Cavalry FC made a big splash in the free agency market on Friday, signing out-of-contract midfielder Joe Di Chiara to a multi-year contract.
Di Chiara, a 28-year-old native of Toronto, joins the Cavs as a free agent after spending the previous two CPL seasons with York9 FC.
Cavalry coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. heralded the signing of Di Chiara as a major move, believing the addition of the midfielder can help his team get over the hump and win a CPL Championship.
“He likes winning, which is something we’re not embarrassed to say or to chase… it’s part of professional sports,” Wheeldon Jr. told CanPL.ca. “It’s about developing Canadians but, at the end of the day, we all get judged by how many wins we’ve got, or what we’ve won, and (Di Chiara) wants to do it. He’s in the prime of his years at 28 and he wants to win and he sees his opportunities on coming to us as increasing that.”
The industrious midfielder is coming off a strong campaign at The Island Games in which he led Y9 in scoring with three goals – including a brace in York’s win over 905 Derby rivals Forge FC – in six appearances. The previous year, he tallied only a pair of goals and an assist in 23 CPL games for the Nine Stripes.
Di Chiara distinguished himself with his goal-scoring prowess and overall play, and appeared to be an early candidate for the league’s MVP award before York9 bowed out in the first round in PEI. Despite York’s early exit, Di Chiara was named as a bench player to CanPL.ca’s Island Games Best IX team.
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Di Chiara’s solid form at The Island Games didn’t go unnoticed by Cavalry’s coach.
“When you sign players (from other CPL clubs), it’s easy to do because you scout them when you’re preparing to play against them. … Look at players that can hurt you or prevent you from doing what you want to do,” Wheeldon explained.
He later added: “(Joe) was so competitive, would always give us a tough game, and I’d rather him in our side and against us.”
Last off-season saw a number of high-profile players swap CPL teams, including Marco Bustos (from Valour FC to Pacific FC), Michael Petrasso (Valour to Y9) and Louis Béland-Goyette (Valour to HFX Wanderers FC). This off-season, Chrisnovic N’sa moved from HFX Wanderers to York9, and Manny Aparicio left Y9 to join Pacific.
The Cavs’ signing of Di Chiara has to be considered one the biggest moves thus far of 2020, as the Calgary based club added a valuable piece to an impressive midfield core that already boasts Nik Ledgerwood, Elliot Simmons, Elijah Adekugbe, and Sergio Camargo.
“He’s an incredible box-to-box player, his possession stats are outrageous they’re in the low-90s in terms of pass completion. The way we want our midfield to play, if you look at Adekugbe, Simmons, Camargo, they have high technical output. He can copy Nik Ledgerwood’s midfield general role, too,” Wheeldon Jr. offered.
As a youngster, Di Chiara cut his teeth at Spartacus Soccer Club, one of the top youth clubs in the country that also produced players the calibre of Canadian internationals Derek Cornelius and Daniel Haber, as well as York9’s Chris Mannella.
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Founded by Russian immigrant Yuri Studin, Spartacus helped Di Chiara develop his skills as a young player before arranging a move to Russia for him. Di Chiara ended up signing with PFC Krylia Sovetov Samara in 2011, and he made his Russian Premier League debut that same year.
Di Chiara played a handful of games for Kryliya Sovetov before moving to Hungary, where he suffered through an injury-plagued stint with Kecskemeti TE before returning to Russia with Torpedo Moscow in 2013.
The next few years saw Di Chiara go back and forth between Canada and Eastern Europe – aside from playing for Unionville-Milliken and Vaughan Azzurri in League1 Ontario, he also turned out for FC Okzhetpes in Kazakhstan, and FK Jonava in Lithuania. In 2019, he came home again when he signed with York9 and appeared in 27 games in all competitions (logging just under 2,000 minutes in playing time).
Di Chiara was an unheralded star for a Y9 side that finished third in the overall table last season, his steady and consistent performances in midfield helping him to earn the trust and esteem of coach Jim Brennan. He seamlessly fit into York’s starting 11, and quickly adapted to life in the CPL, unlike other players (both domestic and foreign) who struggled on the pitch during the league’s inaugural season.
With the addition of Di Chiara, Cavalry now has nine players signed for the 2021 season, a list that also includes Marco Carducci, Jose Escalante and Mason Trafford.