Four years after promising rookie season, Enes returns to Griffins following two years of pro in Portugal

Michael Enes is returning to the Griffins after two seasons of pro in Portugal (Jorge Leal Nunes photo).
Michael Enes is returning to the Griffins after two seasons of pro in Portugal (Jorge Leal Nunes photo).

Jefferson Hagen
MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – The impression Michael Enes left on the Griffins men's soccer program during his rookie debut was enduring at the time.

As an attacking midfielder, he was one of the team's most dynamic players, cutting through opponents and creating chance after chance. 

Few on the team now, though, remember what a force he was when he co-led the Griffins in scoring during the 2019 Canada West season with three goals and four points. 

So, Enes' homecoming tour as he returns to MacEwan four years after his rookie season has been about making an impression once again.

Not even veteran Griffins captain Stewart Jamieson had seen him play before this summer.

"I never played with Michael beforehand, so this is my first introduction to him, and I'm thoroughly impressed," said Jamieson. "He's definitely going to make us a stronger team." 

Enes' return to the team was delayed by the lost pandemic season in 2020 and then just when he was preparing for the 2021 U SPORTS campaign, he got an offer he couldn't refuse, signing a pro contract with Portugal's Clube Desportivo de Sobrado. 

Portuguese in descent, the Edmontonian travelled to his family's home country and stayed two years, also playing last season for Aliados Futebol Clube de Lordelo. 

Michael Enes has memories for life from two seasons in Portugal (Jorge Leal Nunes photo).

"It was surreal," said Enes, who is returning to the Griffins this season a man, four years after he was a fresh-faced teenager out of FC Edmonton Academy and Archishop O'Leary high school. "It's stepping outside your comfort zone, for one. Then just seeing the level of football there. I was playing with guys who had lots of experience, guys who play in the Champions League, the first division of Portugal. 

"Just seeing how they treat training and games and what they're doing to prepare. It was awesome."

As a result, Griffins head coach Adam Loga expects big things from Enes as he brings a veteran pro perspective to the group. MacEwan kicks off the 2023 Canada West season on Friday vs. Lethbridge and Saturday vs. Saskatchewan (both games 2:30 p.m., Clarke Stadium, Canada West TV).

"He had a huge impact in his rookie season," said Loga. "Now he's older, mature and more experienced, so he's that much better. His impact's going to be huge. 

"I think he just finds his moments more. He's more precise on when he can and can't find them. He doesn't force the game. It's a bit more natural. He can just kind of find his pockets, rather than doing so much."

That's definitely something Enes picked up from playing against the quality of players in Portugal. 

"We had a preseason game against a first division team," recalled Enes. "I was playing right wing and the guy behind me was Mário Sérgio. He played with Ronaldo growing up and he also played against Barca in the Champions League, so it was just surreal playing with him. His knowledge of the game is just levels above."

A personal highlight of his time overseas came in his first professional game.

"My dad was in the stands," Enes recalled. "We were winning 2-0 and the other team scored a goal. It was around the 87th minute and they had the momentum going for them and were going to come back. My first shot after I came on, the ball came to me, I took a touch, and I shot it off the side of the post into the net."

Michael Enes moves the ball upfield against UBC during a game at Commonwealth Stadium in 2019 (Chris Piggott photo).

Now, he's back in the Canada West ranks and ready to contribute to the Griffins' success in a big way.

"I learned a lot on and off the field," he said. "I'd say I'm more professional – what I'm doing to take care of my body before games, but also on the pitch. 

"In Portugal, the big difference was the tactical side as well as reacting after losing the ball. I could say I've got more grit in my game – more aggressive – as well as just (more knowledge about) taking care of my body and preparing."

Although he admits he's returning to MacEwan to rediscover the love of playing football again and focus on his schooling, Enes doesn't regret his pro experience at all.

"I'm very happy I did it," he said. "I'd suggest (that path) for anyone. Step out of your comfort zone because you'll grow a lot on and off the field. I'm blessed to be able to experience what I did."