After Landmark Season, Abzi Reveals MLS Ambitions
It’s been a whirlwind year for 21-year-old York9 FC fullback Diyaeddine Abzi: the former AS Blainville player signed for York9 FC in February, and it didn’t take long for the young Montrealer to establish himself as one of the league’s most explosive fullbacks.
His first professional year saw him make 30 appearances for the Nine Stripes, with his darting runs up the left flank becoming a familiar sight for the York Region faithful. By the end of the season, he was nominated for Best U-21 Canadian Player, won the fan vote for best left-back, and even made the league’s hypothetical national team depth chart.
For Abzi, the successful stint as a fullback has come as a pleasant surprise: previously deployed as a winger, Jim Brennan and Carmine Isacco worked with the young Morocco-born player to fit him into the system as a full-back. Evidently, the experiment has been a success.
Speaking with CPL Editorial staff member Arcadio Marcuzzi, the 21-year-old described it as nothing short of a revelation. Here’s a translation of what Abzi had to say:
I never thought I would be able to play in this position, but I really enjoyed it and I would like to continue on this path. It’s a bit like the position where you can do everything; you attack, you defend, you dribble, a bit like in futsal. This year it has been a constant learning experience. I went from an offensive position to a defensive position for the first time, so I had to learn the defensive side, positioning and a lot of other things. So I think if I was able to do that in my first season as a professional, and in a new position, the second year could be very positive as well.Diyaeddine Abzi
While Abzi closed out the season with only one goal on the year (against Forge FC), he also made four assists and completed many dangerous runs that helped make space for other Nine Stripes players to exploit. On the opposite flank, right-back Morey Doner did much the same – and so York9 FC were quick to re-sign both of them for the 2020 season.
While the new contract is certainly deserved, Abzi’s sights don’t stop with Canada’s domestic professional league: the 21-year-old believes that with consistent performances, he may be able to make the jump to Major League Soccer in the next couple years:
It has been a very positive year, both on and off the field! I think I had a good season, people around me are talking about it very positively. I want to stay another year, maybe two, and then aim higher.Diyaeddine Abzi
Much like his teammate Luca Gasparotto, the 21-year-old also has national team ambitions, though it remains to be seen if Herdman would utilize him as a full-back on the opposite flank of Richie Laryea. The national team head coach seems poised to put Alphonso Davies in that space, and it’s hard to imagine anyone starting there ahead of the Bayern Munich phenom.
Before any senior team ambitions potentially come to fruition, Diyaeddine is more likely to get a chance to test his mettle at the Olympic qualifiers coming up in the near future. With so many young domestic players in the league, there’s a good chance the Canadian Premier League will be well-represented for those predominantly U-23 matches.
Canada’s domestic professional league seems poised to remain at seven teams for its second season, though there have been ample goings-on to assume that expansion into Quebec will be one of the league’s first moves: CPL commissioner David Clanachan has revealed that several ownership groups from la belle province are in advanced discussions, with one ownership group in Quebec City reportedly securing stadium rights and Alex Bunbury having been quite vocal about his ambitions to bring a CPL side to Montreal.
Abzi – who thinks that all the Quebecers currently present in the burgeoning league had good seasons – believes that the province’s strong footballing culture means that there are many professional-worthy players still waiting in the wings over there:
I think the CPL needs a team in Quebec! I played across Canada this year and I think that in terms of local talent, Quebec is well ahead of the curve. It would be a big step forward for the league and give another dimension to the Ontario-Quebec rivalry.
While we thought that Quebec-based youngsters were under-utilized in the CPL-U SPORTS Draft, it’s no secret that the province harbours a lot of talent: both Omar Kreim and Aboubacar Sissoko just made the jump to the CPL from the Montreal Carabins, UQTR forward Gabriel Balbinotti will trial with Forge FC, and three-time PLSQ champions AS Blainville have already proven themselves tough competition for York9 FC through the Canadian Championship this year.
Having established himself a good foundation with his 2019 season, Abzi will need to continue his impressive growth if his ambitions of making the jump to the MLS (or elsewhere) are to come to fruition. Still, it’s a conversation we likely wouldn’t be having if the professional domestic league hadn’t launched this year, with the 21-year-old being indicative that there are many talented Canadians simply waiting on a chance to prove themselves.
Source: Canadian Premier League