By Eddie Benhin
Entering our 5th season, it’s no secret that Ottawa’s biggest weakness (outside of finishing) has been the CPL USports Draft. Now, there has been plenty of debate surrounding the importance of the CPL Draft, and I would be a fool to declare the draft as something that has been proven to work for the CPL. In fact, back in 2022, I even penned an article on why the draft isn’t working: https://613sportsblog.com/2022/01/04/the-problem-with-the-cpl-usports-draft/
However, despite all of this, I still remain a supporter of USports and the CPL USports draft because it officially creates a pipeline between USports and Canada’s Premier Division. Regardless of whether the teams sign any of their draftees, 16 players get to try out with a CPL team and experience what being a professional soccer player is like.
Ottawa is now entering its 4th draft, and to this date, only one player has ever been signed - Jose Da Cunha… who played two games. Ottawa has one of the top soccer universities just a couple of blocks down the road, and yet we’ve only ever drafted one Carleton player. To be fair, Ottawa has created a Development Program where plenty of Carleton Players have participated, but when it comes to the draft and owning rights to a player, Ottawa has severely missed on this aspect. However, there is no better year than this year to right the ship when it comes to the draft.
16 Carleton University players have declared for the draft, and before I begin to highlight them, CPL fans need to change their view about the draft. The CPL USports draft cannot be compared to North America’s big league drafts. Most likely, none of these players will make an impact next season. The keywords here are Next Season. In my opinion, I believe Ottawa should be focusing on the future. We should be looking at players who are still developing and can possibly make that jump in a couple of years, but we still ensure that we retain their contracts so that none of the other CPL teams can take our finished product (AKA, Matteo de Brienne, Gaby Bitar).
When it comes to ranking prospects like these, I prefer not to, but to give you a better idea of how they stack up, I have put them into three tiers. The first are the Unlikely Candidates. These are guys who I would be genuinely surprised if a CPL club drafted this year. Not that they don’t have routes to get to that level, but from what I have seen of them, a limited Draft environment isn’t a very likely path for them to take. The second tier is the Wildcards, who I think have potential in ATO’s development program but who aren’t the most attractive picks. These are the guys who I hope no one else picks so that they can spend time in Ottawa with the club to keep developing for a future with the club. Finally, the top tier is my Betting Favourites. If ATO is going to pick Carleton players, I think it will be one of the players in this tier. These are also players I want to see get a shot with the team, and given their talent, there could be other clubs looking to snag them away from us. So, with that said, here are the 16 Carleton Players that have declared for the draft.
Tier 3: The Unlikely Candidates
Yusuf Osman - Defender (4th Year Eligibility)
Osman only started 3 matches this season but was still able to finish with 2 goals and an assist from his fullback position. Unfortunately, if Ottawa won’t be taking his defender teammates, I don’t believe they will be taking him either.
Adrijan Vranjkovic - Midfielder (2nd Year Eligibility)
Adrijan only had 3 starts this season and appeared in 10 games, finishing with 0 goals and 0 assists. I personally haven’t seen enough, to give me confidence in drafting him, but again this is a situation where we can let him develop next season and revisit this.
Caden Tomy - Midfielder (1st Year Eligibility)
This Winnipeg native had a solid season with Carleton, but when you’re playing in a midfield with Piccioli and Darwish, you tend to be overlooked. I don’t have much information on him, but having only a 1st year of eligibility is great because that means there is plenty of time to get on Ottawa’s radar.
Amadou Kone - Forward (2nd Year Eligibility)
There is a lot of raw talent with Kone, but compared to some of the other players his age that we’ve talked about, it will take more work to develop him into a CPL player. Kone finished the season with 1 goal and 2 assists in 8 appearances and I believe Ottawa can pass on drafting him while continuing to track and aid his progress next season.
Danny Assaff - Forward (4th Year Eligibility)
This is most likely Assaff’s last chance at getting a CPL Contract. Assaff has represented Egypt with the u20 National Team back in 2020, and this season the OSU product finished with 1 goal and 1 assist in 5 games played.
Eric Yoseke - Forward (2nd Year Eligibility)
Yoseke sent Carleton to Nationals with his clutch penalty shootout winner. However, this 23-year-old only scored 2 goals this season. Yoseke is an entertaining player but still needs more development. His pathway to the CPL will have to come through a different route in my opinion.
Kevin Kaba - Forward (4th Year Eligibility)
You may have seen that one Kaba goal and highlight shared on the CCSG Twitter this past season. Kaba is a tremendously fun player to watch, and his pace paired with his technique always leaves fans on the edge of their seats knowing that he can create a goal out of nowhere. However, similarly to Hamad, with Kaba being on the older side compared to some of the other eligible players, I doubt that Ottawa will use a draft pick on him.
