We continue our breakdown of the TSS Rovers squad for the upcoming League1 BC season with a look at the defenders currently signed to the team.
If you missed part one of this four part feature, you can find our profiles of the club’s returning players from their USL days and the goalkeepers HERE.
It was inevitable that Josh Bhandal would be wearing the TSS first team shirt at some stage in his career. The 6-foot defender, who can play left back or left centre back, was with the TSS academy full time since the age of 10, having attended his first TSS program as a 5-year-old.
After graduating, Bhandal headed off to the college ranks last fall where he was recruited by the UBC Okanagan Heat. The Richmond native made five appearances for the Heat in Canada West in his rookie season, two of them starts.
Left back Gabe Escobar comes to TSS Rovers with an impressive pedigree. Escobar joined the Vancouver Whitecaps academy in August 2015 after a youth career with Mountain United. He made 54 appearances and scored four goals for the ‘Caps in two seasons at U16 level, then 58 appearances for the U19s over the next two seasons.
His play saw him regularly train with the Whitecaps MLS team and he was brought to Hawaii by the team for their 2019 preseason trip.
Escobar was nominated for the Canadian U17 Player of the Year award by Canada Soccer in 2016, losing out to a certain teammate called Alphonso Davies. He has been involved with Canada at U15, U17, and U18 level and El Salvador at U20 level, playing in the 2018 CONCACAF U20 championship for the latter, making three appearances.
Now 22-years-old, this is Escobar’s return to the TSS fold, having first played with their academy after moving to Vancouver with his family from San Miguel, El Salvador aged six. He’s been playing locally in both the VMSL and then FVSL with FC Tigers, scoring both their goals in last Sunday’s semi-final that booked their spot in this weekend’s BC Provincial A Cup final at Swangard.
Defender Hayden Gaunder is returning to the TSS fold after previously training with TSS and playing his youth football with Fusion FC. He has also worked with the Excel Soccer Academy and GFC Training.
The 6-foot-1 centre back has two NCAA Division II seasons under his belt with Saint Martin’s University in Lacey, Washington. Gaunder has made six overall appearances, three in 2020 and three in 2021, for a combined 95 minutes of playing time.
Comfortable on the ball, and known for his long, accurate passes, Gaunder has played for Fiji in the Nations Cup.
Full back Chris Schmit has been with TSS since the age of 10, first joining the Academy and as part of the TSS side that won the VMSL U21 Cup in 2019. His efforts that season saw him named the Rovers Male Youth Player of the Year.
Moving to the college ranks last fall, Schmit headed to the University of New Brunswick to study engineering and play for the Reds, where he made five appearances in his rookie season, including one start.
In youth soccer Schmit was part of the Winston Churchill Secondary School team that won the 2018 Vancouver junior boys high school championship.
24-year-old left back Fugo Segawa certainly has one of the most interesting paths to the Rovers L1BC side. The Japanese born Segawa played his youth football for SP Fute in his home town of Ichikawa before moving to a boarding school in London aged 15 and playing his football with the FAB Academy.
He has played professionally since 2016, first of all with Swedish fourth-tier side Ange IF, where he made five appearances, before moving to Finnish third tier side PEPO Lappeenranta in 2017, making 25 appearances across all competitions, scoring three goals, and adding five assists. His play earned him a move to Rovaniemen Palloseura in the Finnish Veikkausliiga (their Premier Division). Segawa made 11 appearances for ROPS, six in the league and five in the cup, but didn’t tally any goals or assists.
Segawa stayed in Finland, playing the 2019 season with second tier side AC Oulu, making 24 appearances across all competitions and tallying one assist. With Covid hitting and football disrupted, Segawa made the move to Canada and signed with York9 (as they then were) for the 2020 Canadian Premier League season, playing in five of the Nine Stripes’ seven matches at the Island Games in PEI.
Now at TSS, Segawa will add some real attacking presence and experience to the Rovers backline.
Jaskarn Sodhi is coming off an impressive first USPORTS season with the University of Fraser Valley. The 6-foot-1 centre back played in all 14 matches last year for UFV, starting five of them, and helping the team to a place in the Canada West Final Four. Very highly thought of in the Cascades program, Sodhi was a finalist in the UFV Rookie of the Year soccer last month.
A product of the talented Surrey United system, Sodhi was part of their 2003 boys’ team that topped the BCSPL standings in four of their five seasons as they moved up through the age groups, appearing in two provincial cup finals in the process.
A presence in the air and calm with the ball at his feet, Sodhi could be one of the ones to really watch for with the Rovers this season and beyond.
A product of the Coastal FC academy Lennon Thompson made the move the Whitecaps and played for their U15 side in the 2019/20 USSDA season
Afdter spending some time in Malta and the UK, Thompson is now back in BC and looking to make his mark with TSS this campaign.
The younger of the two White brothers on the TSS team this year, Anthony White is a 6-foot-1 left-footed centre back that has come through the Coquitlam Metro Ford Soccer Club system, moving through the age groups with the club including stints playing in the VMSL at U21 and Premier level.
White has his rookie college season under his belt, playing for the University of Toronto Varsity Blues last year. He played in 11 matches, starting seven of them, and scored one goal.
White has had training stints with Dinamo Zagreb in Croatia in 2016 and 2017, FC Nurenberg in Germany in 2018, and NK Sibenik in Croatia in 2019. He was also one of 16 Canadian players selected for the Canadian Generation Adidas team in 2019 that went over to Spain to train at Real Madrid’s facility, with games against the US, Japan, and La Liga teams.
Why have one White brother when you can have two?! 20-year-old Nik joins his younger brother Anthony at TSS after an intriguing footballing journey so far that has seen him as part of the Whitecaps Academy, playing over in Germany, and now at Harvard University.
The 6-foot-2 tall ball-playing centre back joined the Whitecaps pre-academy in 2012 for two years before transitioning into the full academy in 2014, remaining with the ‘Caps until 2018 when he moved to Germany for 18 months to pursue his footballing dreams. His youth career also saw him as part of the Coquitlam Metro Ford system and play provincially for BC.
He made his debut for the ‘Caps U16 side in 2016 as a 14-year-old, making two appearances in the 2015/16 season, before becoming a regular starter for the team the following USSDA season, making 24 appearances and scoring four goals. Another season and a half with the program at U16 and U17 level, saw White continue to impress before his move.
While in Germany, and completing high school online, White played his football with Nurnberg FC, making 21 appearances for the club’s U17, U19, and II sides across all competitions, scoring two goals.
White then headed back to Vancouver and the Whitecaps before heading off to college in the fall of 2020. With Covid wiping out White’s rookie season at Harvard in 2020, he finally got to see game time on the pitch for the Ivy League side last year, starting all 13 matches and scoring two goals, the first of which came on his debut.
Internationally, White has represented Croatia at U16 and U17 level in 2016 and 2017.