VANCOUVER — With its adversaries staying local, Cavalry FC went slightly off-script Monday afternoon when it surprised the CPL-U SPORTS Draft floor in Vancouver by selecting Carleton talisman Gabriel Bitar with its first selection, making the second-year striker the first draft pick in league history.
“He’s a forward who fits the way we want to play,” Cavalry FC coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. said. “We want to be dynamic. Gabriel moves well; he’s fast-twitch; he’s playing off the shoulder; he’s into pockets.
“Most importantly, he knows how to score goals,” Wheeldon Jr. added.
The 5-foot-9 Bitar ran wild on Ontario University Athletics competition in his rookie season, scoring 16 goals en route to being named U SPORTS Rookie of the Year.
The Ottawa native garnered the attention of multiple CPL coaches last weekend after scoring four times at the U SPORTS Championship.
“If we get him into training camp and get him with better players around him, in a good, competitive environment, he’s going to have a chance,” Wheeldon Jr. said, adding assistant coach Martin Nash knew Bitar from his time coaching in Ontario.
“He’s young. These are young Canadian players. That’s what we want to do in this league: Give the lad a chance.”
Cavalry FC selected Trinity Western’s Joel Waterman 14th overall, bringing the fifth-year midfielder back to Calgary following a recent stint with Wheeldon’s PDL side.
“He’s good because he’s versatile,” Wheeldon Jr. described Waterman. “We played him at the back this year in the PDL and he was one of our best defenders — the most consistent.
“He’s got the body composition of a professional footballer. He’s competitive. We want those kind of leaders around our squad.”
Wheeldon Jr. went local with the Cavs’ third-round pick, adding University of Alberta second-year striker Easton Ongaro.
“When you think of a 6-foot-5 centre forward you think of a hold-up player, but he’s not,” Wheeldon Jr. said of Ongaro. “He’s a dribbler, with good 1-vs.-1 skills.
“He has a great left foot; He can take free kicks; He’s unorthodox in a really good way. He’s someone who with a little more work could be a very unique player we could try and produce.”