U21 Impact welcomes another new coach in Evan Phillips
by Randy Pascal
The "Sudbury Soccer Snapshot" is a weekly feature that is being presented courtesy of Martin Martic Dentistry. Each and every week, from May
1st through until the end of September, a weekly newsletter will be produced, covering off much of what is on the go in the world of competitive soccer
As well, a recreational soccer "game of the week" will be highlighted, rotating between the various houseleagues that exist in and around Greater Sudbury.
In the off-season, the newsletter will scale back to a bi-weekly feature, focusing heavily on the hundreds of young soccer players who shift to the indoor
game as the fields become snow-covered for the winter.
His reputation as a top notch OCAA soccer goalkeeper already firmly established, Cambrian Golden Shield all-star Evan Phillips has now set
his sights on the coaching ranks – and it’s not like he’s easing into this.
The native of Etobicoke will remain in Sudbury for yet another summer, becoming the third head coach in as many years to guide the GSSC (Greater
Sudbury Soccer Club) U21 Impact into battle in the Ontario Soccer League.
Though the locals were relegated from the OSL U21 Provincial East grouping last summer, the Nick Mancini-led U18 Impact team that competed
in the CSL (Central Soccer League) in 2016 actually earned a promotion, allowing this de-facto combined team to stay put in the seven team loop.
“These kids are really young, but as a team, we should want to finish in the top half, the top three of the league,” said Phillips. “We have a good
group of kids, but we have a tough division. This year, with the players that we have, we should be able to possess a little more, play a “prettier”
soccer. Sometimes in Sudbury, we tend to play a little more defensive soccer.”
While the numbers at practices have been good, the most that Phillips has seen since his involvement in recent years with the U21 squad, the backgrounds
are far more varied that any recent edition of the team.
Built around a core of a half dozen or so Shield athletes, mixed in with some Voyageur varsity talent and other Laurentian students hopeful of cracking
the OUA roster, and closing off with high school and Boréal talent, both local and otherwise, the team is truthfully a melting pot of Sudbury soccer.
“I like the diversity we have,” noted Cambrian keeper turned striker Warley Dutra Santos, a native of Mississauga. “Every player is unique in his
own way, and every player has something different to give.” A prime example of the dissimilarity that exists, Dutra Santos arrived in Sudbury last year,
with primary background as a netminder.
“I used to play out as a kid, but I played goalkeeper when I started to play more competitive,” noted the 21 year old, who will make the move over to
the Firefighting program in September. With Phillips firmly entrenched as the final line of defense, Cambrian coach Giuseppe Politi looked outside
the box for solutions.
“I think he (Politi) just saw my speed and figured he could put me at striker,” suggested Dutra Santos. “I think I did pretty well this season. But with
Evan, he’s now really getting me into the zone of how to play striker. I really wanted to stay with the group, especially because I am coming back next
year to play soccer at Cambrian.”
It is also with an eye to the fall that Lockerby Composite product Ahmed Bilgasem returns for his third year with the team. “Playing for
Laurentian is a goal of mine,” noted the 19 year-old local talent, who has just completed his second year within the Bio-Medical program at L.U.
“For me, it’s about developing physically, being more aware on the ball, and the intensity is much higher. I know the level that’s needed, and I’m not
there yet, but this league can obviously help me get there.”
Despite the loss of some key veterans in the fold, Bilgasem is confident that the overall effect of the talent rollover is a positive one for the
Impact. “Our attacking lineup is much better than in previous years, we’re usually a defending team,” he said.
“We’ve got a lot of new, young players coming in. They’re going to be fast and explosive, and they bring something new to the team. The chemistry might
not be there quite yet, because we have a lot of new guys, but hopefully that builds.”
A center attacking mid for much of his career, Bilgasem noted a clear-cut preference towards playing on the interior of the pitch. “I used to play
sometimes on the wing,” he said. “You don’t get the ball as much. When I’m in the middle, I get the ball a lot, you’re the center of the attack. I get to
make plays. That’s what I like the most, just getting to touch the ball more.”
Player usage will be just one of the priorities on the plate of Phillips this summer, though he does not expect a huge transition from his playing
days. “I always wanted to be a coach,” he said. “I think that’s just me being a goalkeeper, always liking to be in charge.”
The 2017 edition of the U21 Impact will include Aristide Cruchaga, Domynik Huot, James Pinheiro, Evan Stronach, Connor Vande Weghe, Warley Dutra
Santos, Ahmed Bilgasem, Bruno Veloso, Chase Noble, Gianfranco Carniel, Nicholas Walker, Brandon Moxam, Philip Bassong, Disal Wick, Simon Brock, Nicholas
Hechlar, Aidan Martel, Kristian Shuttleworth, Carter Hanson and Isaac Oliveira, with former Cambrian captain Aaron Dent providing
Phillips with assistance at the coaching level.
The Sudbury crew will open their season at home on Saturday, May 27th at 5:00 at the Cambrian College field, with the Phoenix Soccer Academy
(Vaughan) providing the opposition.