Eddies Bring In CPL-U SPORTS Draft Familiar Thomas Gardner
FC Edmonton has inked three-time U SPORTS Draft pick Thomas Gardner to a U SPORTS development contract.
The move allows Gardner to retain his U SPORTS eligibility when he returns to school in the fall. With the 2021 Canadian Premier League season start date set for the Victoria Day Long Weekend, that means he’ll only have a few brief summer months to test himself at the CPL level.
The 22-year-old midfielder had been selected by Pacific FC in the 2018 and 2019 versions of the draft, but was never ultimately offered a roster spot with the west coast side during those years.
The North Vancouver athlete had signed with the Whitecaps 2 some five years ago, where he met current Eddies gaffer Alan Koch during a portion of his three seasons there. He then opted to pursue a college education with the University of British Columbia while simultaneously playing for the TSS Rovers.
While the 2020 U SPORTS season was curtailed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gardner had contributed five goals and four assists in his sixteen UBC appearances in 2019. Now entering his third year with UBC, he’ll be hoping to earn some minutes in Canada’s top flight domestic league prior to resuming his duties with the Thunderbirds in the fall, assuming U SPORTS action is safe to resume.
The Alberta-based side had selected Gardner as the first overall draft pick in January, with the 22-year-old now becoming the club’s twentieth of twenty-three allowed roster selections. It remains to be seen if the club’s second draft pick, one-time Canadian international Jackson Farmer, will earn a development contract with the side this year.
Last season saw FC Edmonton finish winless and at the bottom of the league table at The Island Games, with new Eddies boss Alan Koch having brought in nine new signings ahead of the upcoming season – with former CF Montreal midfielder Shamit Shome headlining the bunch.
The bulk of Koch’s signings are domestic athletes, with internationals Tobias Warschewski and Sharly Mabussi representing the only foreign talent to have been signed by the Eddies thus far in the offseason.
Gardner has signed a U SPORTS Development contract with the side for the upcoming campaign, which runs outside the league’s salary cap minimum with an estimated average wage of $10,000-$12,000.