The Next Gen (presented by Jones DesLauriers | Navacord): Edmonton product Darlington Murasiranwa

When a player makes a mistake, the best thing they can do is pick themselves up and learn from it.

That’s what Darlington Murasiranwa did in August this past season. The then-FC Edmonton goalkeeper, in a home match against Halifax Wanderers, flew a little too rashly into an aerial challenge in the box, taking out an opposing player with his arm and conceding a penalty kick — which the visitors promptly scored to tie the game at 1-1.

Ten minutes later, when a similar ball came over the top into the Eddies’ penalty area, Murasiranwa was more patient, instead timing his move far better to make an excellent diving stop on Zachary Fernandez — a play Murasiranwa looks back on as perhaps his favourite of the 2022 season. Thanks in part to that save, Edmonton went on to win the game 3-2.

The 21-year-old Murasiranwa, who was born in Zimbabwe but grew up in Edmonton from the age of 13, didn’t always want to be a goalkeeper.

“Growing up with older brothers it’s always, because you’re the youngest it’s always you going in net,” he said. “They’d shoot on me a lot, and I kind of fell in love with it while I was doing it.”

Of course, he fell in love with the position enough to play it professionally. Murasiranwa went on to join the Vancouver Whitecaps and FC Edmonton academies, ultimately playing U SPORTS soccer with Guelph before making his pro debut with Edmonton in 2021. Over two seasons, he made 14 appearances for the Eddies, including eight this past year.

“The first opportunity I was given was a blessing,” Murasiranwa said. “First time I went in I was like hey, this is a great opportunity and I should take it. From then on I was trying to stay consistent with my game, in and out, which is a blessing being able to play games.”

The 2022 season wasn’t always an easy one for Murasiranwa, who spent the earlier half of the year primarily on the bench. Still, his coaching staff in Edmonton preached patience, assuring him that his time would come — and come it did. He started six straight games in August and September, demonstrating the development he’d made and proving that he has the talent to play at the pro level at his age.

“Darlington is firstly an amazing guy. An amazing life story, an amazing human being,” said Alan Koch, Murasiranwa’s head coach in 2022 in Edmonton. “When we gave him the opportunity at the end of the season, he grabbed it. You can see all the potential that he has, he’s a supreme athlete, a supreme competitor. He’s still learning the art of goalkeeping, but I’m optimistic that he’s going to have a fantastic career.”