Local talent Bhandal, Watson among Highlanders four additions to roster


April 7, 2014, VICTORIA (ISN) – The Victoria Highlanders FC are excited to announce the signings of Simon Fraser University’s midfielder’s Tarnvir Bhandal (Victoria) and Alex Rowley (Maple Ridge, B.C.), forward Carlo Basso (Coquitlam, B.C.) and goalkeeper Brandon Watson (Victoria) for the 2014 Premier Development League season.

All four were members of SFU’s men’s soccer team that reached the semi-finals this past season in their NCAA championship run.

Bhandal is no stranger to the Highlanders organization, having moved up the ranks of the Highlanders development system over the years before joining the First Team. The five-foot-ten freshman played in 17 games with the SFU clan this season, posting a goal and two assists in those games. He has also represented British Columbia on the provincial stage.

Joining Bhandal at midfield is third-year SFU teammate Rowley. The 21-year-old Maple Ridge native is a former provincial team member (U-13, U-16) and was a member of the Vancouver Whitecaps Residency program from 2009-11. In 2009, Rowley was a member of the Metro-Ford U-16 provincial championship team. He was named NCAA GNAC Defensive Player of the Year, an NCAA GNAC First Team All-Star and NSCAA All-West Region player in 2013.

“Rowley comes to us on very high recommendations,” said Highlanders FC head coach Steve Simonson. “He’s a great box-to-box player and a good soccer player overall. He brings another added element in the middle of the park for us.”

Forward Basso will also make the trip from SFU to Victoria for the summer. The six-foot-four forward from Coquitlam has experience at the PDL level, having previously played for the Ottawa Fury in 2011 and 2013. As a member of SFU, Basso’s career statistics include leading his conference in goals in 2011 and 2012 and being named GNAC’s 2011 Co-Player of the Year. Last season, Basso posted eight goals and six assists along with 57 shots on goal in 23 games.

“Basso is a big, ever-present forward,” explained Simonson. “A big body and a great footballer. I knew Carlo from his youth career at Coquitlam Metro-Ford. He was one of the best youth strikers I ever coached against. I think he’s a type of player that we haven’t really had in my tenure, a big target centre forward that can score goals.”

The Highlanders also see the return of 22-year-old goalkeeper Watson, who was named First Team Rookie of the Year with Victoria in 2010. Watson returns to the club after nursing injuries for the past two seasons and brings an impressive resume with him that includes trialing with European clubs Dundee United and Sheffield Wednesday’s programs.

Under a month remains until the kick-off of the PDL 2014 season. In advance of the season, Highlanders FC will be holding open trials, April 7-9 at the Pacific Institute for Sports Excellence. For more information on this weeks open trials as well as club information, please visit www.victoriahighlandersfc.com 

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