Vancouver, BC- One day into the 2020 Canadian Premier League, and there’s already been a goal from a U SPORTS alum. Cavalry’s Dominick Zator opened up the tournament with his headed goal in the opening match, but he’s from Canada West, and today, we are focusing on the U SPORTS alumni from the OUA.
Cavalry FC: Robert Boskovic, but NOT Gabriel Bitar
CB: Robert Boskovic (Ryerson Rams)
Cavalry FC did not pick Robert Boskovic, but secured him on loan from Toronto FC. The defender played with the Ryerson Rams in 2016 and had two goals in 26 games from the centre of defense.
Boskovic is no pro rookie, with USL and NASL experience, but this will be his first season in the Canadian top-flight. He did not feature in the opening draw against Hamilton, and the former Ram will be hard-pressed to dethrone fellow U SPORTS alum Dominick Zator at the heart of the Cavalry backline.
F: NOT Gabriel Bitar (Carleton Ravens)
The Calgary club selected Carleton University’s Gabriel Bitar first overall i the inaugural U SPORTS CanPL draft. They had him on the roster last season, and he barely played on the deep Cavalry squad.
Fast forward a year, Bitar went on another U SPORTS title run as a senior with Carleton, and was picked again by Cavalry. However, this year, he’s not with the team. While there’s not too much to read into, it is very intriguing that the team went for the same player twice and exclude him from the roster.
Pacific FC: CB Lukas MacNaughton (Toronto Varsity Blues)
Returning for his second season representing Canada’s western-most professional team, Lukas MacNaughton is ready to take on the CPL once again. The former University of Toronto defender elevated his game to a pro level in 2019, and played nearly half of Pacific’s games, scoring twice throughout.
A multi-time OUA All-Star and U SPORTS first team all-star, MacNaughton played five years with the Varsity Blues before moving onto the CPL, which popped up at the best time. Until recently, coaching has been a very consistent aspect of his career, however, for the third year in a row, he’ll be playing under new leadership. In Ontario League One and OUA, he mainly played under UEFA licensed coach Ilya Orlov, but at PFC, he’s already experienced Michael Silberbaur, James Merriman and soon to be Pah-Modou Kah. Although the coaching carousel has gone on around him, he is a young, smart centre back who will be able to adjust to new systems.
The 6’1” defender is strong, but his best quality is his head. Nearly every game, he won headers inside his own penalty area, and his communication with whoever is in net has been second to none. You can see a lot of these examples in the highlight reel below.
York9 FC: CB Matthew Arnone (York Lions)
In 2019, York9 FC was packed with former York University players and coaches. This year, it’s only Matthew Arnone. The biggest OUA departure of the off-season was assistant coach Carmine Isaaco, who alongside coaching the men’s and women’s OUA teams, held the CPL responsibility. For the experienced manager, the move makes sense, but his eye for the game is a certain loss for Y9.
Arnone isn’t a CPL rookie, having played 24 CPL games for Halifax in 2019. Coming “home” to York was a big move for him and the club, re-stabilizing the defense after an average season and many departures.
An advantage for Arnone coming into The Island Games is the experience he has from the U SPORTS National Championships. Although that was in 2014, few players at this level have played a condensed tournament like the bubble offers, and the U SPORTS tournament is as condensed as they come with matches over four days.