Joel Waterman might have to start working on his French.
The 23-year-old center back/defensive midfielder became the first Canadian Premier League player to be sold to an MLS team, after the Montreal Impact announced his signing via transfer from Cavalry FC on Jan. 14.
“We are happy to welcome Joel to the Impact,” said Montreal sporting director Olivier Renard, in an article posted on mlssoccer.com. “He’s a center back that can play every position in a three- or four-man defensive line, and also as a defensive midfielder.
“He’s a player with the right mentality, and he comes to Montreal following a good season in CPL.”
In a statement from Cavalry FC, head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. said the opportunity for Waterman to play for Thierry Henry was something the club couldn’t deny him.
“Joel is fully deserving of the attention he got after the high level of performances he displayed this year for us in the Canadian Premier League, showing class and consistency in abundance,” Wheeldon Jr. said.
“He leaves behind a unique Canadian pathway of being one of the first CPL U SPORTS draft picks to be transferred to another league. As a club, we wish him all the best in his future and thank him for being one of the first Cavalry FC players in our history.”
Waterman’s move to the Impact is on a two-year contract, with options for 2022 and 2023. The transfer amount was undisclosed by either team.
In a Cavalry press release, Waterman said his time in Calgary was special, for reasons both on and off the pitch.
“I got to play with my closest friends at a professional level and learn things about myself, not only as a player but as a person,” he said. “Most importantly, I was part of a historic season with a club that is so much more than what they achieve on the pitch.
“Seeing what [Cavalry] did for the city of Calgary and the people invested in the club was more than any trophy could fulfill. I’d like to sincerely thank my teammates, coaching staff, ownership, fans and the entire organization for what they’ve done for me. I wish nothing but the best for the club in the future years to come.”
The native of Aldergrove, B.C. was one of Cavalry’s three 2019 U SPORTS draft picks, after he spent the 2018 championship-winning season with Foothills FC in the PDL. But rather than sign a developmental contract with Cavalry, the former Trinity Western University player impressed Wheeldon Jr. enough in preseason to earn a professional contract.
Despite an injury partway through the season, Waterman played roughly 1,900 minutes for Cavalry in 2019, appearing in 25 appearances across the CPL and Canadian Championship. In those games, he scored one goal – a deft lob over HFX Wanderers on Oct. 5 – and chipped in with three assists.
“Whilst Joel leaves big shoes to fill, he also creates another opportunity for another young Canadian player to fulfill their dreams of playing professionally in their country,” Wheeldon Jr. said.
While Waterman’s 2019 season for Cavalry – his first as a full-fledged professional – was undoubtedly positive, it ended on a sour note. Shortly before halftime in the first leg of the CPL Finals, Oct. 26, he was sent off following a handball in the box that gave Forge FC a penalty kick (which goalkeeper Marco Carducci saved).
Cavalry filed an appeal on the decision, but Canada Soccer declined the application, which meant Waterman had to sit out the return leg on Nov. 2.
The Impact’s 2020 preseason training camp began in Montreal on Jan. 14. The team will also train in Orlando and St. Petersburg, Florida. The preseason training camp roster includes eight defenders.
Montreal’s season will begin early, with a CONCACAF Champions League round-of-16 tie against Deportivo Saprissa on Feb. 19.