Jefferson Hagen / MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – Combine the talent of the first three announcements in MacEwan's 2018 men's soccer recruiting class with the professional training atmosphere they've been a part of at FC Edmonton Academy and it's easy to get excited about the future of the program.
With solid technique, leadership and pro preparation, FC Edmonton products Tyrell Leslie, Enzo Squicciarini and Stefan Gajic inject a healthy dose of optimism into a Griffins team searching for its first playoff berth since joining Canada West in 2014.
Head coach Adam Loga announced the trio will be joining the squad for the 2018 Canada West campaign. As a bonus, both Squicciarini and Gajic, along with current Griffin Sheldon Prasad, were on the 2017 Team Alberta squad that won a silver medal at the Canada Summer Games.
"They found success together," said Loga. "I'm sure if you asked any one of them, they'd want gold. But to be second in the Canada Summer Games not only shows what they bring to the table, but what they can bring as a group. Hopefully that can transfer over to us at MacEwan."
Leslie offers the size that successful soccer programs covet – 6-foot-4, 210 pounds – and should instantly upgrade MacEwan's set pieces, an area they struggled with during a 2-10-2 campaign in 2017.
"Tyrell will bring a presence to our team on the pitch, some leadership and intensity, and, of course, size," said Loga. "We lacked size, obviously, the last couple of seasons here, but he'll add that. He's a big target striker, who will hold the ball up well for us and hopefully correct some of our finishing woes that we've had over the past couple seasons."
After Leslie took a year off from competitive soccer, Loga got in touch with via a friend he used to play with and was able to convince the talented forward to return.
"I could see him coming in and starting right away – giving us that presence and intensity that we've lacked," he said.
Squicciarini, of Edmonton, can play wingback or midfield and brings an intensity and hustle that should serve him well in the Canada West ranks.
"He's a great little technician, buzzes around the park," said Loga. "He'll cover every blade of grass on the pitch if we ask him to. And he has a good soccer IQ.
"He's been kind of overlooked most of his career, but he's been found by FC Edmonton. He has progressed since then. Being involved in a professional youth academy, as well as competing in summer games, he should be able to come in and be in our 18."
Gajic, another Edmontonian who mans the central midfield, comes from a solid soccer family and offers plenty of intelligence for the game.
"He's a central midfield player who's clever and crafty and just smart on the ball," said Loga. "He's very cerebral and is a very likable guy in the room who brings some leadership. He's kind of champing at the bit and wants to get at it with our discussions."
The bonus is they've all played together before with FC Edmonton Academy and will possibly be in the lineup when FC hosts Calgary Foothills FC on Sunday (4:30 p.m., Clarke Stadium). Free tickets are available at www.fcedmonton.com.
"They're teaching curriculum there that develops and increases their mentality and soccer IQ and the cerebral part of the game," said Loga. "You combine that with the professionalism and the cerebral aspect as well as the technique, that's kind of who we're looking for."