VANCOUVER, BC – With the 2022 Canadian Premier League – U SPORTS draft set for Thursday, Jan. 20, the chance for many U SPORTS soccer players to realize their dreams of playing professionally is upon us again. What has rapidly become a player development pipeline looks to continue bringing top Canadian talents into the CPL.
There’s plenty of names in the prospect list that stand out, but here are some Canada West players that would fit well at each CPL club.
Atletico Ottawa – Adam Huskic
The club in the capital had a rough 2021 season. Finishing dead last in the table, there’s a lot of holes to address with the side. They scored the second-least with 30 goals on the season and also conceded the most, a staggering 47 goals against.
Finishing last means that Atletico will have the first and ninth overall picks in the draft. One player that they should be taking a hard look at is Calgary Dinos centre back Adam Huskic. The 6’2 Bosnian is a hard-nosed, tough defender that hates conceding goals against. Strong in the air, Huskic is also very mobile and possesses good awareness in his own half.
2021 was a good season for Huskic and the Dinos. The defender earned himself a Canada West first team all star selection and was integral in the backline that claimed the silver medal in the playoffs. He’s started every single game that he’s played in since 2018.
If Ottawa is looking for a player to shore up their defensive woes, Huskic would be a very good fit as a young centre back with plenty of ability. There’s a lot to like about his game and the stability he provides to a team.
FC Edmonton – Mohamed El Gandour
It’s a rocky time to be a supporter of the Eddies. From ownership turmoil to poor performances on the pitch, it was a perfect storm that saw Edmonton spiral to second-last in the league. It’s a team that is in need of a jolt, some sort of spark to break them out of their slump.
FC Edmonton heads into the draft holding the second and tenth selections. For a team that has struggled to set itself apart defensively or offensively, they should be looking for a game-breaking talent. One just happens to ply his trade a couple hours south on Highway 2.
Forward Mohamed El Gandour would fit FCE very nicely. The third-year Mount Royal Cougar has been absolute dynamite in Canada West, scoring 9 times in 12 appearances and earning himself CanWest first-team all star honours. This is the second season in a row that El Gandour has scored 9 goals as well, posting the tally in 15 games during the 2019 season. His Cougars have earned two bronze medals during that span.
It’s not his first rodeo in the CPL draft either. El Gandour was previously selected in the 2nd round by Cavalry FC, back in 2019. Only 19 at the time of selection, he’s taken the time to develop his game further. Nimble and agile, not only does El Gandour have the technique, but he also possesses a knack for getting himself into perfect positions to score.
If FC Edmonton want a player in the draft that can score goals in bunches, they don’t have to look any further than Mohamed El Gandour. He would be an instant dose of offense that the side clearly needs.
HFX Wanderers FC – Kensho Ando
For the easternmost club in the CPL, their struggles came in the form of putting the ball in the net. HFX Wanderers missed out on the playoffs by just one point last year and could use some more offensive punch, scoring the least across the entire campaign.
That’s where UNBC Timberwolves midfielder Kensho Ando could be of help. An energetic presence in the middle of the pitch, Ando has a penchant for picking out the right pass. It shows in the stats as well, having led Canada West in assists.
The Tokyo native should help add that creative element that seems to be missing from the Wanderers. If the options aren’t available for him to pass to, he has the technique to take it himself and the patience to wait for an opening. Ando is responsible defensively and should aid in the strong team defense that HFX boasts.
He might not be the one scoring the goals for the Wanderers, but Ando would be a tremendous help in generating offense. His vision and playmaking should be a boon to give the forwards proper service in the box. HFX currently sits with the 3rd and 11th selections.
Valour FC – Tristan Torresan
Valour started their 2021 season on fire, surging in the Kickoff bubble with six wins in seven games. Unfortunately for the Winnipeg side, they slumped throughout the rest of the year and found themselves on the outside looking in. It wasn’t a lack of quality though: Valour has many key pieces that are very good. Strong in net with Jonathan Sirois, and good options up front with William Akio and Moses Dyer.
It’s a team that should look to build up a creative midfield to supplement their scorers. One player they should take a look at is Trinity Western Spartan Tristan Torresan. The midfielder might only be in his second year of eligibility, but has rapidly emerged as a playmaking piece for his team. Appearing in 12 contests, Torresan finished a joint third in assists in Canada West. He’s also got a pretty good left foot.
Torresan would be a pick geared for perhaps a year down the line. He still needs some more game time to develop, something that he is sure to get a lot of in an always competitive Canada West. The talent is undeniable, having been selected to the CanWest all star second team this past year.
For a team looking to shore up and finally challenge in the playoffs, Torresan would be a good fit in the Valour side, someone who can marinate in U SPORTS and contribute in the middle of the pitch.
York United – Tristan Nkoghe
The battle for the fourth spot in the CPL saw York United squeak into the playoffs, finishing one point ahead of Valour FC and HFX Wanderers FC. It was a surprise for most after what appeared to be rebuilding moves made in the offseason. Shedding their old name also came with lots of roster turnover and their results this year seemed to peg them ahead of schedule.
