Austin Ricci Is Training With York United
Austin Ricci is training with the Nine Stripes.
The 25-year-old striker scored a head-turning 8 goals in 18 appearances for Valour FC last season before his breakout campaign was cut short following a collision with Triston Henry. The Richmond Hill-born striker is an intriguing trialist in the Nine Stripes camp, having played for the team in its inaugural campaign before spending the last two seasons with Valour FC.
When asked about Ricci’s presence in camp, Club President Angus McNab said it was mostly about the club helping a local player return to fitness – though it appears the forward is indeed under consideration for a roster spot.
“Austin is out of contract right now and good friends with a number of guys in our group,” said McNab, “I think it was Mikey who mentioned he was back at home so Martin and I said he’d be welcome to come in and work with our medical staff. I had a quick chat with Dylan Carreiro – his agent – and he’s been in a few days now.”
Ricci is known as a physical striker with plenty of pace, though it took him some time to really find his footing at the Canadian Premier League level: he wasn’t able to accumulate many minutes under Jim Brennan back in 2019, racking up just 234 minutes of action through eleven appearances and leaving with only a sole assist against his future club Valour.
His time with the Winnipeg-based club saw him do just about everything but score at The Island Games: he drew penalties, hassled defenders, and he set up his teammates through six matches without any goals to show for it – though that certainly changed in 2021. Ricci started his campaign with a goal and assist against Forge FC, and even bagged a brace against York United in the Winnipeg bubble.
Ricci procured 5 goals 16 league appearances last season, while also finishing as the 2021 Canadian Championship top goalscorer after a brace against Atletico Ottawa and the hard-fought goal against Forge which caused his season-ending injury:
Ricci’s recovery has been a long one, with the forward missing the rest of the 2021 CPL season after undergoing knee surgery in late September. He’s looked quite dedicated to his recovery on social media, and now finds himself under the watchful eye of the York United medical team as he returns to match fitness.
“He’s got a little way still to go in his rehab so we are just happy to help him here,” stated McNab, “who knows what happens down the line, but he got injured playing in the league and I’m sure all of the clubs in CPL would do this for someone who is back home recovering to get back on the pitch.”
Before arriving to professional football, Ricci had certainly proved devastating in the amateur and semi-pro circuits: he bagged 22 goals and 7 assists after 71 appearances at the NCAA level, then went on to get 12 goals and 7 assists in the PDL level before arriving to League1 Ontario, where he scored 5 goals in just 8 appearances for the Vaughan Azzurri.
With the forward now having found his feet at the professional level, he’s an intriguing potential returnee for the Nine Stripes. Should he land a spot, he’d join only Roger Thompson and Diyaeddine Abzi as the only York originals present in the club’s fourth season.
There are also several youngsters in camp, including 2004-born six-foot-three centre-back/defensive-midfielder Nic Gagan and 21-year-old former Toronto FC II goalkeeper Gianluca Catalano, though it is expected that former CS Maritimo goalkeeper Matthew Nogueira will sign on as the club’s second goalkeeper.
Last season saw former player Emilio Estevez return to train with the side midway through the season, though this was only to keep sharp ahead of his international duty with Taiwan.
While it remains to be seen what’s next for Austin Ricci, his potential return to the Nine Stripes is certainly food for thought: he was a prolific forward in the league last season and would certainly come as a roster addition with a high ceiling if he can pick up where he left off.
Even if he doesn’t land a deal, it’s nice to see the Nine Stripes help one of their former players get the best preseason he can get under the circumstances.