Boskovic Chats CPL, Bold Ambitions, And More
A few weeks ago, Toronto FC II defender Robert Boskovic got a call from his agent telling him that Cavalry FC was interested in loaning him for the season. Stewing over the news, the 21-year-old centre-back reacted positively: having watched the Canadian Premier League throughout its inaugural campaign, he says he knew all eyes would be on the side that won the regular season, which therefore made the Calgary-based club the best place for him prove his worth.
A few days ago, the move became official: Toronto FC II re-signed Robert Boskovic to a new contract and immediately confirmed a season-long loan move to Cavalry FC.
The spring and fall season champions heralded the new arrival as a young, technical centre-back, but Boskovic – who has already made over sixty appearances in his professional career – was quick to point out that there are other aspects to his game, too:
Definitely a technical centre-back is what most people see in me, but I definitely feel like I have a good physical side to myself. I feel like the art of defending is almost lost, so being able to read players, making interceptions, slide tackling, I can bring that decisive action to that area of the field which I feel is under-appreciated in my games.Robert Boskovic
With Joel Waterman having transferred to the Montreal Impact and defenders Dean Northover and Chris Serban uncertain to re-sign for 2020, Boskovic is currently the sole new defensive addition to the side – though full-back Mo Farsi is expected to be announced soon, having reportedly beaten out former York9 FC man Steven Furlano to a contract.
While the Cavalry FC preseason training camp is now suspended due to COVID-19 concerns, the youngster still got in a few training sessions with the club ahead of the closure. At Cavalry, he’s expected to slot into a left-sided centre-back role along players with ample familiarity with one another, like Mason Trafford, Nathan Mavila, Dominick Zator, and Jay Wheeldon. Despite being the new man in, the 21-year-old says he was made to feel welcome from the first minute:
Sometimes, coming into a new team or a new environment can be unsettling, but just from day one you can see that the core group of guys they got here are very experienced, real professionals, and they make it very comfortable for me to be the person who I am and express myself on the field how I have to, it’s definitely been great from those guys especially.Robert Boskovic
Boskovic spent last season on loan with now-defunct USL side Ottawa Fury, arriving late in the squad’s preseason camp. Twenty games into the season, the youngster had only accumulated two appearances of a minute each, prompting former York9 FC head coach Carmine Isacco to declare that the CPL was a much better place for young Canadians to develop than with the Fury, especially given the league’s requirement that each club must have three domestic U-21 players who rack up 1,000 cumulative minutes of game time.
Boskovic did get his chance to play late in the season by virtue of some injuries, and he made it count: he played in seven of the club’s next nine matches, all but one of them as a starter. He describes last year as a learning experience, saying he picked up a lot about the professional life and overcoming difficult situations during the Fury’s final season:
There were some growing pains, getting used to the new coach, and I also came in late to the preseason which also hindered things as well, but just having those guys in the locker room – a lot of older guys who have played in the league for probably eight-plus years, just talking every day and learning their stories about the grind, and how every situation… sometimes it isn’t the best at the time, but they keep growing to become bigger. That’s kind of what happened to me in Ottawa, you know? I wasn’t playing in the first half of the season, but some injuries and illnesses came and I had a shot, and I earned my place for a good amount of games.Robert Boskovic
Last season, Boskovic was actually slotted into the starting lineup to play against his parent club Toronto FC in the Canadian Championship, but the MLS side nixed the idea a day before the first leg was due to play out at TD Place. Boskovic says he understood the decision, though he was eager to show his parent club that he could play against whatever lineup they put out on the road to the Voyageurs Cup, which Montreal eventually won at BMO Field.
Should Cavalry FC make it to the final against Toronto FC this year, one would imagine he won’t be able to feature against the MLS side there, either.
Having not been shy to play against them, Boskovic isn’t afraid of disclosing his ambitions, either: like former Toronto FC man Ryan Telfer, he wants to become a standout player at the Canadian Premier League level and prove that he can stack up against MLS opposition.
I think for me, it’s just to be able to have a good season, be a stand-out player, and get some good minutes. Hopefully, I’d like to crack the first team with Toronto FC. I feel like I could be up to that standard if I really put myself out there.Robert Boskovic
As it turns out, the Canadian Premier League has established itself as a good league to do just that: Boskovic was watching as Telfer made history last season, scoring the league’s first-ever goal just three minutes into the inaugural match at Tim Horton’s Field, with the player being closely watched by TFC head coach Greg Vanney as he continued to impress.
As the season went on and players like Samuel Piette echoed positive reactions to the league’s quality of play, Boskovic’s own opinion on the league solidified over time, too:
It was definitely an amazing experience to watch that first game, and then especially throughout the season seeing how competitive the play was, how the standard was, how the teams conducted themselves off and on the field. It definitely showed me that this could be a place where I could grow as a player and continue my career if I wanted to.Robert Boskovic
Boskovic’s career ambitions aren’t just at the club level, either: he had been named to the Men’s Olympic Qualifying preliminary roster ahead of the competition’s postponement, saying that it’d be a dream-come-true to represent his country. For now, much like preseason camp, those thoughts are on hold – but he believes once the CPL resumes, it’ll be a good proving ground for young Canadians likes himself and Impact loanee James Pantemis.
As a result, he expects MLS-to-CPL loans involving young Canadians will become even more of a regular occurrence, especially if the league keeps expanding and there are more roster spots that need filling.
I feel like as long as the CPL keeps growing as it does and gaining more recognition, I feel like MLS clubs will start to respect it even more just like the USL, and we’ll probably get more clubs signing players there, too. I think it’s a good sign, and good steps to take to get that going, you know?
With Canada Soccer having suspended all sanctioned soccer activities for the time being, the development of Boskovic – along with all professional athletes in Canada – has been put on hold as the COVID-19 pandemic puts a stop on the usual activities of fans and athletes around the globe.
While it remains to be seen if the 21-year-old will be making his Cavalry FC debut on April 11, one thing is certain: when Boskovic does get to play, he’s hungry to prove he can be a standout defender in the domestic league who not only ticks all the boxes for Tommy Wheeldon Jr., but hopefully catches the eye of Toronto FC head coach Greg Vanney, too.