April 29, 2015 League 1 Ontario--Preview of Sigma FC (from League 1 Ontario website)
Sigma F.C. - 2015 Season Preview . Wed Apr 29 Written By: Staff, League1 Who is Sigma F.C.? Sigma F.C., the first team for the organization Sigma Sports Management Group, is an academy based in Toronto that both develops players from youth to professional and post-secondary levels, and also provides a range of advisory services for its players. The success stories of the academy are widely known, most recently represented by the likes of Kyle Bekker (FC Dallas MLS, CMNT), Cyle Larin (Orlando City MLS, CMNT), Manjrekar James (Pesci MFC, CMNT), Johnny Grant (CMNT), Giuliano Frano (Seattle Sounders 2 FC, USL) and Emery Welshman (Real Monarchs, USL, Guyana MNT). In League1 2014 play, Sigma put on an excellent display of possession-based attacking play, and provided some of the highlights of the season – not least the L1 Cup finals end-of-season campaign put on by the academy's youngest prospects. Technical Director and Men's head coach Bobby Smyrniotis looks forward to a similarly successful 2015 season. What they're saying: "We're very happy with how things went last year. At the same time, there are always things you would have liked to improve on – if you get a point instead of three or something like that – but it was mission accomplished last year," said Smyrniotis. "From our perspective, we have a lot of moving parts in the team, so last year we essentially fielded three different teams: one at the beginning of the year, which is a period that is going to be even more interesting this year as we start a month earlier, and we have a group that is going to play those games; our second period of development occurs at the end of May, when the bulk of our players arrive, and goes until first week of August; and, finally, we have the end of the year team that mixes two or three experienced players with a very young group." "It was a great success last year because we used that young team to get us to the finals of the L1 Cup, and we are looking at the same strategy this year." "It's a difficult operation if you're not prepared for it, if you don't know about it, but this type of structure is inherent to our academy. As technical staff we are always going through how things are going to be, and right now we have a pretty good idea of what the teams are going to look like at the various times of the year. If you plan it properly, I think that allows you to have success going forward." "It helps that we have and established and distinct way of how we want to do things on the field – we like to attack, we like to possess, we like to possess with a different pacing in the game as well, and we like to rest when we have the ball and not chasing the ball all the time. We have that common philosophy through the academy, which helps when we want to bring any player into the first team. Everyone must be on the same page. At the end of the day, our basic philosophy is that we have to entertain the crowd, and develop the players and move them on." What did Sigma do in off-season? Sigma's participation in Soccer Academy Alliance Canada (SAAC) represents the academy's off-season competition at the youth development level, while internally the academy must manage the progress of its top graduates in and out of NCAA and higher-levels of play. For the 2015 summer season, Sigma have made some amendments to their structure to provide greater support for the League1 first team, and to be able to more gradually manage the development of their youth players into the first team. What they're saying: "We have been developing a U20 group in SAAC, and this year we will have two teams in U21 OSL Provincial. We have removed our men's team from OSL because, from our perspective, as a group that loses a lot of players in August, we found it difficult to have a second men's team. At certain points of the year we are using the same players in both competitions, so we found it to be too big of a strain on the players. So this year we've put together the two U21 teams, and those teams will compete in the OSL U21 division until mid-August. Then, going into the later period of the season, we only have to worry about one team, and the top players will be competing in League1." "With the League1 team, we build our pool with four players deep in each position, but those players may be placed at different levels in our structure. So, for example, our number two or number three guy in one position could be the number one in that position at the level below. Then we go into our U21 pools, which are theoretically players from 17-19 years of age, and we've got our positioning filled deeply there as well. "So we make sure the guys who aren't playing week in, week out in League1 are getting those opportunities with the other respective teams, and when we need to make a change we always have a player that has minutes under his belt." Key Sigma players? Outgoing Sigma players from last year have been making headlines all across the country, and beyond. The biggest story has certainly been striker Cyle Larin, who went first overall in the MLS SuperDraft to Orlando City, and broke into the Canada Men's National Team with several outstanding performances. Striker Emery Welshman also went on to higher level after being selected by Real Monarchs in the USL Pro league, while Johnny Grant (in Montreal Impact camp), Giuliano Frano (Seattle Sounders USL) have been brought through to the Canada Man's National Team as well. Finally, Sigma's 2014 starting goalkeeper, Greg Ranjitsingh, went to Lousville City F.C. in the USL Pro. So how will Sigma replace all of these key players? What they're saying: "In general, if you look at it, all of the levels in our academy are a springboard to the next," said Smyrniotis. "Every year, the more players that we can have move on to somewhere is the measure of success. We have a lot of players coming up through the pipeline that make that difference and, the way we look at it, a turnover of 50 per cent of your starting lineup is actually a success of ours. It's a challenge, of course, but for us the ability to do it is a success." "We have ample players to come in, and even some of our older, experienced guys that play lead parts at different points. A key player for us is Chris Nanco (b.1995), who has been down in Syracuse University and with the Canada U20s. He only played about four or five matches last year because of different nagging injuries and so on, so we kept him away from the field to make sure he was healthy. He's a guy that should have been starting last year, but didn't get the games in, and will be one of the key components going into this year." "We have a few of those types of players, actually, such as a DivII All-American, Dominic Samuel (b.1994), who did not come back last year but is back this year as one of our centre-backs. Another key player for us is a Next Generation Adidas player, Richard Laryea, who plays out of University of Akron. Last year he only played five games and then came down with a bad injury, so we have him slotting into midfield this season as well. Alex Halis is coming in from Syracuse University as well, so we think we have the tools to do well and now it is just a question of putting them together." "At goalkeeper, we have a couple of options, including Anthony White, who just got a cap at Guyana's MNT. We have Cory Marques, who finished off the season for us in net last year, and is a 1998. Finally, you can factor in some of our 97 and 98s pool that finished the season off last year, and did a great job. We need to make sure they keep on developing at this level too." Ideal outcome for Sigma in 2015 League1 Ontario season? "At this level, it's competitive and you always want to win, but we also have to look at things and make realistic goals based on how things shift, and last year our goal was to finish in the top three and make a run with a younger team in the L1 Cup – we accomplished those goals and were happy with that." "We want to be able to crack the top three again this season, and again give opportunities and experience to our younger players in the Cup. We do take the Cup seriously, but we make a conscious decision to give that experience to our young players and bring their game to the next level there, which worked great last year. I think for the season ahead, those would be our two goals again." "Last year was the first year, and it was good all around. I think this season you will see all the teams come out more prepared, and the level will naturally come up another notch. It is good to see that some of the top players from the 2014 season have moved on, including some who signed with TFC II as well as some other USL teams. I think there are more players out there that are aware of the league, and the high performance players are certainly recognizing that this is the place to play if you want to get noticed." "The earlier start to the season also allows for a better pacing in the schedule, which allows for more competitive games, more competitive football, and a better environment for us as coaches to plan out the training and game schedule." "In terms of the new additions to League1, and changes to some of the existing team, I think with the Oakville group, you have a very experienced group coming in that have been part of a structure such as this league has, so they'll be a well-prepared team on the field. With the other two new teams, I think they are looking to put together some competitive teams at a new level and they can certainly benefit from a large number of quality players that are out there looking for a spot to play. They'll be a little more unknown, which naturally makes them difficult opposition." "Finally, I think it's great to see the various partnerships around the league between teams and universities – this is very good for the competition. It's also great for university programs, and sets up a continuity of a good level for players." "Let's face it, in this league that is exactly what we want – to raise the level overall through the province and communities, not only in one league. Next we need to see that representation coming in from other regions, such as London and Ottawa hopefully."
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