Vancouver TSS Rovers’ 2019 USL League 2 season is nearly upon us (and rebranded from the old PDL moniker). The Rovers kick off their new season on Sunday with a home game against Lane United at Swangard Stadium (kick off 2pm).
This year’s squad is a mix of returning faces, new additions, and for the first time, some call ups from TSS’ successful academy. Some familiar names have moved on to pastures news, with winger Zach Verhoven signing with CPL side Pacific FC and goalkeeping hero Andrew Hicks deciding to focus on his coaching career.
We’ll be revealing the players that will make up this year’s Rovers squad in a three part feature. We kicked things off yesterday with a look at the 11 Rovers who are returning to the fold. Today we look at the new blood.
If you’re looking at this and thinking, is it? Then yes, it is!
The oldest of the Baldisimo brothers, Mark came through the Vancouver Whitecaps Residency program before his young siblings Matthew and Michael.
Mark joined the Residency program for the 2013/14 USSDA season, making 30 appearances and scoring one goal, before graduating from the program in the summer of 2014.
With none of the USL or CPL opportunities available then that there are even these few amount of years later, Baldisimo headed to college and spent the 2016 PACWEST season with Douglas College, making nine appearances for the Royals and scoring one goal.
Most recently, Baldisimo has been playing in the Fraser Valley Soccer League with Coastal FC, helping to guide them to the 2017/18 FVSL Premier title.
Now 23, with brother Michael signed to a MSL deal with the ‘Caps and brother Matthew signed to a CPL deal with Pacific FC, Mark comes to TSS Rovers looking to make a strong impression with TSS this season and join them in the pro ranks. He’s a tough tackling midfielder, with a bite and an edge that will be well served in some of the tough battles ahead.
His experience will also be an asset, having played with the Whitecaps U23s in the PDL in 2014 as they team got to the Conference semi-finals.
Again, if you’re looking at this and thinking, is it? Then again, yes, it is! Merlin Fisk is Ben’s younger brother.
This will be Fisk’s first season with TSS, although he and his brother trained with the Rovers last summer.
Fisk has been playing his college football in PACWEST with Langara College since 2015 and is coming off an excellent 2018 season that saw him score five goals and add one assist in 11 appearances. Langara won a silver medal at last year’s PACWEST championships, qualifying for the CCAA Nationals, where Fisk added another goal. His efforts saw him awarded Langara’s 2018 Sean Murphy Memorial Award.
The midfielder got the chance to share the pitch with his brother Ben in TSS Rovers’ preseason friendly against Pacific FC in Victoria last month.
Elie Gindo will be a towering presence on the TSS backline this season and he comes for his first season with the Rovers highly motivated to make his next move to the CPL.
This isn’t Gindo’s first season in USL League 2, however. Regular fans will know of Gindo from his Victoria Highlanders days in 2017, where he made 11 appearances and proved to be a handful for the Rovers defenders as a striker.
The Langley native made the transition from striker to centre back for the start of the 2018/19 VMSL season, signing with Rino’s Tigers where he has been a dominant part of their defence and has helped guide them to Sunday’s Provincial A Cup final in Nanaimo.
Gindo played five seasons with Trinity Western Spartans, scoring four goals and adding two assists in 44 appearances, 32 of them starts. Prior to this season he played his club football with Langley United in the FVSL. His goals last season helped guide Langley to the Provincial Cup final. His two goals in that final looked set to give Langley the Cup before they gave up a stoppage time equaliser before going on to lose in extra time. This year he’s out to go one better and will miss Sunday’s home opener.
Gindo spent the preseason on trial with Pacific FC. They’re wanting to see how he does in USL League 2 this season at centre back and a CPL contract with them, or another club, could yet be on the cards.
After a couple of years away, Jordan Haynes is back playing his soccer in Vancouver and will add a wealth of experience to a young Rovers squad.
The former Vancouver Whitecaps defender will be playing his first USL League 2 season with TSS but has experience of the league with Calgary Foothills PDL Championship winning season, with the Whitecaps U23s back in 2014, and Oklahoma City Energy U23 in 2017.
After spending time in the Toronto FC academy, Haynes moved West to join the Whitecaps in 2011. Haynes made 14 appearances for the U16s in the 2011/12 season, scoring three goals before moving up to the U18s for his next three seasons with the club, making 30 appearances and scoring four goals in 2012/13, 26 appearances and scoring two goals in 2013/14, and then scoring four goals in 18 appearances in his final season in the program in 2014/15.
