EDMONTON – Adam Loga's gold medal-winning Team Alberta entry at the 2019 Western Canada Summer Games continues to bear fruit for the MacEwan Griffins men's soccer program.
Ali Yildiz, who helped Alberta defeat Manitoba 2-1 in the 2019 WCSG final, joined the Griffins in 2021, while Manitoba striker Issac Milambo was also in his first year at MacEwan last season.
Now a third player out of that final is MacEwan bound. Loga announced Wednesday that Alberta's Ali Blaybel is en route to the Griffins for the 2022-23 Canada West season.
"He played a big part for us," said Loga of Blaybel's WCSG contributions. "To clinch the gold medal game against Manitoba, we guided each other a bit on the press and he ended up winning a ball in the attacking third facing the opponent's goal and got on the front foot. They took him down for a PK, which won us the game."
That attacking prowess will be a welcome addition to the Griffins.
"He's pacey, plays down the wing as well," said Loga of the Edmontonian. "He's another guy we're expecting to come in and make an impact. We're excited to have him. He's a great kid."
Blaybel already has a strong connection with BTB Academy teammate Yildiz, who was named the Griffins' Most Improved Player in 2021 after producing a goal and three points in the squad's final four games. Both will be on Team Alberta for the 2022 Canada Summer Games.
"He took a gap year and had some trials professionally," said Loga of Blaybel. "He wants to try the Ali Yildiz path where he's aiming for a year or two in Canada West to mature his game and then step to the next level."
Meanwhile, he has the talent to provide some depth and scoring up front for the Griffins.
"He's going to be able to share minutes and push guys like Ricky (Yassin) and Yildiz in the front three and give us depth there," said Loga. "He gives us different looks, game in and game out."
MacEwan's overtime loss to Victoria in the opening round of the 2021 Canada West playoffs is evidence of how Blaybel can help with what they need going forward.
"Chatting with the staff, we felt last season when we went into overtime against UVic, we just ran out of steam," said Loga. "If we had a couple guys ready to step in right then and there, maybe our favour would have been a bit different.
"That was what we addressed this year. We weren't necessarily looking for guys right out of high school. We were looking for some guys who had a gap year, playing men's league like Ethan (Monaghan) and Ali to come in and make an impact right away. We just don't want any passengers as we move forward and progress as a program."