There are quite a few holes in the roster to fill however. There was clear separation between the top three teams and themselves, so for York United to contend they’ll need a better team than the one they have now. Luckily for them, there’s a striker who could help them bang home a couple more goals.
Tristan Nkoghe transferred from the University of New Brunswick to the UBC Thunderbirds for this past Canada West season. The forward’s presence up front was of great aid to the Canada West champions and Nkoghe soon became the main man up top. With physicality and pace, he possessed great aerial ability, heading in many a goal this season. He finished 5th in CanWest scoring, potting 7 goals to lead the Thunderbirds.
Nkoghe up front should provide for a more threatening offensive attack, something that York was lacking this past year. It never hurts to score more goals and for United, they’ll need to keep up with the rest of the league when it comes to goal output if they are to take the step to become true contenders.
Cavalry FC – Markus Kaiser
There hasn’t been a team stronger and more consistent in the regular season than Cavalry FC. The key words being regular season. Unfortunately for the Calgary team, they’ve been the also-rans in every season of the CPL thus far. Finishing second in the table but falling in the semifinals means that they will pick 6th and 14th in this year’s draft.
Tommy Wheeldon Jr’s team stuck to a grinding, counter attacking style, one that wore opponents down and striking whenever they had the opportunity. For such a playstyle to work, Cavalry needs a good passing midfield to transition defense to attack. Here is where Markus Kaiser could be a good fit.
If the name sounds familiar to Cavalry fans, that’s because Markus is the younger brother of defender Daniel Kaiser, currently signed to a U SPORTS development deal after a camp invite. Markus just finished his first season with the UBC Thunderbirds, a year where they claimed the Canada West crown and bowed out disappointingly in the national tournament.
Kaiser has shown himself to be a player with good vision, laying on the third most assists in CanWest. Defensively responsible, he should fit very well into Cavalry’s system where he could add some more offensive potential. Kaiser is pacy and sees the pitch well, allowing him to pick out passes or take it himself.
He’s just a first year as well, which could allow Cavalry to stash him with a development deal. Like his teammate Chris Lee, Kaiser could realistically audition for a role in Calgary before returning to UBC for more gametime. Regardless, the midfielder would be an excellent fit for Cavalry’s style of play.
Forge FC – Ali Yildiz
What is there to really say about Forge FC? Three finals, two championships, playing in the CONCACAF Champions League. It’s an atmosphere that breeds and demands success. This past season marks the first year that they have not won the league title, which is sure to spur more hunger among the squad. They’ve made moves to address their title ambitions too, poaching Terran Campbell and Alessandro Hojabrpour to collect more talent in the team.
For them, an instant contributor is what is demanded for the squad. Realistically, they won’t find too many of those with the 7th and 15th picks. That’s why defensive midfielder Ali Yildiz would be the best pick for the Hammers. The youngest player eligible for the draft, Yildiz just finished his first season of Canada West, playing for the MacEwan Griffins.
Though he might only be 18 years of age, Yildiz plays with a maturity in his game. Calm and composed, he’s already established himself as a key figure in the Griffins’ team and seems poised to continue that. Yildiz scored once and assisted twice, starting all but one match. He’s also an academy product of FC Edmonton, having been selected to a couple of matchday squads but not making an appearance for the Eddies.
It’s a draft pick that’s geared towards the future. Forge isn’t desperately trying to fill any gaps, and taking Yildiz will allow them to have a promising young player in the system that will be given plenty of time to trend further upwards.
Pacific FC – Victory Shumbusho
League champions. Pacific FC have had an incredible 2021, from defeating the Vancouver Whitecaps to a run to the title. For a large period of the season, the Tridents were unstoppable, leading the league until the final few matchdays. Unfortunately for them, the offseason has seen many departures, key contributors and depth moving away to other sides.
Having the last pick in both rounds doesn’t sound ideal for any team, but if one team could develop a gem, it’s Pacific. One player that they could take a flier on is one they selected back in 2021: Victory Shumbusho.
Pa-Modou Kah hasn’t been shy with selecting players from UBC, and Shumbusho represents someone familiar to their scouting team. He wasn’t able to join the team’s training camp due to injury, and has struggled with fitness this past year. However, Shumbusho might be the most pro-ready player in all of Canada West.
There isn’t a more natural striker than him, someone who is physical and pacy, slipping in behind the defense and belting goals in the bunches. It wasn’t so long ago that Shumbusho was named All-Canadian, potting 11 goals in 20 matches enroute to another Canada West crown. Though he might have spent loads of time on the sidelines, Shumbusho undoubtedly kept honing his craft to come back stronger.
It’s a pick that represents both familiarity and good depth for Pacific. Shumbusho has the talent and ability to play in the CPL, and could help in replacing Terran Campbell’s impact up front. A striker’s class never goes away, as they say.