Gryphons eye big season

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:14 AM ET

Last year, their first in existence, the London Gryphons finished one point out of a playoff spot.

This year, the Gryphons have recruited heavily and widely to keep pace in the competitive world of women's soccer and, said general manager Aldo Caranci, are in line for a "phenomenal season."

They open their W-League season tomorrow in Minnesota. A firm roster won't be set until various players finish their other commitments, but Caranci says this has been a good-news off-season.

"We signed seven internationals. Any player who comes from outside Canada is considered an international," Caranci said. "We signed Guilia Nasuti, an Italian national team player. We just got her clearance to play."

Nasuti played with Reggina in the Italian Serie A and was selected to the national team for UEFA Cup qualifying and made the roster for World Cup qualifying against Norway and Serbia-Montenegro.

Nasuti, a midfielder, will miss the opener, but will join the team June 1.

The Gryphons also recruited heavily in Michigan. They signed Kelley Amormino, who played 22 games for the Michigan State Spartans as a freshman, and Mary Parker, a junior at Detroit Mercy who led her league in goals, points and winning goals.

She will bring along Detroit Mercy teammate and junior Liz Hardy, who finished third on that team in goals and points.

All three will play in the opener in Minnesota.

"There's always recruiting issues. We try and play it smart," Caranci said. "We'd love to have national team players, but when they are called up, they are gone.

"We go down to the states and scout the colleges for players. We go to college showcases. We have very good relationships with college coaches. They know the level we play at. It's the top level of women's soccer."

Last year, the Gryphons finished 8-4-2 and missed the playoffs on the last night of season, but they learned and improved throughout the year.

This year, they've taken the London United Gryphons of the Ontario Women's Soccer Association as part of their system, giving the team not only a place to develop local players, but also add some depth should injuries or other factors come into play.

"Every year, we get better. From what we've seen, it's going to be a phenomenal season," Caranci said.

"We've recruited some firecracker players. It's the highest level of play in North America, no doubt about it. Our division has been around for 10 years. The USL (United Soccer League, the governing league) has been around for 25 years. All the national players from the U.S., England, China, Japan play here."

Travel is always an issue for some players and there is a lot in the W-League. Most of the travel is done by bus, but the Gryphons will fly to Minnesota.

Which leads to the issue of keeping soccer teams financially viable. The Gryphons are owned by 32 Panal Sports Ltd., which has four majority owners and a number of minority shareholders.

Caranci said finances are not an issue and also said to expect an announcement about a new playing facility the Gryphons hope to develop. They currently play at the North London soccer stadium.

"We're going to make an announcement on our own stadium facility within the next couple of months," Caranci said. "Right now, we're going to try and get the season going, concentrate on that and then make the announcement on the stadium later."


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