Tier 2: The Wildcards
Moses Kafeero - Defender (4th Year Eligibility)
Moses Kafeero has USL2 Experience under his belt with Lansing City Football in 2022. He returned to Carleton and had his position switched from fullback to center back. He had a solid season but with no U21 eligibility just like the 3 players listed above, I will be really surprised if Ottawa takes the gamble with him.
Darren Bouaziz - Forward (1st Year Eligibility)
This Ottawa TFC product had a great first year with Carleton, finishing with 5 goals and 1 assist in 11 appearances - where he started 6 of those games. It is well known Ottawa has finishing problems, and we could take a chance with Bouaziz to try and shape him into a future star. However, he is still very young and we can probably pass on him without worrying about another CPL team taking him.
Tyler David - Goalkeeper (4th Year Eligibility)
Tyler David was absolutely phenomenal all season long for Carleton, but especially during the Ravens’ playoff and National run. Starting in 8 games, David posted a 0.93 GAA and .806 save percentage. Ottawa still has to fill the backup keeper spot behind Nate Ingham, but due to Tyler’s age, there wouldn’t be a u21 bonus by drafting Tyler, and he doesn’t have any professional experience to pair with his University statistics therefore I believe Ottawa will skip on drafting him but hopefully keep him in the development program.
Mohamed Bouzidi - Forward (3rd Year Eligibility)
Ottawa drafted Bouzidi last season but did not end up signing him to a Usports Contract. Bouzidi returned to Carleton and finished with 6 goals and 1 assist in 12 matches played. I doubt Ottawa will take another chance at him in this draft, but I would love to see him continue in the development program.
Tareq Hamad - Defender (4th Year Eligibility)
Hamad is an interesting enigma. When on his game, he is a brick wall with an unfathomable amount of composure and technique on the ball. However, he is one of the older players in USports. I’m interested to see whether he can translate this play at a higher level, but I wouldn’t use a draft pick on him.
Tier 1: The Betting Favourites
Luca Piccioli - Midfielder (4th Year Eligibility)
Carleton fan favourite, and probably one of the most overlooked players in USports when it comes to the CPL draft. Luca has yet to receive a chance to try his hand at the CPL. However, he made a name for himself this past season, finishing with 9 goals and 4 assists from 11 games played. One of those goals coming in the OUA Finals, where he scored a screamer in front of a dozen CCSG Supporters and over a thousand fans at the game. If there was any time to take a chance on Luca, it would be this season. I’m very curious to see whether Ottawa takes that chance.
Raphael Garcia - Defender (4th Year Eligibility)
Garcia has CPL experience already under his belt, when he played with Valour FC. The past couple of years, he has spent in Carleton, developing as a great fullback. This past season, Garcia finished with 8 assists and 3 goals in 12 games played and has already been practicing with Atletico Ottawa under the development program. He is a player that I believe Ottawa has been watching closely for some time.
Anthony Domanico - Forward (2nd Year Eligibility)
He may not have the statistics to show for it, but this player is a possible game-changer. His speed and technique down the left wing gave me flashbacks to Matteo de Brienne and with Domanico still being young, this presents a prime opportunity for Ottawa to claim his rights and properly develop him next season, with the goal of hopefully getting him in the CPL by 2025. I’m expecting Domanico to have a bigger role in Carleton next season, and that can produce a major boost for development. Ottawa should get on this possible star before another team notices.
Omar Darwish - Midfield (1st Year Eligibility)
Omar has been in Ottawa’s system for some time. Omar is part of ATO’s development program and played for Atletico OSU in L1Q. Omar played a critical defensive role in Carleton’s midfield last season, finishing with a goal and an assist in 10 appearances - 9 of which he started in. Omar is definitely a player Ottawa should be looking to draft. I don’t think he can make the step up just yet, but based on how he’s been developing so far, I don’t think it will be long before we see him enter the CPL.
All the players I listed here are great players and people. However, when it comes to taking that next step into the CPL through the USports draft - most won’t make it. Only 16 spots are available, and the U21 players have an advantage due to being able to fulfill the CPL U21 Rule. However, average players like Garcia and Piccioli definitely deserve a shout and I would be very happy if Ottawa took a chance on them. However, in my opinion, the two players Ottawa should draft are Omar Darwish and Anthony Domanico. Omar Darwish is already involved with Ottawa and it's not hard to see his CPL Potential. Ottawa cannot afford to lose Omar to another CPL team after all the work we’ve put in with him. As for Domanico, he’s a raw talent with an undefined ceiling. Drafting him would purely be on the basis of retaining his rights for the future. End of the day, I will be tremendously shocked and disappointed if Ottawa doesn’t draft at least one Carleton Ravens player in January.
When Eddie isn't stirring the pot on Twitter, you can find him with the megaphone at Atletico Ottawa gamedays. Eddie is also one of the co-hosts of the Hotstove and was the third-ever member of CCSG and 3rd-ever season seat holder (He made me add this and is currently flexing his muscles in front of me). He loves talking ball and is always ready for a conversation about the beautiful game.