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Canadian Connection: Meet 3 Villa Defenders That Hail from Ontario

By Jon Sicotte, 06/05/24, 12:30PM HST


Growing up in the greater Toronto area, Toledo Villa assistant coach Matty Brown wanted to help as many fellow Canadian-born players as he could and this year it means finding three talented players from his home country to join the roster.

Jaiden Ramsay-Kelly, Francis Kwashie, and Sosa Emovon are all Canadian defenders that are a part of the squad this season and Brown is happy to be able to bring players from not just all over the world, but from just across Lake Erie as well.

"The hope is to have as many of those guys as we can and to bring them here," Brown said. "Because, for me, I understand the difficulty as a Canadian guy trying to make it in the US. It's tough. And so any opportunity I can give to guys back home to come and showcase their stuff across the border and help I'll do."

Brown reached out to Ramsay-Kelly earlier this year and told him that he thought TVFC could be a great destination for the defender to play this summer. 

"The club is closer to my hometown in Canada (Brampton) and it is a good place for me to prepare ahead of my last collegiate season," said Ramsay-Kelly, who played at the University of South Carolina and is transferring to Houston Christian this coming season. "I want to make a run in the playoffs with this squad and develop my game in many areas;  mainly endurance and technical consistency."

Brown noted that Ramsey-Kelly's ceiling is high.

"It's been a while since I've had the pleasure to watch him in person," he said. Brown played with "JK's" older brother and has known him for a while. "He's long, he's athletic, he's smart, he's calm, he's composed. 

"He has all the tools that it takes to be a pretty high-level player, I think he just has to go and grab it. He started his career at Oakland, did well, then he went off to South Carolina, played well but battled injuries, and now he's going to finish up his college career at Houston Christian, so everything's in front of him to go in, and try and make and play at the next level."

Sosa Emovon played for Brown three years ago while a part of Livonia FC. 

"He's a great coach who helped me a lot in trying to get some opportunities for myself," Sosa, a defender who played at UCONN and the University of Michigan. Before this season, Sosa was on trial with Chattanooga FC In MLS Next Pro. 

"I reached out to him and said, they want me to get a little bit more looks in USL2," Emovon said. "I had two options: Fort Wayne or Toledo Villa. I found out he was actually the coach here and that is really what drove me closer being that I have some ex-teammates from Vardar Academy here and then a coach who coached me. It's just a family-oriented environment. It was lovely. So that's what brought me here."

Brown said that Sosa knows what it takes to make it to the next level of soccer in the professional realm. And this season with Villa is about making him flexible in roles outside of defending.

"I think it's different from what we're asking of him here and very different from what he's been asked at other places," Brown said. "But, for any guy that wants to make it, they must be willing to adapt and adjust. It's not about where you think you play. It's about where the coaches want to play you. If you're a center mid and he asks you to play right back, then you have to go and do the job of right back.

"Sosa is just now understanding those things. He's professional in his approach. He works hard, he trains hard. He understands what he needs to do to make it happen. And so now it's just about ensuring that he makes the most of it."

This is Kwashie's second stint with Villa, playing here in 2021.

"MJ (coach Matt Johnson) was the head coach and he honestly was so welcoming, so calm, so loving, and made me feel really at home," Kwashie said, who played for Lansing City FC last year and is from Toronto. "So when they reached out again, I was very willing to jump on board."

Brown recruited Kwashie while he was a coach at Spring Arbor University.

"Francis has grown tremendously from what I've seen in him," Brown said, who coached him as a freshman at SAU. "Francis, he's a bully. He's strong and kind of no-nonsense, but he also has good feet. Most guys that are center-backs, you just expect to be bullies but you're not really expecting for them to try and pick up passes. He can do both. It's hard to get past him and he's gonna make it difficult. He's gonna fight and battle and on the other side, he can find passes, and help create. He's also another guy that, I think, if he works hard enough, and takes opportunities that are given to him, anything can happen."

Brown said he likes to give opportunities when he thinks a player from Canada is at the level and good enough to make an impact. But it's up to them to make the most of it while playing in Toledo.

"It's never a problem to help guys get their foot in the door, and then the rest is up to them," he said.

Get to know: Sosa Emovon

Q: Who have been your biggest mentors on or off the pitch?

Emovon: One of my coaches from my last team in Canada for FC London, Coach Conor Walsh. He was a big mentor for me and really helped me navigate through the season last year. You are playing a long season of 24-25 games, it gets really rough, mentally and physically on the body. He was the one that really kept me in check. It really helped me along the way. So shout out to him.

Q: Can you explain some of the biggest differences between training each week in college and training during the week for Toledo Villa?

Emovon: Being that I've already graduated and coming here and being in an environment like this with a lot of good players, great training, and just keeping that momentum going is really helpful being that a lot of the boys here — especially me too — have aspirations to be pro after this. So just getting us in that pro environment beforehand is just lovely. Once you get to that level, you're not ways behind and stuff like that.

Get to know: Francis Kwashie

Q: What are your plans for soccer after TVFC?

Kwashie: I have one more semester of school, and one more year of eligibility, so I'll try and play as well as I can to get some accolades and go to nationals with my team. And hopefully, play professionally after that.

Q: Do you have any pre-game rituals or superstitions?

Kwashie: I'm a Christian, so before every game, I like to read the Bible, usually Psalm 23. Or I do the Lord's Prayer, and I kind of just make sure that my mentality is correct. I'm not being selfish. I'm not trying to think about myself. I'm trying to serve my teammates as best I can, but I'm trying to give all the glory to God and just be the best teammate that I can be.

Get to know: Jaiden Ramsay-Kelly

Q: Describe what kind of player you are and who helped you find the way you like to play?

Ramsay-Kelly: I'd describe myself as a tenacious but composed player who knows how to adjust to various circumstances. On top of my above-average athletic ability, I'm hard-working, very disciplined, and technically sound. My dad helped me find the way I like to play as he coached me for most of my life, but growing up I loved the way Pep Guardiola's teams played, so that had a strong influence as well.

Q: Go-to track to listen to that helps you get pumped up for a match?

Ramsay-Kelly: It changes frequently, but right now I'd say Outro by G

Story Photo Credit: Bree Bee