Wednesday May 23rd, 2001 edition of The Mirror. (posted on the Voyageurs Soccer Talk message board).
York Mirror: North York Astros gear up for winning season
By MATT ROSS Special to The Mirror
Minor improvements by the North York Astros during the 2000 campaign meant the squad didn't have to undergo any major revisions for this year.
Although the club managed only three wins and four draws in 20 games in their third season in the Canadian Professional Soccer League (CPSL), North York finished with the three wins over their last eight matches.
Unlike the disaster resembling 1999 with just two victories, Astros general manager Bruno Ierullo's job was much easier this winter.
Two-thirds of the team return ready for the season's kick-off this Sunday in Richmond Hill. This contrasts sharply with the purge Ierullo committed in preparation for last year when only one active player remained on the roster from 1999.
The team's hope is the continuity that has developed will translate into more success in the standings.
"Three wins and a draw, that's what we're gunning for," Ierullo piped, referring to the team's goal after the opening four games.
Lofty ambitions indeed considering the Astros have Croatia and St. Catharines on the home schedule in the opening month, two squads finishing in the CPSL's top three last season. In 2000, North York eked out two scoreless ties while dropping six other contests versus this pair.
However, with the significant majority of the team having one year of experience together plus an abundant exhibition calendar during the past five weeks, there is room for Astro optimism.
One of the significant changes has been coach Tony LaFerrara, who replaces Rafael Carbajal after two seasons. Guiding London City to a playoff berth in 1999, LaFerrara spent last year with the Astros developing stronger contacts with youth soccer in the North York. Ierullo believes LaFerrara is ready to resume field responsibilities with some of the players he's brought to the club.
"Rafael had two years to work with the team and with Tony we can achieve a little bit more. Besides, we needed to get a fresh face."
Captain and ninth-year North Yorker Alex Nardi returns and has seen the developments already in the pre-season. With familiarity, he said, brings progress, something he hasn't seen in the past three years during the team's frequent changes.
"With the number of players that have been here early, we've been able to work on the tactics we want to use."
One of the areas North York must address is how to solve its offensive shortcomings. The Astros only netted 19 goals in 2000 with no individual striker recording more than three markers.
Nardi says LaFerrara has devised a plan for the midfielders to be more active and the ball must be in constant movement.
"(The plan) is very offensive minded and it doesn't require one player to score but the goals will be spread around."
Another addition to the Astros is midfielder Dejan Gluscevic, who signed with the club last week. The 33 year-old has been gladly welcomed into the fold because of his extensive experience in Asian professional soccer plus some time with the Montreal Impact of the A-League.
In net is Eddie Kehoe, who has performed in Ireland's second division. With a couple of games for North York last year, Kehoe replaces the Astros' 2000 nomination for goalkeeper-of-the-year, Peter Libicz.
Following this Sunday's opener against the York Region Shooters, North York begins its home dates on Sunday, June 3rd at 7 p.m. versus Croatia at Esther Shiner Stadium. All of the Astros games are on Sundays and family season passes are available for $10.
While Nardi doesn't have the same bravado as the G.M. Ierullo, he points out the importance of the initial matches, if the Astros want to challenge for any playoff positions.
"We definitely want to win our home opener but to also win the first game and install confidence."
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