Which player on that list, though, will fans be happiest to have back? In other words, who’s the most important re-signing so far in this young off-season?
Armen Bedakian, Marty Thompson, and Charlie O’Connor-Clarke of CPL Editorial put some thought into this very topic on last week’s Centre Circle LIVE! podcast, but this week they’re joined by John Molinaro as all four make the case for a different player.
Molinaro’s pick: Easton Ongaro, FC Edmonton
With 27 goals, FC Edmonton had the second-worst attack over the course of the 2019 CPL regular season — only HFX Wanderers FC (21 goals) was more anemic in front of goal.
Ten of those 27 goals by the Eddies, or 37 per cent of the team’s offensive output, came directly from one source: Easton Ongaro. And just think, Ongaro didn’t even start a game for Edmonton until the Fall season. He suffered a broken hand in training during the Spring campaign, limiting him to just 95 minutes of playing time. So, just imagine how many he could have scored had he played the entire campaign.
In addition to tallying a team-high 10 goals, which was good enough to finish fourth in the league’s overall scoring race, Ongaro also collected two assists, and expertly used his six-foot-six frame to great effect in bossing opposing defenders inside the penalty area.
Jeff Paulus clearly recognized Ongaro’s importance (especially after letting a handful of players go last month), which is why he signed the 21-year-old native of Edmonton to a contract extension. If Edmonton is going to enjoy a rebirth in 2020. it’ll be on the wings of their goal-scoring prospect who already has set his sights on winning the Golden Boot next season.
Bedakian’s pick: Marco Carducci, Cavalry FC
When the margins are paper thin and you’re looking for a difference-maker, many people love to look straight to the No. 10 hole and see what each team boasts. It’s the natural inclination, and it’s perfectly valid, of course – the player who pulls the attacking strings, scores goals, sets ’em up, dazzles and bamboozles with his feet will command the most attention. But, like I said, when those margins are thin, a No. 10 can only do so much.
Just as important, I’d argue, is the man between the sticks. Truly, the goalkeeper makes a difference between a spectacular shot ruffling the netting, or not. There is no finer example of an individual pulling off the heroic than a goalkeeper making a save – it’s right in the word itself. It’s a “save.” It’s preserving the health and integrity of your team, right from the palms of your hands.
Zator has huge potential, and people are noticing. The Calgarian has every chance to find solid playing time with Canada and at higher levels.
Which brings me to this point: Zator has the greatest chance of being scooped up by a big club in the near future, thus making a pick-up like this so much more valuable – especially if you decide to sell him on.
As for Tommy Wheeldon Jr., the Cavs coach knows what he’s getting: a dedicated centre back who is hungry to right what went wrong in Finals 2019. Zator already was one of the most dedicated players in the league – last season’s result will only heighten it.
Of the players re-signed so far, Garcia was not necessarily the most impactful in 2019. Certainly, Easton Ongaro was a more accomplished attacker. Still, there must be a ton of Wanderers fans sighing in relief to see Garcia’s name on the list of returning players.
HFX has announced five members of the 2019 squad coming back for 2020, and Garcia is certainly the most valuable (with a shout-out going to Christian Oxner, too). After an up-and-down season in Nova Scotia that saw the Wanderers finish in last place, Stephen Hart might be looking to overhaul his roster a little bit. It’s no surprise that the Wanderers have been so quick to add new faces in Omar Kreim and Aboubacar Sissoko.
However, it’s important to reward those who performed well, and there’s probably no one in Halifax who should be rewarded more than Garcia. He led the team with seven goals, and he was seventh in the CPL in shots on target this year. Although he floated around positionally, taking some reps on the wing and a few in the middle of the park, he was HFX’s most dangerous attacking player by a significant margin.
It’s important to have some stability in a squad that’s a work in progress, and having Garcia back at Wanderers Grounds will provide just that.