Dominick Zator is making Canadian soccer history.
Zator, a defender for the Canadian Premier League’s Cavalry FC, has been generating national team buzz for months and says finally getting the fateful phone call from Canada men’s national team head coach John Herdman was a dream come true.
“He called me saying I was selected for the 23 for the next camp,” Zator said. “I was lost for words. Speechless. I can’t believe that I got that kind of phone call.
“It’s such an honour.”
Zator is the third CPL player to join Team Canada this season, along with his Cavalry teammate Marco Carducci and FC Edmonton’s Amer Didic, but he’s the first to do it without any prior provincial or national team experience.
Growing up, Zator found himself constantly passed-over for higher-level experience.
“It was tough, for sure, seeing some of your close friends making those teams and you just want to be part of it,” Zator recalled.
“It was something that kind of drove me and fueled my fire to keep working every day to get better and prove people wrong.”
That spark didn’t go unnoticed.
“I happened to be at Foothills (Soccer Club) when he was ten years old with that white headband and silly long hair, a scrawny, skinny little kid — he was always special,” Zator’s former coach Troye Flannery said. “He was quite the attacking player at the time and he’s grown up into quite the player and quite the physical specimen.”
Zator climbed the ranks with the University of Calgary Dinos, earning USports All-Canadian honours in his fifth year.
“He’s been our leader. He led the program when he was here,” Dinos head coach Brendan O’Connell added.
“He’s always had the talent. He probably just didn’t have the opportunities everyone else gets in Europe.
“He’s created his own luck.”
Zator has seen his star rise since scoring Cavalry FC’s series-winning goal against the Vancouver Whitecaps of the MLS in the 2019 Canadian Championship.
Cavalry are the only CPL squad to eliminate an MLS opponent in the tournament.
While his playing time with the men’s national team isn’t guaranteed, Zator is prepared to fight for every second on the pitch.
The Calgary soccer community hopes his accomplishment inspires another wave of local athletes.
“For all players — boys and girls — in this city, the message is perseverance. You have to keep persevering and hope that your chance comes along,” O’Connell said.
“There are people here in this city trying to make the game better, give kids opportunities and it’s happened. It’s a success story.
“Who’s to say it won’t happen again?”
Canada is currently in first place in Group A standings with a 3-0 record. The U.S. is in second in Group A with a 1-1 record and Cuba is in third at 0-3.
Canada beat the U.S. 2-0 last month and only needs a draw in the second leg to advance to the knockout round.
The Canada-USA battle kicks off at Exploria Stadium in Orlando, Fla., on Nov. 15.