Dossier: Two Young Goalkeepers At The York United Preseason Camp
The Nine Stripes are firm in their belief that Niko Giantsopoulos and Eleias Himaras are a strong goalkeeping duo for the 2023 CPL season, though goalkeeper coach Camilo Benzo has brought a couple extra faces into preseason camp.
A post by his goalkeeper academy account has revealed the two trainees to be Matteo Graneiro and Ivan Pavela, two teenage prospects currently cutting their teeth in League1 Ontario.
Graniero had trained with York United last season, inking a development contract alongside a few other youngsters like Dante Lomangino, Arjan Khela, and then-15-year-old goalkeeper Michael Williams, who nearly made his debut from the bench last June.
While Graneiro never cracked the matchday squad himself, the Woodbridge Strikers U-17 prospect is certainly familiar with the professional training environment at York United, and also tested himself with a three-month stint in Italy last fall through Viterbese Academy.
Pavela, 17, made five appearances for the ProStars in 2021 before spending time with the U-19 side of Puskas Akademia in Hungary. He made 13 appearances for the team whilst abroad before returning to the ProStars in the summer, making a sole appearance for the senior team and one at the U-19 side level.
There’s been a number of ProStars players jumping up to the pro game this offseason (including new York United midfielder Markiyan Voytsekhovskyy), with Canada U-17 international Erik Pop signing with 2. Bundesliga side Karlsruher SC while Ameer Kinani is currently on trial with Vancouver FC.
Graneiro and Pavela aren’t the first young goalkeepers to train with the club through goalkeeper coach Camilo Benzi’s Uno Goalkeepers Academy: Ezequiel Carrasco had impressed enough to sign with the team and earn his first professional start in 2020’s Island Games despite being just 17 years of age, and he would have collected a clean sheet on the day if not for a last-gasp equalizer from an audacious Halifax set piece.
Camilo Benzi has been York United’s goalkeeper coach since the club’s inception. His academy has held training camps involving the likes of Matt Silva, Niko Giantsopoulos, Colm Vance, and Nathan Ingham, the latter of which said Camilo’s presence on the team was a big factor in his initial decision to re-sign with them on a multi-year deal midway through the 2019 season.
Niko Giantsopoulos will head into the season as the club’s expected number one, with 20-year-old Eleias Himaras poised to challenge for minutes as the team aims to crack a playoff spot for just the second time.
Given that York also had Blue Devils keeper Lucas Birnstingl in camp earlier, it looks like the two youngsters are simply there to absorb what a professional first team environment looks like, rather than trialing for any third goalkeeper position.
The Nine Stripes played their first of seven preseason matches yesterday, marching to a 4-0 victory over the CF Montreal Academy in a closed door match ahead of two stateside tilts in early March.
Header Image Photo Credit: David Chant