Imagine getting your dream job, changing workplaces, moving across the county, discovering new people – the whole thing.
Now, imagine being placed in the same position as 100-odd other people. Maybe you’ve heard of some of these “co-workers” and their abilities … or maybe you haven’t.
Intimidating? Sure. Who knows how you will stack up against these new colleagues of yours. Which among you will ascend to the level you hope for yourself? Hopefully you, but, again, who knows for sure?
For Canadian professional soccer players, this was the reality in early 2019. Entering a new job, a dream job, with 100 or so others just like them in the Canadian Premier League.
It was a chance to showcase their talents and surge ahead in a suddenly-crowded marketplace.
Here are seven Canadians – one from each CPL club – that emerged under the spotlight of the CPL’s opening Spring stanza:
Marco Bustos (Valour FC)
Unlucky not to make the CCL! Spring XI, the way Valour FC’s Marco Bustos has been showing off in his hometown is downright unfair. Playing as close to a “rover” as you can get, the 23-year-old attacking midfielder’s ability to float to and connect with every nook and cranny of the pitch has been impressive. A beautiful opening-minute goal in Hamilton is his only marker this league season, but don’t be fooled: Bustos is in a heck of a season with a currently underperforming group.
Nathan Ingham (York9)
Nathan Ingham is one of the top-performing Canadian goalkeepers playing domestically right now. A CPL-leading 39 saves for Y9’s #29, Ingham’s star shone bright since April 27, when several key stops kept his side in the CPL’s Inaugural Match. Goalkeepers across the league have had breakout campaigns, like Cavalry’s Marco Carducci or FC Edmonton’s Connor James, but none have stood out as much as Y9’s shot-stopper – possibly due to his workload at the back.
Marcus Velado-Tsegaye (FC Edmonton)
Going into the season, Jeff Paulus spoke highly about all of his young players, many of whom came through the team’s previously-established academy system. But one player in particular, he said, would be worth keeping an eye out for: Marcus Velado-Tsegaye. The then 17-year-old, who celebrated his 18th birthday on Canada Day with a goal and another strong showing, has turned heads all Spring for his electric ability and drive toward goal. His yet-to-be-realized potential makes Velado-Tsegaye a long-term prospect worth keeping tabs on.
Nico Pasquotti (Cavalry FC)
Lethbridge’s own Nico Pasquotti has come out of nowhere like a pack of wolves runnin’ over the hill. Cavalry’s pacy, direct, tireless winger unlocked the best CPL defences all Spring, scoring, nearly scoring and assisting over and over again. Pasquotti has risen from PDL talent to coast-to-coast battering ram in a matter of 60-odd days, and turned heads with a long throw-in that added yet another dangerous dimension to his contributions.
Tristan Borges (Forge FC)
You knew Tristan Borges would be on this list, right? No other attacking talent has been as effective as Forge FC’s diminutive wide attacker, scoring four goals and setting up a few more. Coming out of SC Heerenveen and, by extension, the GTA, Borges was the first CPL player to get the “could move on to something bigger” treatment – Europe, perhaps?
Zela Langwa (HFX Wanderers)
Zela Langwa has every chance of making a run at the Canadian men’s national team as a potential left fullback option. “Zoom” has been excellent as an aggressive left-sided defender; 30 tackles are nearly a third more than any other CPL defender completed in the Spring. The 21-year-old has been exceptional as an attacker, too, completing 29 dribbles through his first 10 matches in Stephen Hart’s up-the-wing style. The Ottawa native is a spark to the Wanderers; the final 20-odd minutes of their Canada Day tilt with FC Edmonton proves that.
Matthew Baldisimo (Pacific FC)
Matthew Baldisimo could be one of the most versatile players in the CPL. Pacific FC’s central midfielder started the Spring as a defensive crutch in the middle, then to a more attacking participant and finally, umm, a centreback, as injuries and tactical changes put the former Vancouver Whitecaps Academy prospect in new roles. The thing is, 21-year-old Baldisimo got better and better as the season wore on; a monstrous 455 completed passes, stable defensive work and leadership potential have all been on display from coast to coast.