Talented midfielder Carter bringing pro experiences into rookie season with Griffins

Chance Carter battles with Alberta's Luke Withers in last Saturday's home opener (Robert Antoniuk photo).
Chance Carter battles with Alberta's Luke Withers in last Saturday's home opener (Robert Antoniuk photo).

Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – Touring with the Vancouver Whitecaps' first team during the 2018 and 2019 preseasons had MacEwan Griffins midfielder Chance Carter rubbing shoulders with some pretty distinguished company.

His teammate was Alphonso Davies.

Some notable opponents included L.A. Galaxy's Zlatan Ibrahimović and Carlos Vela.

"We played each other a couple of times," said Carter of the electric Davies, who is now a star with Bayern Munich and the Canadian national men's soccer team. "We went on preseason together. He was on the first team and I was with him. It was a good experience to see how he does things and to see how he operates.

"You definitely have to praise him for what he's done and done for Canada Soccer. He's definitely taking it to another level."

A member of the Whitecaps Academy at the time that Davies was with the program's top team, Carter had an opportunity to learn from the best and receive the type of coaching that brought him to the next level.

During the 2020 season, he played professionally in the Canadian Premier League, logging six games for FC Edmonton in the bubble.

"It was a great experience," he said. "It was difficult because of COVID that we couldn't have the season we wanted or all expected. We went into the bubble and got the games played.

"We didn't get the results we would have liked. It was difficult in that regard. But just being there and playing, it was an incredible experience. I got to play with many top players – national team players and players all over the world."

Some CPL pundits were predicting he'd vie for the loop's rookie of the year award in 2021, but he made the decision back in June to return to school instead of continuing with his pro career.

So, here he is at MacEwan, taking the rare route of playing university soccer after playing pro. Most go the other way around.

He will lead the Griffins (0-1-1) into action against Saskatchewan (2-0-0) on Saturday and Sunday (both 2:30 p.m., Clarke Stadium, Canada West TV presented by Co-op).

"Playing for FC Edmonton was a great experience," he said. "It was a dream of mine since I was a little kid to play with them – ever since Hanson (Boakai – a family friend) was on the team. Then, luckily enough, when I came to FC Edmonton, he was coming at the same time. So, I was able to play with Hanson.

"On the decision to go to school, I was just thinking of my future and what would be best for me down the road and try not to be so narrow-minded. Obviously, I love playing (pro), but I just thought I need a good education and maybe after that I can look to get back into it again. Right now, I just want to get my education and we'll go from there."

Following in the footsteps of his father Paul, who owns a dental practice in his native Jamaica, Carter is taking a Bachelor of Science degree at MacEwan with the goal of going into dentistry.

See more on Carter in this Global TV story from earlier this month

That doesn't mean, however, that his professional soccer aspirations are over.

"There's no question in my mind if he puts his mind and heart to it that he could be making some decent money in this game in the near future," said Griffins head coach Adam Loga. "No question. He's got the tools. It's just those intangibles, keeping that mindset, that grit and willingness to come out and work every day in a consistent manner.

"A lot of younger players do struggle with that. I know personally when I was at the pro level compared to the university level … is just the consistency. Can you be a 9/10 of your best self every single day and I think a lot of young players do struggle with that because a lot goes into being that. Hopefully with some maturity and more reps here at MacEwan we can get him to that standard."

In the meantime, Carter can also help raise the standard at MacEwan.

"He's played at a higher level, so he's able to lend a little bit more knowledge and cerebral (play) to the lads," said Loga. "In the room and on the practice field, the lads look up to him. They appreciate his perspective, almost yearning for his approval at times, if that makes sense. He's an instant leader just with his aura.

"With that comes with responsibility as well – perspective that he may not have had to see at the pro ranks being a younger lad up there. But coming into this locker-room and on this pitch, he needs to continue to be aware of what he brings to the collective group."

Chance Carter dribbles between a pair of Alberta players in last Saturday's home opener (Robert Antoniuk photo).

Carter's Canada West debut against Alberta last weekend offered tantalizing glimpses of his talent. He was able to use his size and underrated speed to make plays in midfield.

"His pace is pretty stealth," said Loga of the 6-foot Edmontonian. "When you see him, you don't think he's going to be pacey, but he can go 0-60 pretty quick. He has a handy left foot, is very athletic and very strong. And he's got a decent IQ for a young lad."

Carter was born in Canada but has strong Jamaican and Guyanese heritage from his parents. He looks up to a talented pool of athletes originating from the Caribbean countries, including Manchester City midfielder Raheem Sterling, who is Jamaican.

He grew up in Edmonton, but moved to Vancouver when he was 15 to be a part of the Whitecaps Academy – a place he credits greatly for his development.

"Whitecaps, that's probably the best moments of my life," Carter said of his home until he was 19. "They showed me a lot, especially … the old coaches. They showed me a lot of things that brought me along to preseason a couple of times. They let me see what the pro life is like, so I'm forever grateful for the Whitecaps and what they helped me do and achieve."

 MacEwan will be looking for its first win of the season this weekend when Saskatchewan visits. They're looking to rebound after losing 5-0 to Alberta last Sunday a day after tying them 1-1.

"Every single game's going to be just a grind, which is tough mentally, physically, emotionally on our staff and our team," said Loga. "It's important we mentally prepare, physically prepare, emotionally prepare right off the hop. They're going to be a strong team.

"We know where we stand at MacEwan here. We know we're not the UBCs and these big provincial universities, but the lads believe and we believe as a staff. We just have to keep becoming one and working towards the main goal."