May 2, 2015 League 1 Ontario--Preview of Windsor Stars (from League 1 Ontario website)

Windsor Stars - 2015 Season Preview
. Sat May 2 
Who are the Windsor Stars?

One of two League1 Ontario organizations representing key Ontario regions outside of the 
Greater Toronto Area (GTA), Windsor Stars returns to 2015 league play as the Southern 
Ontario representative.

With a number of strategic community partnerships in place, an increased focus on the 
regional youth base (which features via some exciting new additions to the squad), and 
a new head coach that has brought some key technical tweaks to their preseason preparation 
– the Stars look like a force to be reckoned with in the pursuit of the 2015 League1
Ontario title.

What they're saying:

"The idea is to be the pinnacle of peak experience for soccer in this region, and we're 
trying to build the right relationships here to be to achieve that goal," explained 
Windsor Stars owner/ director Vancho Cirovski.

"We are targeting the youth section, with the thinking that it's fine to have the roof 
in place but you need a foundation."

"In soccer terms, a strong foundation would be OPDL participation and so we have formed 
an affiliation of clubs (Bell River F.C., Croatia S.C., Kuboto S.C., Polonia White Eagles), 
along with the district program by the Nationals, and the women's program, the East Side 
Kickers, to apply for an OPDL license. This affiliation gives us the feeder system, and 
the coaching and emphasis on development, from the age of 13. That is an application that 
we are in the process with, so we're hopeful that it could be active by 2016 at the earliest, 
but is very important to mention as it speaks to the focus we have on building from the youth 
base, and we are in year two of that endeavour."

"It is a relationship that is already beginning to pay dividends, as we have added a number 
of new youth products to our group this year."
What did the Windsor Stars do in off-season?

The Stars did not sit idle in the off-season, instead building on existing relationships 
in the community, or forging new strategic ones. 

Windsor is increasingly becoming the regional hub for the elite level of the game, currently 
leading an affiliation of local clubs applying to compete at the highest youth levels, 
providing a talent pathway for local men's amateur teams, and building upon an already rosy 
State-side relationship with fellow semi-professional club, Detroit City.

Although a couple key 2014 performers have departed, the core of the squad has remained 
together in the off-season to gel and build chemistry, and the addition of new head coach 
and professional trainer, Shane Topalovic, has added an increased focus on fitness and 
conditioning regimens.

What they're saying:

"In terms of how things went last season, I think the same pattern was evident across the 
league," said Cirovski. "Teams that were deep in talent and numbers appear to have had 
more success and consistency."

"In creating that level of depth, we have done what a number of other League1 organizations 
have done and gone deeper into the youth system in our community. We have created some 
partnerships and attracted some of the graduating players of our district club (Windsor F.C. 
Nationals) to add to our existing roster, so we won't be as thin as we were at times in the 
season last year due to players having work/ life commitments. That has been the major 
off-season initiative for us – to get deeper in numbers, and consistency of players."

"Apart from that, I think one of the lessons from last year is we need to have a greater 
level of strength, conditioning and fitness in our players, and so one of the particular 
strengths of our new head coach is that area of commitment and development. We will 
be looking to use Shane's capability in that regard. He has high-level certifications 
and training, is a soccer aficionado and junkie, and is very well-known in our soccer 
community. In addition, his business is personal and professional fitness, that is to say 
he is the head trainer for the Windsor Express professional basketball team."

"In turn, we're very close in our relationship with NPSL team Detroit City F.C., with which 
we hold regular home and away friendlies for example. It's a shared path for the locally 
based semi-professional soccer teams and we will continue that relationship of course, but 
our real focus is on the youth development in our community. We will strategically use some 
of the Detroit players as they conclude their season, which lines up well with when many 
players will be going back to college."

"The Windsor Nationals is our district level youth club, and I think we will have six 
or seven graduates from their program in our team this season. It remains to be seen how 
they can fare in terms of cracking our eighteen, but inevitably being a part of our 
training and matches will be very good for their soccer development. Some of them may need 
to be placed with a local men's amateur team, where we also have affiliations with – and 
can call-up from. Some of these clubs would be Croatia S.C., Windsor Serbs S.C., and more 
– some of the best amateur clubs in this region that could support player movement."

"Fitness and consistency are two of the most important things to us, and the third would 
be emphasis on youth. These are the three pillars that we're going to drive and develop. 
We can't compete for players because of the size of our region – it's small. We have 
to develop everything that we keep, and can't afford to move into a semi-pro state where 
we pay to bring in players from outside the community. We save those situations for the 
kids we know from the Michigan area, from Detroit F.C."

"They have a great level in Detroit, and fantastic local support. They play home games 
in downtown Detroit in front of 3,000 people. They have done a fantastic job marketing 
this team. They sell out every game, and it's like one big party. When we play them, it's 
often closer to 4,000 fans. Anyway, we have a strong interest in the game in this region, 
and overall we are just trying to improve our connections within it, build from the bottom 
to ensure it continues, and take some leadership in the present."

Key Stars' players?

Most notable absences from last year's Stars roster will be centre-back Chris Suta, who 
signed a professional deal with Pallokerho Keski-Uusimaa in Finland's second division, and 
long-time goalkeeper Anthony Santilli, who retired.

However, due to the Stars' partnership with district level youth club F.C. Windsor Nationals, 
a number of youth products have bolstered their ranks and will add real pace and energy 
on the pitch. In turn, with their affiliations throughout the local men's amateur levels, 
the Stars have assembled some of the best experienced players from the area. With their 
partnership with Detroit City of the NPSL capable of offering late season support, expect 
the Stars to be unaffected by any sort of major mid-season personnel turnover. The Stars 
have much to be positive about for 2015.

What they're saying:

"We have lost our centre-back, Chris Suta, but we are replacing him with a standout 
in Brendan Woodfull. Brendan is on a scholarship at Oakland University, and has moved from 
a midfield to backline, and will be one of our key players this season. Brendan comes out 
of the Windsor Nationals program, and was actually at TFC Academy in his early years."

"It's difficult to replace goalkeeper Anthony Santilli, just because of his years 
of experience and leadership qualities, but Kyle Vizarakis – our backup from last year, 
who played as our #1 in many games – has all the qualities to emerge and own that position."

"We have an exciting new player that has moved into the area, Martin Nuiyl, who we expect 
will contribute a great deal. He is a wide attacking midfielder with great pedigree." 

"We have three key returning or emerging players: Jamar Kelly, Michael Pio, Noah Pio
– an emerging player from the FC Nationals program. We have another player from 
FC Nationals, Stefan Zastanikovic, who was with us last year but has also been showing 
very well. Another player that is coming to us from St. Clair College, is Stefan Milidrag." 

"These are some of the new or key faces, and we will of course rely on the likes 
of Stephen Ademolu, who is a former international and is always an exceptional leader."

Ideal outcome for Windsor in 2015 League1 Ontario season?

"We started out pretty well last season, but took a bit of setback and finished in the 
middle of the table," recalled Cirovski.

"This season I would like to be finishing in the top four or five. I want to be realistic 
as every program is getting stronger. I think if we finish in the middle of the table and 
give ourselves a chance at the top, that would be realistic."

"I'm definitely not going to be so brash as to say we're going to win it," he concluded, 
laughing. "We'll aim for mid-table/ top four, and see what we can do from there."

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