TORONTO — Chris Mannella is coming home.
The former Toronto FC homegrown player, who found himself without a club after Ottawa Fury FC ceased operations, has signed with York 9 FC of the Canadian Premier League.
The 25-year-old midfielder spent the last two seasons with Ottawa in the United Soccer League. Mannella, who has won three caps for Canada, made 59 appearances for the Fury.
The move to York 9 brings Mannella back home, with some familiar faces ready to welcome him back.
York 9 coach Jim Brennan coached Mannella at the Toronto FC academy. And Mannella grew up playing with Manuel Aparacio.
"It does feel like a real homecoming to me," said Mannella, York’s first new signing for the 2020 season.
Mannella, who joined the Toronto FC academy at 15, served as Toronto FC 2’s first captain in the USL.
He signed with Toronto FC in September 2014, becoming the 10th player in club history to graduate to the first team from the academy. The senior team eventually declined his contract option in December 2016. Mannella played for Vaughan Azzurri in 2017 in the League 1 Ontario.
"We’re really pleased we were able to get him," Brennan said in a statement. "He’s a great player on both sides of the ball and he’s got a strong pedigree for a young player in Canadian soccer. His distribution abilities will really help us move forward playing the style of football we want to play."
Mannella has nothing but good things to say about his time in Ottawa.
"From my first day, I saw how professionally run it was," he said. "(GM) Julian (de Guzman) and the entire OSEG (Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group) staff had put in place everything they could to make it as professional as they could. And they did just that during my time there.
"Everything from the training ground to the staff to the way training was run was very similar to even my days at TFC. That’s a big statement because obviously TFC has a bigger budget than a team like the Ottawa Fury did."
While Ottawa had had sanctioning issues the previous year, Mannella said he was taken aback when the team shut down. He was in the process of negotiating a new contract when the club announced it was ceasing operations.
"I was happy at Ottawa but then came the opportunity to work with Jimmy and York and I took that and I’m really excited about that," said Mannella, who can also fill in at centre back if needed.