The Canadian Premier League is built on the promise of building the future of soccer in Canada. THE NEXT GEN celebrates this promise by showcasing and honouring the best young Canadian soccer talent from coast to coast in the Canadian Premier League.
Welcome the NEXT GEN CLASS OF 2020, an eight-part video series celebrating the best young Canadian talent on display during the Canadian Premier League 2020 season. These incredible young players’ performances demonstrated their talent and grit at the Island Games in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island and are proof that professional soccer is now attainable in Canada.
The Island Games have long come and gone, but York9 FC rookie Lowell Wright appears poised for long-term success, such was the impact he made during the 2020 CPL season.
This past year was one to remember for the teenager from Brampton, Ont., and it began before he touched down in PEI.
After previously spending time with the TFC Academy, Sigma FC, and Woodbridge Strikers in League1 Ontario, the young forward signed his first professional contract back in July when he put pen to paper on a deal with York9 FC. Only 16 at the time, Wright inked a four-year deal with the Nine Stripes, which was one of longest player contracts ever signed by the Canadian Premier League team.
Why did Y9 have so much confidence in an unproven teenager?
“We really believe in Lowell and are investing in him,” York9 managing consultant Angus McNab simply said at the time.
Thus far, it’s proven to be a wise move, such that York9 saw an immediate return on their investment in their opening match at The Island Games. Down 2-0 to Atlético Ottawa early in the second half, Y9 needed a spark to breathe new life into their limp attack. Coach Jim Brennan made a double substitution by bringing on Wright and fellow youngster Max Ferrari in the 53rd minute.
A mere seven minutes later, Ferrari went on a lung-busting run down the right flank, expertly skipping past one Ottawa defender along the way, before bursting into the box and squaring a pass for Wright to slot home.
Despite the lack of game experience with Ferrari, Wright knew exactly what his teammate was thinking on the play.
“I know Max loves to run at defenders even in training, so when I saw that one-v-one, I had a feeling,” Wright recalled about his first professional goal.
“I knew if he cut in he’d have a chance for a shot. When he ran forward, so did I.”
York added a second goal moments later and went on to earn a come-from-behind 2-2 draw with Atlético, an amazing result that came about in large part due to Wright.
In finding the back of the net, Wright (at age 16 years, 11 months, and 26 days) became the youngest scorer in league history, besting 17-year-old Tyler Attardo’s record for Valour FC during the 2019 CPL season.
“It’s a bit strange, with the circumstances, but still fantastic,” Wright told CanPL.ca after the game from his hotel room in Charlottetown, adding he was just sorting through messages from friends and family back in the Greater Toronto Area.
“Oh man, so many messages. Haven’t had a chance to go through them, taking a bit of time.”
York9 disappointingly bowed out of The Island Games after the first round, missing out on a top-four finish by one point. But there were some bright spots for The Nine Stripes in PEI, most notably that Brennan had such great faith in his youngsters, including Wright, who finished the season with one goal in 1289 minutes of playing time spread over four appearances.
“It feels good to know, at a stage like that, Jimmy trusts us. To know we’re an important part of the team,” Wright said.
“It’s great to come out and score like that… but it doesn’t feel out of the ordinary. Jimmy tells us to never feel afraid. We’re young but there’s a reason we’re here.”