When a club goes on a long postseason run, typically the turnaround before the next campaign is a quick one. However, in the PDL, the “quick campaign” is still 9 months long, so supporters of the club are anxiously awaiting a new season. After surprising many around the PDL with their strong 2016 campaign, third year club Calgary Foothills will enter the season with a target on their backs from clubs in the PDL’s Northwest Division.
Calgary Foothills has typically fielded a roster with a mix of academy products, and CIS all-stars. 2017 sees the club continue that trend, with 3 first team and 2 second team Canada West all-stars. While the final pieces of the puzzle will come between now and the season opener, a majority of players from the club’s 2016 PDL Championship run remain.
In goal for 2017, the Hoops will see the return of 2016 supporters MVP Dylon Powley. Powley lead Canada West with 87 saves in 2016 playing for Grant MacEwan University.
The backline has seen the most transition for the club, with Dominick Zator and Tyrin Hutchings signing pro contracts with Whitecaps FC 2 and FC Gute respectively in offseason. Jonathan Wheeldon will focus on his coaching role with Calgary Foothills, and Massimo Megna has begun a new career as well. LB Dean Northover is the only holdover from the 2016 campaign. Joining Northover are University of Alberta centre back Noah Cunningham, and former Exeter City youth product and St. FX centre back Josh Read.
The midfield will again be anchored by CIS all-star midfielder Elijah Adekugbe. Joining Adekugbe will be a pair of FC Edmonton academy products in Bruno Zebie and Jose Lopez. Zebie is the brother of FC Edmonton left back Allan Zebie, and suited up for the first team in a game against Fort Lauderdale in 2015. Lopez is a former Canada U-17 international who played at the 2013 U-17 World Cup in Dubai. Joining these players are free-kick specialist Kyle Jones, shifty midfielder Nico Pasquotti, former Whitecaps Residency player Drake Rendle, Foothills academy product Kieran Hay, former Exeter City youth product and St. FX player Dan Hayfield, and academy product Kwame Addai.
In attack, three returning faces will don the green and white for the 2017 season. First, in what is a surprising turn of events to this writer, the PDL’s #1 attacking prospect in 2016 in Dominic Russo has returned to the club for the 2017 season. Russo will be salivating at the prospect of showing USL clubs what they missed out on in not signing him after a strong 2016 campaign. Second, CIS Golden Boot winner Ajeej Sarkaria will look to build on his solid university season and playoff form in his second PDL season. Joining them will be UNBC forward and Foothills academy coach Tofa Fakunle; he of the famous photo from last year’s playoff game against Sounders U-23. Rounding out the attack is Chris Rushworth, who scores 5 times for Victoria Highlanders in 2016, and is the University of Lethbridge’s all-time leading scorer.
While the backline is relatively unknown coming into the season, lots of returning faces with PDL experience in all other areas of the club will mean high expectations of the club from supporters in Calgary this spring.