TORONTO – Homecoming can mean many things to many people, but for Dylan Carreiro, a return to Winnipeg has him dreaming of pizza.
Specifically, the pizza from Casa Grande on Sargent Avenue, an Italian restaurant that holds a special place in Carreiro’s heart.
It’s been a long time since he’s had the chance to indulge in what he once considered local fair. Eight years ago, Carreiro, then a teenager, moved to Toronto with his parents to pursue a career in soccer and play for the Toronto FC Academy, having turned heads and earned high praise at just 15.
The latest development in his career sees Carreiro return to Winnipeg, having been drafted 2nd overall by Valour FC in the Canadian Premier League’s inaugural CPL-U SPORTS Draft.
Family, Carreiro affirmed, is the biggest benefit of a return home.
But his homecoming will be truly marked by a return visit to Casa Grande, whether with a slice of pizza, or the “amazing” Spaghetti Bolognese.
“When my dad was growing up, he worked at a place called Casa Grande,” Carreiro told CanPL.ca. “It’s a place I really miss and I can’t wait to go there and have a few meals. The biggest thing is the family. Being able to go and just drive to my aunt’s or my uncle’s house, my cousin’s house, just to hang out and create some new memories will be good.”
Unlike many of his peers at the university level, Carreiro comes out of the draft with a bit of a reputation already established. Unsuccessful stops at English outfit Queens Park Rangers and Dundee F.C. in Scotland, as well as a pair of loan spells with Arbroath tell the story of a challenging spell in Europe. A torn ACL and lateral meniscus didn’t help his cause, either.
But a return to Canada with Woodbridge in League1 Ontario and with York University has started something of a revival in Carreiro’s career, enough for Valour FC to call him back to where his career first began, should he earn a contract by impressing in preseason camp.
“I’m honoured that I got to be the first-round draft pick for Valour FC,” Carreiro said.
“My family and I were ecstatic. To have another chance at being a professional and getting an opportunity to play in my hometown is amazing. My family back in Winnipeg is very happy as well. They’re excited to finally watch me play as an adult.
“Winnipeg is where I started loving the sport,” he added. “It was filled with good memories.”
Indeed, Winnipeg is where Carreiro first cut his teeth, playing for clubs like Oriole S.C., FC Northwest, and the World Soccer Academy under Eduardo Badescu, a coach Carreiro credits for his early development, which saw him earn invites to multiple levels of Canada’s youth national teams.
It was with Canada’s Under-20 team that Carreiro first met head coach Rob Gale, who he now reunites with at Valour FC.
“He expects some big things from me,” Carreiro said of Gale, his new club head coach. “Especially as we’ve known each other for a long time. He knows what I can do for him and I know what he wants from me.”
Beyond the on-field work, Carreiro is hoping his return to Winnipeg can see him realize a few other, bigger dreams, whether a call-up to the senior ranks of Canada’s men’s national team, or some sideline ambitions.
“I’ve already spoken to Rob about coaching, because I do that over here in Toronto for Vaughan Soccer Club, and I absolutely love it,” Carreiro said, when asked about his goals with Valour FC.
“I would love to give back to the community since I’ve been away for so long, so I’ll try to be as big a mentor to anyone as I can be going forward in Winnipeg.”
He added: “It’s always an honour to get called up to the national team, so if there’s any opportunity, of course I would love to be back there. I have great memories there … so if this opens doors to another national team call-up, I would be ecstatic.
I think John (Herdman)’s doing a great job bringing in young kids and giving them a chance. It gets exciting for every Canadian who has a little bit of hope to play in a World Cup. If this league is going to expand and players here are going to make a name for themselves – which I think we will – I think it will be a dream come true if one of us gets an opportunity to go to a World Cup.
“For now, I would just like to make a name for myself in this league, come into preseason fit, strong and ready to go, and make sure Rob knows I’m ready to work and perform for him and for the club,” he concluded.