It was a deal that flew a little under the radar, but FC Edmonton's pickup of Tomas Giraldo on loan from CF Montreal could go down as one of the more intriguing from this off-season. Not much is known about the 18-year-old midfielder, but his brief track record so far – catching the eye of Montreal's first team, as well as Canada's U-17 national team – suggests there's a lot of potential. Giraldo arrived in Edmonton in March, and he's been training with the new-look squad since they returned to training in mid-April. Coming from the MLS level, he wasn't quite sure what to expect with his CPL side – but he's impressed so far. "I think right now we're still in a part of the preseason where we're starting to build up the team, learning how we want to press, how we want to possess the ball," Giraldo told CanPL.ca. "Right now we're in that phase. I think the coaching staff – Alan (Koch), the assistants, everybody on the team – I think they're doing a nice job because even with the conditions with COVID it's not easy, but I think everybody's doing a great job."

RELATED READING: CPL off-season roster tracker: Who’s in and who’s out for 2021? || Alan Koch on ‘maximizing’ first FC Edmonton sessions as coach, eyeing new signings

The CPL isn't an entirely foreign concept to Giraldo; over the past couple years he's kept an eye on it – particularly with some fellow Montreal academy players in the league recently, like James Pantemis on loan to Valour FC in 2020. In fact, Giraldo isn't even the only player from Canada's 2019 U-17 World Cup team to go on loan to the CPL – Gianfranco Facchineri played for Atlético Ottawa last season, and fellow Montreal players Keesean Ferdinand and Sean Rea will be at Ottawa and Valour, respectively, in 2021. He'll be joined in Edmonton by another former Montreal teammate in Shamit Shome, of course. "I know some players. Sometimes I watch the highlights, I watched the highlights of the Island Games," Giraldo said. "Now I'm excited to be on the field this year and compete against those guys." FC Edmonton's squad has been heavily rebuilt for this season under new coach Alan Koch, which means there are definitely spots in the starting 11 up for grabs. It's unclear where exactly Giraldo's best position is – central midfield? A more attacking role on the wing? There's sure to be a lot of competition in the training camp. It wouldn't be the first time a teenager has had an impact in the CPL, of course; Tyler Attardo had a fantastic 2019 season with Valour, and York had a strong contingent of youngsters at the Island Games. Giraldo's expectations for himself are high, though. "I think for me it's an important year for my career because I'm still a young player, and I have a lot of important things to learn," he said. "Mostly, I want to be an important player for the team this year and enjoy it on the field." With the revamped squad in Edmonton, as well, he's pretty confident that the Eddies won't be retaining their Wooden Spoon title in 2021. "Fight to win the title, that's my mentality," Giraldo added. "If I can leave the CPL with a trophy, that will be really nice for me, for the team, for the fans of FC Edmonton. "I want to grow as a player, to be ready to make the next move."

Continue reading...