Matthew Arnone is a Canadian professional soccer player for the HFX Wanderers of the Canadian Premier League (CPL). Arnone, a defender, played college ball at York University where he scored the game winning goal in the National Championship game for them. He then played in League 1 Ontario for Vaughan Aruzzi and in the PDL (now USL League 2) for North Carolina FC U23s. The defender recently signed his first professional contract with the Wanderers and has made a huge impact on them in their first season as a club.
The Matthew Arnone Interview
2. You played college ball at York University, what was your experience at York like?
York University for me is where I found myself as a professional. It was an environment filled with professionals, aspiring professionals, and it taught me a standard to hold myself to every day. It was a lot of pressure to be expected to win a gold medal every year or it was a failure, but it made me fearless in my play, and showed me that you cannot take even one training session for granted, as it is an opportunity to get better.
3. What’s college soccer like over in Canada?
College soccer in Canada is not glorified as it is in the USA. There is less scholarship money, the programs are allocated the bare minimum in terms of resources, and the coaches are underpaid. It really has come some way throughout my 5 years but still has a long way to go to be considered a real competitive stepping stone for the CPL.
4. Describe your time with Vaughan Aruzzi of League1 Ontario?
My time with Vaughan was similar to the expectations and training level at Vaughan. We had the same coach, therefore he expected the same things from us. Always reminding us to be at our best regardless of the competition level because he was always pushing us to the next level, and ultimately only wanted what’s best.
5. What are your tips for college soccer players looking to make an impact?
My biggest piece of advice for the aspiring professionals in college would be to not let the level of play you are currently at limit you to improving every day. Do the little things to improve even in areas where you may have success, as at the next level there are higher level opponents, and what separates them is very small details.
6. After your time at York, you went to America to play for the North Carolina u23’s of the PDL (now USL League 2) how was your time there?
My time with NCFC U23 was a very big learning curve for me, as I went there looking to earn a first team contract. I had all the tools to play at that level, but mentally, I put too much pressure on myself, and struggled with consistency. It was a good season for me, unfortunately stained with moments of poor mental strength and therefore that was the small difference between earning a pro contract and not.
7. Do you support pro/rel for Canada/USA?
I do support pro/rel in the USA and in Canada, however I do not support it at this current moment, I do not believe that there is enough stability within the clubs in either country (definitely not in the CPL) that the fans will abandon their club in a moment of relegation. I believe football in North America needs tens of years to build that stability and then perhaps adapt to a European or South American pyramid with pro/rel, but at the current status of soccer here in Canada and in the USA, there are not enough stable markets to do so.
8. In 2017, you went back to Vaughan Azzurri. How was your second stint back at Aruzzi?
My second stint I went in with a different mentality. Prior years it was always about pushing to the next level, this stint was just about enjoying the game and training to be the best i can be.
9. In May 2019, you signed your first professional contract with CPL side HFX Wanderers. How were you feeling after signing your first pro contract?
To be honest, I felt very fulfilled after signing but was not too surprised. I had been acting like a pro years before I actually signed my first pro deal.
10. What has your experience in the CPL been like?
he CPL had been a rumour for so long that my expectations were not too high. However, the CPL has been a pleasant surprise for football in Canada. I’m excited to see where it continues to progress too.
11. Who’s the best player you’ve ever played against?
In a friendly last summer I got the privilege of playing against then serie A club Frosinone calcio. There I got to play against Federico Dionisi, and he was for sure the best player I played against.
12. Craziest story from your career?
Probably the craziest moment of my career would be in 2014 playing in the national championships for York university. I was subbed into the match in the second half of extra time to score the winning goal in the 114th minute. We then went on to win the national title 2 straight years.
13. What are your goals for your post playing career?
I would love to help athletes on the mental side of professional and amateur sports. I think something that has always held me back was not my ability, but my mental strength. After many years of training, I found the mental strength to finally push to the next level and would like to give that knowledge to the next generation of Canadian athletes.
14. Who’s your biggest role model and why?
LeBron James is my biggest role model because he is an athlete that shares the same philosophy on sport. He is obviously much more successful but carries always the same perspective that he is much more than just an athlete, and that we must be the best person we can be, rather than value ourselves based on performance.
15. What’s the biggest misconception about being a professional?
Many people think being a professional requires ability and talent. This for me is the biggest misconception as it requires much more discipline, mental strength, and perseverance than the former.
16. In five words, describe yourself.
The man in the arena (quote from Theodore Roosevelt).
17. Any last words for the readers?
For those aspiring athletes, the best advice is to put your best foot forward each day, improve even 1% on or off the field where you can, and enjoy yourself regardless of your successes and failures, because they do not define you. Lastly, to be a good professional, means to be an even better person.
Interview by Chris Dailey
Huge thanks to Matthew for the great interview! Class player and class person, a true professional.