Toronto FC are hosting the 2015-16 Fall Qualifying event for the East Regional group of U-17 MLS academy this weekend at Downsview Park. Nine matches will be played, spread over three days; all will be streamed live and are open to the public. The full schedule can be viewed here.
They will be joined by five other MLS clubs – DC United, New England Revolution, Philadelphia Union, Orlando City, and New York Red Bulls – for a round robin of matches that will begin to determine which division the teams will participate in at the final stage of the tournament next spring.
Danny Dichio, who will be managing the Toronto side, spoke with the media on Thursday ahead of the competition, covering a variety of subjects, including dealing with the condensed schedule and the squad at his disposal.
With each team playing three matches in a four-day span, a hectic schedule, Dichio was asked if his plan was to rotate his side, or run out the same starters in each.
“We have a good selection of players that we'll use. Obviously some of the players will get more minutes, but we'll try and rotate. That's why we've chosen a squad of 20 that we feel will add to the already strong squad.”
“We have a couple of young boys that have moved up from the U-15s and a large proportion of this team are going to national camp seven days after the tournament. 10 guys going away from this team that are playing at the weekend, so they'll want to give a good account of themselves in front of the National Team (staff) that are going to be here, the first team staff.”
Though reluctant, Dichio did highlight three names of which fans should be aware.
“I don't like to single out players, but we have a striker, a very good striker, who I think if he keeps his head level, grounded, he'll be one for the future: Shaan Hundal. He's scored a lot of goals for us this year. We have a defender Klaidi Cela, who's played up a year with the senior team, the U-18 team. He's come back down for this tournament. And then we have a very young goalkeeper, Gigi (Gianluca) Catalano, who's a 15-year old, who has come into this group and performed very well.
“(It's) a real mix of players. We have a very eclectic background here in Toronto, so we have players with backgrounds from South America, Japan... we have a Japanese kid in midfield, we have an African kid on the left wing, we have a Portuguese kid on the right wing. It's like a mini-World Cup in our squad, it's a delight to work with.”
So with Thanksgiving weekend and international action putting the big club out of action and most leagues on hold, why not, before or after enjoying some turkey, get out in the crisp Fall weather to enjoy a little youth soccer.
“It's going to be really interesting for the fans that come out and watch the games because I know that the MLS teams that are coming from Philly, DC, have the same (situation)” said Dichio. “It's a goal for MLS teams to bring local talent in that have that cultural background. Even the local boys that love playing the game are really thriving on that as well”
And as Danny encourages, be part of the action,“A lot of fans are, hopefully, coming out, because it's a free MLS weekend.”
The other half of this interview can be seen here