The right back’s play earned him a USL contract with the newly formed WFC2 team, and was one of the first three players signed by the team. He went on to make 29 appearances for the ‘Caps in the USL, scoring one goal, but was released at the end of the 2016 season.
That took him to Oklahoma City Energy U23 for the 2017 PDL season, where he made 13 appearances, including one in the US Open Cup, before heading back to Ontario to make five appearances for Vaughan Azzurri at the end of the League1 Ontario season.
Haynes has represented Canada at the 2013 FIFA U17 World Cup and at the 2015 CONCACAF U20 Championship. He’s still only 23 but has a lot of experience to share with the Rovers squad ahead of making the move to college to play with UBC Thunderbirds this fall.
Forward/Midfielder Gurmaan Jhaj is getting set to head into his Senior year with the University of Fraser Valley Cascades. But before that, he’s getting set for his first season as a TSS Rover.
The Aldergrove native has impressed in his four UFV seasons, winning a swathe of awards in the process. He was named a Canada West All-Star after a 2018 college season that saw him hit 13 goals and add three assists from his 17 appearances, including a hat-trick in the 3-0 victory at Mount Royal.
That goal tally saw Jhaj set a UFV season record and the 22-year-old will be looking to carry that form into his first season with TSS.
Another striker looking to make his mark in his first TSS Rovers season is David Malamura.
Malamura has been well known on the local soccer scene for a number of years now for his goalscoring exploits with Croatia SC in the VMSL. This season, Malamura’s nine goals helped Croatia lift the VMSL Premier Division title and he’ll be looking to bring that success, and form, to TSS this year.
The former Trinity Western Spartans player had a year over in Germany during the 2013/14 season, spending time with three clubs. The last few seasons he’s been consistently banging in the goals for Croatia, and can play as a striker, various midfield positions, and has even been utilised as a left back for Croatia at times this season.
He’s a definite talent and I’m excited to see what he can produce at this level.
Owen McBride is an 18-year-old defender that can play across the backline and will be playing with SFU Clan next season, where he has already been marked as a future leader with the team.
The North Vancouver native joined the Whitecaps Residency program in August 2017, having previously played with Mountain United. He made 19 appearances with the U17s that 2017/18 USSDA season.
McBride left the program at the end of that season, deciding to go and play for NVFC Norvan in the VMSL Premier to adjust to playing the college game. He’ll give TSS some versatility and depth across the backline this season.
Midfielder Nikolas Papakyriakopoulos is a versatile midfielder that can also play across the backline.
The New Westminster native played his youth soccer with Royal City Soccer Club and then Coquitlam Metro Ford before moving to the Vancouver Whitecaps Residency program in August 2016.
Playing with the U16s in that 2016/17 USSDA season, Papakyriakopoulous made 27 appearances for the ‘Caps in his first season, 12 of them starts, scoring two goals. Moving up to the U19s for 2017/18, Papakyriakopoulous made 23 appearances in his last season with the program, again making 12 starts and scoring two goals.
After graduating high school, Papakyriakopoulous headed straight to college after being recruited by NCAA Division 1 side Western Michigan. Playing as a defender, he made seven appearances for the Broncos in his Freshman year, two of them starts.
I’m sure we’ll hear the Swanguardians chanting “there’s only one Niko Papakyriakopoulous” this season. As the team’s commentators who already struggle with player pronunciations, we’re pleased about that!
Midfielder Gurman Sangha is another Whitecaps Residency alumni. The 6 foot 1 Coquitlam native played his youth soccer with Mountain United in the BCSPL before joining the Whitecaps in August 2016.
Sangha made 36 appearances for the ‘Caps U16s in the 2016/17 USSDA season, starting all but one of those matches and scoring 11 goals and registering 14 assists. Moving up to the U18s last season, Sangha made 17 appearances, scoring two goals.
After graduating high school, Sangha still had one year of eligibility left with the Whitecaps but decided to head straight to college, where he was recruited by NCAA Division 1 school Memphis.
Sangha became an immediate starter with the Tigers in his Freshman year, making 19 appearances during the 2018 NCAA season, scoring two goals and notching three assists as Memphis got to the AAC Conference semi-finals. Sangha came up big when the playoff pressure was on, with one of his goals and two of his assists coming in the postseason.
Back in BC for the summer, he’ll be looking to make a similar impression in his first season in USL League 2.
** In part three we’ll take a look at the four players who are being called up from the TSS academy and U21 team this season, as part of the pathway TSS want to implement **