Although FC Edmonton was never a major factor in the Canadian Premier League, Easton Ongaro certainly was.
Ongaro, who victimized Pacific FC several times over the years with his loping stride and goals for the lowly Eddies, will now be scoring for the Tridents.
Island-based PFC signed the six-foot-six, field-stretching striker for the 2023 CPL season. Ongaro, 24, scored 25 goals in 55 games for the Eddies in three CPL seasons between 2019 and 2021 before joining Vancouver Whitecaps-2 last season in MLS Next Pro, with an MLS call-up to the parent Whitecaps on Aug. 13 against Los Angeles Galaxy.
“Ironically, I think I scored more against PFC than any other team in the CPL. I’m super excited to be joining a team in a beautiful city like Victoria in a [Starlight] stadium with great atmosphere and great fans,” said Ongaro, by phone from Vancouver.
“It just seems like the right time. Pacific is an organization that has won a championship . Simply put, they win games.”
A big part of that was because of Alejandro Diaz, whose CPL-leading 13 goals still captured the 2022 CPL Golden Boot despite that the former Mexico U-20 and U-23 international was shipped mid-season to Sogndal of the Norwegian First Division for the second-highest transfer fee in CPL history, which Transfermarkt listed as $165,000 US.
PFC addressed the departure of Diaz by inking another proven goal scorer in Ongaro.
“Diaz filled the net and I hope to fill the gap that he left,” said Ongaro.
Ongaro has all the tools to do so, including the stretch size to reach balls on the ground or in the air in the box that might elude shorter strikers. Intrigued by that potential, European clubs gave Ongaro looks on loan while he was with the Eddies, including Vendsyssell FF of the Danish First Division in 2020 and FC UTA Arad of the Romanian Liga 1 early in 2022.
“I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and test myself. You learn in pro sports there’s a lot of uncertainty and things can change quickly,” said Ongaro.
Ongaro described the CPL and MLS Next Pro as “comparable leagues” in terms of talent but said the atmosphere, game experience and fan support is better in the CPL.
“I was brought up in a soccer family in Edmonton but never thought any of this was even remotely possible until the CPL was established [in 2019] to give Canadian players an opportunity to play professionally,” he said.
It’s an opportunity Ongaro has happily embraced for a second time.
“Easton is incredibly motivated to win games for Pacific and hungry to progress, to push himself towards the next level,” said PFC head coach James Merriman
“He has ambition for more. These are the type of players that we want at our club, and he will continue to develop in our environment.”
PFC earlier announced the re-signing of strikers Josh Heard and Djenario Daniels and midfielder Cedric Toussaint.