TORONTO — Valour FC forward Tyler Attardo, 17, is as raw and green as it gets in the Canadian Premier League.
Attardo, the youngest player signed by a CPL club so far, was just a month removed from his 17th birthday during Winnipeg’s Open Trials last October. There, he impressed Valour FC head coach Rob Gale enough to earn a multi-year deal still months away from completing his Grade 12 exams.
His retelling of the Open Trials sounds more like a high schooler learning he landed a featured role in a school play than an attempt to make a professional football team.
“They had who was going on to the next round on the board,” Attardo reflected. “So before they even started calling out numbers, you were there at the board, looking for your number as fast as possible.
“Every time I moved on, it felt amazing.”
A young, pacey striker, Attardo has “ball-pressuring forward” written all over his slender frame. He caught the eye of Gale and several other coaches at the trials, one of which speculated he was the “best finisher” they’d seen during the coast-to-coast talent search.
That skill led him to the final game and a final chance to impress.
“I like to use my speed and strength to my advantage and I think that came across in that match,” Attardo said. “I thought the other players were excellent. The game speed was so fast, everyone was so good, so intense.”
With the CPL’s average age hovering around 23.2 years, CPL coaches — including Valour’s Gale — are putting faith in up-and-coming talent.
“We were excited going into the Winnipeg trials to see how he would perform,” Gale said. “And to his credit, he was the standout player and confirmed the potential that he has.”
Attardo was flattered by the interest shown to him by the former Canadian youth coach, saying he has admired Gale for quite some time.
“I thought he was an excellent coach,” Attardo said. “I looked up to him, and I still do, and I just want to impress him, y’know?
“I hadn’t been coached by him before, but talking to and working with him at the Open Trials and going back and forth afterwards, I know he’s a great coach.
“It’s been a great relationship with Rob so far.”
We have signed forward Tyler Attardo and CPL U-Sports Draft pick Dylan Carreiro to multi-year contracts.
— ValourFC (@ValourFootball) January 28, 2019
Other than the odd game or training session with fellow Valour signings, Attardo hasn’t played with or against any CPL players to his knowledge — making him somewhat of unknown.
“As a striker, I’m hoping that a lot of guys will underestimate me, say ‘Who’s this kid?’,” Attardo said. “That can allow me to catch them off guard.
“Things like this or the age gap get me hyper to play, if anything.”
As for this spring, Attardo is staring down a hectic schedule. When he’s not training or playing, he’ll be finishing his final year of high school; a busy, seven-day-a-week schedule.
On the pitch, Attardo is just as eager to learn from a potential mentor in Gale and a whole swath of veterans at Valour FC training camp.
“Come preseason I know I’m gonna have to prove myself to the guys,” Attardo added.
“I’d like to work on my touch, getting used to the speed of play. I’m really excited to get into that level of training so I can improve.
“I know I’m young, but I need to prove to Rob why I should be starting.”