I called my Dad and, it might sound soppy but I broke down a little bit,” Powley on his journey and the importance of interacting with fans.
From the heart of Spain, it’s not something he has been able to throw himself into yet, but the importance of supporters' culture is something Atlético Ottawa’s new goalkeeper holds close to his heart.
“In a league like this it’s even more important,” Dylon Powley told us over the phone, as we spoke from one nation’s capital to another.
“The players need to be there to support too, to help drive home the message with everyone else.”
Powley was clear. In a league this new, in a country dominated by other sports, the players must play their part not only in getting to know their local fan base, but be part of the drive to create more energy around football across Canada.
These aren’t just empty words either, the 24 year-old’s time playing in Alberta is testimony enough.
“In Edmonton I would turn up to as many events as possible,” he said.
Powley went on to reminisce about a time before the pandemic, where meet and greets didn’t need to be scheduled based on social distancing and limited event capacity.
“I remember turning up to this local brewery, where there were about 10 or 15 supporters.
“I went in, chatted about football, about life, shook some hands and bought everyone a round.”
Powley assured us that his involvement wouldn’t end with Edmonton and that, restrictions permitted, he’ll be “the first one there” when the time comes.
But don’t just take his word for it.
“Dylon is one of those types of players who, no matter what, would always take the time for supporters,” said Adam Ziel, a co-organiser of FC Edmonton supporters group, River Valley Vanguard (RVV).
“His parent’s were mainstays in our section, including the away day to Winnipeg for our CanPL re-birth.
“Whether the event was big or small you could count on Dylon making an appearance.”
Much like everyone around the globe, when the pandemic struck we all moved to the virtual sphere in order to maintain a social life. Adam recounted how they hosted a “zoom pub night” and, whilst on the call, were wondering if they could get any of the players to join.
“Someone texted Dylon and he hopped on the Zoom call and we talked football and life for hours after that,” Adam told CCSG.
To this day Powley maintains a strong relationship with RVV and will still interact with them over social media.
“I can still call them friends and, to me, that’s huge! Though when we step onto the field we definitely won’t be,” Powley joked as his competitive side shined through.
This competitive side which has benefited the young keeper throughout his career has also seen him face some emotional lows.
From Despair to Elation, a character shaping experience
Casting his mind back to the Island Games in Prince Edward Island, Powley told us “he was growing to not hold a grudge” but explained that it was hard and he “still has questions” over his playing time in PEI.
In contrast to his first season with The Eddies where he had “no qualms about not starting over someone who plays like” Connor James (who was nominated for goalkeeper of the year in the inaugural Canadian Premier Season), Powley felt like he “deserved more of an opportunity” at the Island Games.
“I was told we have a lot of games coming up in a short amount so [the coach saw me] getting two of three games,” which was music to the ears of FC Edmonton’s ambitious back-up keeper.
It wasn’t to be though as Powley made one appearance, making a couple of good saves (including one against his now teammate Ryan Telfer) in a 1-0 defeat to York United (known then as York9).
“I thought I played well,” he said, which only added to the confusion as FC Edmonton, unable to qualify for the next round and guaranteed a bottom two finish, went on to back James in between the sticks in their final game.
Powley describes himself as someone who “wears his heart on his sleeve” and during a team tour of PEI the Albertan-born keeper called his dad “looking for guidance”.
“I was so discouraged,” he explained.
“After speaking to my dad we were on a beach in PEI and I got this call from my agent telling me Atlético Ottawa wanted to speak with me.
“I told him that the tournament was almost over and I guess we could schedule something after and he was like ‘no, they kind of want to talk to you tomorrow’.
“I got off the phone with my agent, called my Dad back and, it might sound a little soppy, but I broke down a little after that.”
Although Ottleti had some ducks to be put in order before they could offer him a deal, Powley said the call was “such a confidence booster”.
“I was so focussed and I was so honed in on making the most of the opportunity I was being given [I was no longer thinking about missing that final game],” the 24 year-old explained.
“After the competition was over we got the deal done, and I was so happy to do it.”
This wasn’t the first time that Powley has had rapid turns in fortune.
From being accidentally cut from his “first club team” at the age of 8 (who called his parents two weeks later to tell them he was cut due to an administrative error and wanted him back) to being subbed off in the 85th minute of his last trial game for a side in, what would now be USL2, in Calgary.
“While on trial, we played against the University of Calgary and I made this one very, good double or triple save and we went on to win the game but the coach subs me in the 85th minute.
“I’m thinking ‘this is weird’ but, as I’m taking my gloves off and walking off the field the coach looks at me, puts his hand out and says ‘Welcome to the team’.
“That year put me on people’s radar, to this day it’s the best year of my career - all levels included.”
The coach, of course, is one that Powley has followed to the CanPL, Tommy Wheldon Junior.
A European start to a new chapter
As Atlético Ottawa’s time comes to an end in Spain, Powley talks of the “privilege the whole team” feels that they are getting this opportunity to train and to “have a normal life we wouldn’t be able to get in Ontario right now”.
Their time together also seems to be paying off as Mista and the rest of the coaching staff have had time to “implement a philosophy” and a “style of play”.
Hinting at a possession based game and building up from the back, Powley explains that the ball at his feet is “one of my best attributes”.
“One of the things they are really pressing on me is there are times where having the ball at my feet is too much, and some times where it’s necessary.
“I’ll be honest I did get punished with it during this training camp but I have learnt from that and it hasn’t happened again.
“Ever since then I’ve seen the ball at my feet more than ever,” Polwey told CCSG.
The Atlético Ottawa has since returned to Canada to isolate in the Nation’s Capital before jetting off to the “bubble” (rumoured to be in Winnipeg) for the first part of another altered version of the Canadian Premier League season.
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