2019 CPL-U Sports Draft Roundup
Following yesterday’s conclusion of the U SPORTS Men’s Soccer Championship, the 2019 CPL-U SPORTS Draft has now been completed. Spread across two rounds with each club having one draft pick in each, there were plenty of young student-athletes eager to get a taste of professional action for the 2020 Canadian Premier League season.
Last year, the inaugural CPL-U SPORTS draft saw thirteen selections produce 15,249 throughout the inaugural Canadian Premier League season, with standouts like Peter Schaale, Easton Ongaro, Joel Waterman, and Christian Oxner proving that professional-caliber talent can certainly be plucked from the U SPORTS level.
This year, the first round of the draft was presented with a partially-bilingual livestream. The opening round went in the opposite order of the cumulative league table, with the caveat that the reigning Canadian Premier league champions would go last.
Here’s how the selections went:
1: Halifax Wanderers – Cory Bent (Cape Breton University)
One of the biggest names on the east coast going into the draft, the fourth year forward – who can also play on the left wing – has registered an impressive 24 goals and 8 assists in 36 appearances for the Capers.
I’ve seen a lot of him over the last few years. He’s very penetrative, both on the left side and the right side. He can even go on top, if necessary, as a nine. He has those qualities, and I like that. I really do like his ability to direct and make things happen.Stephen Hart
The fourth-year student is a product of the Preston North End academy, his local EFL Championship side. Since he came in through the draft, the English attacker won’t occupy an international roster spot for the Halifax Wanderers.
2: Valour FC – Marcus Campanile (Cape Breton University)
Rob Gale and midfield signings: it’s a match, alright. The second overall draft pick has proven his worth as a centre-attacking midfielder, contributing some eighteen goals in forty-five appearances for the Capers – though he can play on the right flank as well.
Born in Edinburgh, Campanile spent time with the Aberdeen youth academy prior to his jump over to overseas. Her first landed in the USA, where visa issues kept him sidelined at the Savannah College of Art and Design. Moving north of the border, he soon found a home with PDL side K-W United.
Prior to his time withe Capers this year, Campanile spent time with the Calgary Foothills, where he registered one goal and two assists in ten appearances for the USL2 side. His signing might be indicative that Gale is ready to shake up his midfield, an area for which he already has several options.
3: Pacific FC – Jan Pirretas Glasmacher (Thompson Rivers University)
The third overall draft pick was also the third international, with Barcelona-born Jan Pirretas Glasmacher offering a tall, sturdy defensive presence for a Pacific FC side which leaked goals throughout the 2019 campaign.
Fans hoping to see a CPL expansion club in Saskatoon may be familiar with him: he participated in the SK Summer Soccer Series earlier this year.
The 21-year-old Wolfpack player has shown great technical ability which has been helped along by a high-profile youth career: he spent time with Bayer Leverkuson and the Blackburn Rovers, which will make him a great, younger alternative to the now-departed Hendrik Starostzik.
4: FC Edmonton – David Chung (University of Alberta)
Eddies coach Jeff Paulus opted to pick up local talent with Chung, who is a product of the FC Edmonton Academy. Chung is an attack-oriented midfielder who is described as having a high ceiling, and has picked up some overseas experience with a few training stints in Spain as well.
Paulus had made it no secret that he was going in to the draft to pick up local talent, so his selection of Chung offered no surprise.
He’s a good footballer. He’s good on the ball. He’s another tall kid with very good feet. I’m delighted to have him.Jeff Paulus
At just 18 years old, Chung is evidently one for the future – though last year Easton Ongaro proved that age is just a number when it comes to what one can do in the burgeoning league.
5: York9 FC – Stefan Karajovanovic (Carleton University)
The 20-year-old striker has been one of the most prolific players to be found at both the U SPORTS level: he scored eight goals in twelve appearances for the Carleton Ravens this season, and also spent time with PLSQ side AS Blainville on the club’s way to a third-straight PLSQ title, too.
