FEATURED TEAM - VAUGHAN SHOOTERS
PLAYER DEVELOPMENT A HALLMARK OF VAUGHAN SHOOTERS
In the world of franchised sports, developing talent is often crucial to on-the-field success.
In the case of the Vaughan Shooters, development has become the backbone of the entire organization.
Since its inception as a founding member of the CPSL, the Shooters have been actively involved in developing youth in York Region. For years, the club has been involved with amateur teams, forming affiliations with youth clubs and soccer academies.
When ownership changed hands in the spring of 2002, current owner Tony DeThomasis vowed to carry on the tradition and brought along with him 20 years of experience in development with the likes of the Glen Shields and the Vaughan Soccer Club.
In 2003 his team merged with the Vaughan Sun Devils, a former CPSL club, to bring the York region together. Since then his organization has continued forming affiliations with local amateur clubs to strengthen the development movement.
The result to date is that the Shooters have developed some shining stars that have seen their careers blossom. Midfielder Atiba Hutchinson was drafted by the A-League, played for the Lynx and is now playing professional soccer in Europe. He made his start as a young player training with the Carlos Rivas Soccer Academy which had formed an affiliation with the Shooters. Together they helped propel Hutchinson’s game to a higher level.
They also took in defender Andres Arango, who can now be seen playing for the Toronto Lynx and Adrian Cann, an excellent outside defender, who came up through the Shooters affiliation with the Woodbridge Soccer Club. Cann was recently drafted by Kansas City of Major League Soccer (MLS).
But their most intriguing project was arguably goalkeeper Jean Paul Piques. He was a young Frenchman who began playing for Vaughan’s second team when he was 16 years old and is now playing third division soccer in Portugal at the ripe old age of 18.
The club’s development program certainly played a part in turning out these standouts and played a big role in the Shooters overcoming adversity this season.
Early in the campaign they were in dire straits when injuries began piling up until their core players were at the end of the bench in street clothes. They lost midfielders Danny Sanna to a broken leg, Jason DeThomasis to a ligament tear in his ankle, and defender Tony Marshall to an injured knee. But in spite of this, the club has maintained a playoff position in the Eastern Conference even in the face of having to change its midfield four times to date.
Team owner De Thomasis attributes his clubs recent success to its deep bench and talented players. “By having a lot of good quality players and a strong bench, we have managed to overcome the loss of our core players earlier in the season,” he commented recently.
It was just last season that the Shooters finished an impressive third place in their division and went on to the Rogers Cup Finals for the CPSL Championship. They wound up losing that final 1-0 to the Brampton Hitmen, but they left an impression and let it be known they had the talent to go all the way.
And to think that all of this started way back when the Shooters were known as the Stallions of the Metropolitan Toronto Soccer League, and then as the Aurora Shooters of the Newmarket Premier League, before becoming one of the pioneering franchises of the CPSL back in 1998 as York Region Shooters.
With such history and involvement in the local soccer community, let’s hope for a long time to come Vaughan Shooters will continue their strong development program from which more players will take up the pro game and some, like Atiba Hutchinson, will play for their country.