Simcoe County Rovers Add Former Cuban Internationals Benitez And Portal
The Simcoe County Rovers roster rebuild is off to a strong start with the additions of Orlendis Benitez and Alejandro Portal, two former Cuban national team members who also have professional playing experience in the Canadian Premier League.
The duo were two of the five Cuban national team members who defected to Canada following a 2019 Gold Cup match played in Toronto.
They also played together with League1 Ontario side Vaughan Azzurri following that, where last year they helped the club complete an invincible, title-winning campaign.
Cuban international Alejandro Portal also made eleven appearances for the Halifax Wanderers after arriving as a fall-time reinforcement in 2021, featuring primarily as a right-back but putting in a few shifts on the left, too.
That’s where the Rovers might be needing a fill-in for Kahlil-John Wentworth, who signed a professional deal with Vancouver FC after impressing in Barrie last year.
Portal had spent five years in the Cuban top flight before he defected from the country following an away match in Canada, with the 27-year-old earning his permanent residency here. He had made six appearances for the Cuban national team prior to defecting.
Midfielder Orlendis Benitez was also one of the Cuban national team members to defect following that Gold Cup match in 2019. Like Portal and Valour full-back Andy Baquero, he found his footing with the Vaughan Azzurri before testing himself at the CPL level, making three appearances for Forge FC last year.
Benitez contributed a healthy return of six goals in 18 appearances during Vaughan’s title-winning campaign last year, scoring against the Rovers at their last meeting.
The Rovers have some replacing to do after several of their inaugural squad earned professional moves following the club’s first season, with Leaford Allen, Aodhan O’Hara, and Kahlil-John Wentworth all earning pro deals elsewhere, while captain Justin Earle also earned preseason trials in the CPL while Shawn-Claud Lawson is trialing in the USL Championship.
The Barrie-based League1 Ontario side has confirmed a number of core returning players after cracking playoffs in the club’s first year, with Shawn-Claud Lawson, Justin Yard, Ryley Wishart, Ryan Collins, and Justin Earle all named as returning players barring any moves to professional heights.