He’s a dynamic player, he’s very attack-minded. Great pace on him. Anytime that guy gets a ball, he can be lethal with it. In the beginning of the year, we were lacking goals. I think this is somebody who can come onto the field and put the ball into the back of the net for us.Ryan Brennan
In an earlier talk with Northern Tribune, Karajovanovic stated that he’s hoping to carve out a professional career for himself, and a good way to do so is by earning one’s way into becoming a first round selection in the CPL-U SPORTS Draft.
6: Cavalry FC – Gabriel Bitar (Carleton University)
Bitar becomes the first player to be selected in the draft on two separate occasions: Cavalry FC also picked him up last year, where he made history as the first overall draft pick. He accumulated 209 minutes for the Alberta-based club, making his debut against Pacific FC in the Canadian Championship back in May.
He made two full appearances after his debut (both against Pacific FC, oddly enough), but couldn’t break through the first team barrier before he returned to Carleton University.
He’s somebody we invested in last year, didn’t quite earn enough minutes yet, but we felt that he’s still young, he’s still learning the game, and he’s got things we want to keep working on, so we wanted to see how much he’s changed from when he left us and went back to Carleton, to when he returns. We want to stick with him, and give him another opportunity.Tommy Wheeldon Jr.
Bitar has a stellar track record with the Carleton Ravens: he’s bagged 35 goals in 43 appearances for the U SPORTS side, though with Cavalry FC facing no shortage of goal suppliers in CPL action, he’ll still face an uphill battle to carve out playing time for himself in 2020.
7: Forge FC – Gabriel Balbinotti (University of Quebec Trois Rivieres)
Balbinotti and Forge FC have something big in common: they’ve both lifted a trophy this month.
An impressive U SPORTS Men’s Soccer Championship run saw the 21-year-old forward score a goal in the semi-finals before adding the insurance goal in the championship match as UQTR fought its way to an underdog cup-winning victory.
He’s a player that brings a lot of good quality to the field: not only is he a guy that can put the ball in the back of the net, but he can move in different positions up top, combines very well, he’s got a good frame as well, he can play with holding the ball up, also getting a little bit more vertical towards the goal.Bobby Smyrniotis
A first year student with UQTR, Balbinotti has more experience than one expects at face value: he spent his youth career with the Montreal Impact, then jumped over to now-defunct USL side Ottawa Fury in 2018. This year, he made ten appearances for PLSQ side FC Lanaudiere, scoring six goals through the season.
The six-foot-one forward has also spent time with the Canadian national team at the U-15 and U-23 levels, indicative of a very high ceiling for the youngster.
8: Forge FC – Alex Zis (University of Guelph)
Zis is a versatile 21-year-old midfielder who has been one of the most prolific players in U SPORTS action this season: he recorded an astounding eight goals and eighteen assists in just 15 appearances. At five-foot-seven, he’s not the biggest player on the pitch, but his productive output is indicative that the diminutive midfielder has a lot to offer.
I think he’s been exceptional not only in the university game, but also in summer league play in League1 this year. He had a great season with the University of Guelph, and obviously we have some history with them with Jace Kotsopoulos from last year. I think he’s just an exciting, attacking option.Bobby Smyrniotis
Smyrniotis knows that he has a lot of depth when it comes to attack-minded midfielders, but he and the coaching staff believe that Zis is a player that can come onto the pitch and make a difference.
9: Cavalry FC – Moe El Gandour (Mount Royal University)
Tommy Wheeldon Jr. opted to look close to home for his second round draft pick, selecting 19-year-old forward Moe El Gandour. He spent the summer in the Alberta Major Soccer League with Cavalry FC’s youth team, registering two goals in eight starts.
El Gandour is a versatile player capable of playing as a striker, left winger, or advanced midfielder. In U SPORTS action, he scored seven goals and claimed four assists for Mount Royal University.
10: York9 FC – Isaiah Johnston (Cape Breton University)
17-year-old midfielder Isaiah Johnston may be a teenager, but the Nine Stripes believe he’s ready to take his first steps of professional action. In fact, he even attended the club’s first-ever preseason training camp in Punta Cana earlier this year, though York9 FC gaffer Jim Brennan evidently thought the Milton, Ontario native wasn’t quite ready at that point.
