working agreements with professional clubs in Europe and the Caribbean to bring coaches and technical curriculum to Canada, avidly tours to showcase players, and will have plenty of space for their supporters at their 2,000 person capacity home ground Birchmount Stadium.
League1 asked Fitzpatrick to give some insight on the team's preparations for the 2016 season, and a rundown of the talent within the roster.
Obviously this is the first season for Toronto Skillz in League1 Ontario. What do you think will be the biggest challenges for your team? What are your primary goals?
Any time you enter into a new league or build a new team there will be growing pains.
Integrating the new players into the Club and familiarizing them with the expectations on and off the field was the first step and frankly is a continuing process. Secondly, ensuring that the dynamic that we have built over the last few years isn't disrupted through the integration process.
Finally, transforming the vision of the club into an on-field product that is successful.
We have been lucky throughout our existence to have a lot of immediate success, and finishing atop the league will always be our goal. However, as we are not totally familiar with the teams we will face this season and the landscape of league play, we enter with a quiet confidence and adjust expectations accordingly as the season progresses.
Despite being a new team to League1, you have some players in your group that have played at top levels in the past and done well. Could you highlight some of the more experienced players in your team?
A massive reason for our entry into League 1 Ontario is the ability to give the academy a platform to showcase our young developing players at the highest level of soccer that the province has to offer.
We have been blessed with an abundance of young talent such as Sameer Fathazada, Mario Ramalho, and Thanujan Jeyathilaka, all of whom have had great success within the SAAC Academy League as well as the OSL in the last few years. League1 gives them an even higher stage to demonstrate their abilities.
This trio has also had some interest overseas and Sameer has gotten some traction in the Canada Men's National Team program so we hope this will enhance their opportunities to be seen by the powers that be.
Additionally, we have a few younger players in the Academy like Wadohi Fadul, Mitchell Wong, Roen Fordyce Hlywka, and Javier George who we would like to give an opportunity to during different points in the season to get their feet wet at this level.
Glad that you have touched on some of the young standout players coming through your academy, as youth development has of course been the main focus of Toronto Skillz FC until this time.
Who are some of the other prospects that Toronto Skillz will showcase in League1 this season?
In terms of new players coming into the Club, we have a few that we think really enhance the product that we plan to display.
Andrew Gordon is a player who many will know of, and his talent is unquestionable. Obviously, the National Team staff and others want to see certain things from him before re-integrating him into their full set-up and we think we can give him the environment necessary to thrive. He understands our expectations of him and knows the importance of doing well this season.
We also have Nicholas Goddard, who will give us some leadership and a calming presence with his age and experience in the game.
There is Ryan Reid, who is a dynamic young two-way midfielder with some European experience in this past year, who I am sure will capture a lot of attention.
As well, we are awaiting the return of Dieumarci Yuma, who is presently in Portugal, and who will add greatly to our ability to control the tempo of each game.