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Pro soccer hopefuls battle for the spotlight at Cavalry FC open trials

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Pro soccer hopefuls battle for the spotlight at Cavalry FC open trials
WATCH: It’s a rare chance to let your play do the talking. Pro soccer hopefuls from around the world are in Calgary for Cavalry FC’s open trials. Cami Kepke has more on the players taking a swing at a roster spot – Jan 18, 2023

Professional soccer hopefuls have a short period of time to capture Cavalry FC’s attention and prove they’re worth a second look.

On the observation deck high above the pitch, Cavalry FC staffers volley quick observations in hushed voices, their eyes flitting from piles of notes to the action down below.

“Wow, he’s fast.”

“Who is that over there in the green pinny?”

“Where did he play? What’s his background?”

One hundred fifty athletes from around Canada and as far as Morocco, Brazil and Mexico have descended on the Macron Performance Centre in southeast Calgary for Cavalry FC’s open trials.

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The trials give amateur and professional players a rare opportunity to try out in front of team staff.

Demand was so high, the team had to raise the number of available spots at tryouts in early January.

“It’s definitely not a gimmick,” Cavalry FC assistant coach Nik Ledgerwood said.

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“It is hard for these players to make it through because, obviously, we have a recruiting and scouting department. We are doing our due diligence to pick up the best players, but there is a chance that some players fall through the cracks.

These are the players that have developed at different ages and stages, and haven’t been on our radar right away. So this gives them an opportunity to showcase themselves.”

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Many of the Cavs hopefuls say this has the potential to be a life-changing week.

“To be honest, this is the biggest opportunity in my life,” Mexican striker Jose Abela said. “I am from a small town: Tequila, Jalisco. I was just a town boy playing the streets and I go to a big city, Guadalajara, to play professionally there.

“But to be honest, there are no more chances for me down there in Mexico.”

Despite his pro experience, Abela said it’s been difficult to break into Canadian or American leagues because of the pandemic and visa limitations.

When he saw the ad for tryouts on social media, Abela’s family encouraged him to board a plane to Alberta and take a shot at the Canadian Premier League.

Click to play video: 'Calgary Minor Soccer Association shifts training environment to try to keep more girls in the game'
Calgary Minor Soccer Association shifts training environment to try to keep more girls in the game

London, Ont., product Esosa Emovan was among the early standouts.

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The versatile winger rose up through the academy system before earning a scholarship to play at the University of Michigan and later, the University of Connecticut.

“A lot of pro players came back to play college ball or played in Europe before that,” Emovan said. “Being able to have that experience of playing with top-level players — some of my boys even playing MLS I played with at UConn and Michigan — gives me that confidence and that ability to go out there and play.

“At the end of the day, you’re here to play the sport that you’ve had love for since you were a little kid. Just go out and ball, that’s the main thing.”

In 2018, Canadian footballer Emilio Estevez made Ontario side York9 (now York United) after impressing at open trials.

Estevez played two seasons with York before being picked up by a Dutch club in 2021.

After training sessions on Wednesday and Thursday, the group will be whittled down as the top contenders square off in a trial match on Friday.

From there, the Cavalry have the option to offer players with potential a contract or invitation to preseason camp.

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