Things, it seems, are different now. Here’s what York9 FC assistant coach Ryan Brennan had to say regarding the youngster:
Great little player, great feet, and good head on his shoulders. Local boy as well, so we brought him in and we think, again, he can do the job for us in the middle of the park.Ryan Brennan
Brennan says that one wouldn’t know Johnston is only 17 if they watched him play, with York9 FC confident that the youngster has a great future in professional sports ahead of him. He also becomes the Nine Stripes’ second domestic U-21 player (assuming both draft picks sign with the club), meaning the York Region club will abide by league roster rules with one more U-21 signing.
11: FC Edmonton – Jacob Bosch (University of Alberta)
Another player with experience with FC Edmonton, Bosch has been with the academy since he was fourteen years old. Now 18, the University of Alberta player can slot in as both a defensive midfielder or deploy himself along the left flank.
We are happy to be able to draft two players who are from Edmonton and that we know very well. Both players came through our academy system and we are very familiar with them. We will be keeping tabs on them throughout the winter, as we head into the preseason camp. We also have the opportunity to integrate them into our U-20 program and start working with them throughout the offseason.Jeff Paulus
Bosch was born in Cape Town, South Africa, but arrived to Edmonton as an infant. He’s been a big part of the local football scene throughout his formative years, winning the nationals with Edmonton Juventus SC in 2016 and representing Team Alberta from 2014 to 2018.
With the Eddies exclusively picking FC Edmonton academy products throughout both years of the drafts, it’ll be interesting to see if this tradition continues as time goes on.
12: Pacific FC – Thomas Gardner (University of British Columbia)
The second repeat-pick from the inaugural draft, Gardner would have spent time with Pacific FC last season if an untimely knee injury hadn’t kept him out of the west coast club’s inaugural season plans.
Gardner had stated before the draft that he wanted to play for Pacific FC, and it was evidently a mutual feeling. Here’s what interim coach James Merriman said regarding the two-time draftee:
He fits the style of play that we want to play, he compliments players that we already have. It’ll be up to him now, how he comes into preseason. He’ll have to fight to get minutes. I think he’s a player that definitely can play in this level and play in this league.James Merriman
If Gardner can stay healthy, the midfielder will finally be able to make his debut at a newly-renovated Westhills Stadium next year.
13: Valour FC – Charlie Waters (Cape Breton University)
One of the top predictions of the draft, Waters has proven to be an explosive player for the Cape Breton Capers. He represented both Manchester United and Liverpool at the academy level, and has fared well in AUS action, too.
His debut season with the Capers in 2017 would see him claim AUS rookie of the year and first-team all-star honours, though he then missed the 2018 season entirely after being sidelined with a torn ACL. In 2019, the explosive forward helped the Capers to a bronze medal finish in U SPORTS action.
Many had assumed that Waters be the top pick of the Halifax Wanderers, with the Blackpool-born striker currently calling Nova Scotia home. All-in-all, this seems like an excellent snipe from Valour FC head coach Rob Gale.
14: Halifax Wanderers – Jake Ruby (Trinity Western)
The versatile 19-year-old full-back from North Vancouver was a surprising pick from Halifax Wanderers, though he comes with good pedigree attached: he’s a product of the Vancouver Whitecaps Residency program, and also spent time with the Victoria Highlanders last season.
[He has the] ability to play both on the right side and the left side. He covers a lot of grass, big engine. He also has some clean, technical qualities, and I think that’s something that we could probably work with. Not to mention, he’s at a good age for that U-21 category.Stephen Hart
For Hart, Ruby is a versatile youngster: he can play on both sides of the flank, and will offer the Wanderers an attacking option from the back. All-in-all, Ruby has jumped between a lot of levels of play this year: he went from USL2 to university action, and now he’s got an opportunity to play at the professional level. It’ll be interesting to see where he lands.
It’s important to note that being selected in the draft doesn’t mean the player has signed a developmental contract with the CPL club that selected them: it’s simply an invitation to train with the club.
There’s a lot to take in from the second-ever CPL-U SPORTS Draft, and it’ll take time to see who really came out on top. Whatever happens, it’s fair to say the draft is the result of an exciting time in Canadian football history, with the next one potentially having even more importance: there could be a few expansion teams seeking out players, too.