One of the greatest joys of the Canadian Premier League is in seeing a young player take to the pitch in front of friends and family in his hometown. That's something a handful of York United players experienced for the first time in 2021, including Newmarket, Ontario native Max Ferrari. The 21-year-old burst onto the Canadian soccer scene last year with the Nine Stripes, finding his place in the squad and refusing to let it go for an entire season. Ferrari, in just his second professional season (his first full one after the Island Games of 2020), went on to make a staggering 30 appearances for York with 2,249 minutes played (third on the entire team). Ferrari didn't just break into the lineup, though. He very quickly became one of the most exciting players in the entire CPL, and he was arguably York's most valuable player in a season where they made the playoffs for the first time in club history. Ferrari scored three goals and added four assists, producing some highlight-reel moments with his aggressive, direct style of play on the wing. As a young player, though, 2021 was also an important developmental experience for Ferrari. He moved around the lineup a lot -- from wing to wing, with a handful of matches at left fullback thrown in as well -- and he learned a little about conserving energy over the course of a long season. "I always grew up as a (player) who wasn't very fast," Ferrari told CanPL.ca during preseason. "I was pretty small and I was usually in that centre midfield position. But as I got older, a bit quicker, I now played on the wing, but last year I want to say I played I think 10 or 11 games at fullback. It doesn't matter to me, wherever the coach wants me to play I'll play where it's left-back, right-back, wing." Playing so many high-intensity minutes over a short period of time (from late June to mid-November), especially for a young player who thrives by running non-stop over the course of a match, is sure to empty the tank at some point. Indeed, Ferrari and many of his teammates weren't quite able to fully capture their midseason form by the end of the year, but with the schedule more balanced and spread out over more months in 2022, they're hoping for a lot more consistency this time around. Still, Ferrari's 2021 campaign was a special one nonetheless. For him personally, those first moments playing in front of his local community were when it hit home that he's a professional footballer. "Especially me being a hometown kid; I'm from Newmarket Ontario, so I'm playing for my York Region team, my home team," Ferrari said. "It kind of became surreal when we came back from Winnipeg and I got to play in front of all my friends and family. It just kind of felt real at that point; it was my first time playing in front of fans really, and going every day down the road, training, playing, seeing people -- not even friends and family, but just people I know from the community that I grew up playing in front of, still seeing them at every game as fans -- and then playing in front of the local kids, because I was one of those kids. "Even in the first year of York9, I was in those stands every day as a fan."
RELATED: York United: 2022 Canadian Premier League Season Preview || CanPL 20 in 10: York United head coach Martin Nash
Now, it's his turn to give those local kids something to cheer about at York Lions Stadium. If the players and staff at York United are to be believed, there will indeed be plenty of cheering at that stadium in 2022. With Martin Nash taking over as head coach, the club will have a new tactical identity as they try and push the core of young players -- not just Ferrari, but Lowell Wright, Isaiah Johnston, Diyaeddine Abzi, and so many others -- to take the next step in their development. "From day one Martin's been great to me," Ferrari said of his new gaffer. "Right when we found out he was coaching we got into contact, and just a great guy with the same ambitions as a lot of us. We want to win here and he knows what I can bring as a player. Me being who I am, I like to ask a lot of questions and he's there for me every time I need something." Ferrari says that the goal, of course, is not just to make the playoffs this year, but to contend for the championship, proving York's doubters wrong along the way as they did in 2021. And of course, with team success is sure to come individual triumphs -- Ferrari explains he wants to continue improving on both sides of the ball, and to contribute more on the scoresheet in 2022. Plus, as a young player, a move up the footballing ladder is always a dream. Ferrari has seen what former CPLers like Kadin Chung and Lukas MacNaughton have done this year after moving to Toronto FC (a club Ferrari grew up supporting), which has pushed him even more to strive for excellence. "Since I was a kid, my biggest thing was proving everyone wrong," Ferrari said. "Seeing these guys make it to MLS, doing well in MLS, and even other levels, it gives me that little push to want to be, because for me I want to play at the highest level."
For more CPL season preview content, featuring one of our eight clubs each day leading up to the first match on April 7, check out @CPLsoccer on social media or click here.