Trinity Western University men’s soccer alum Joel Waterman (Aldergrove, B.C.) has joined the Montreal Impact, becoming the first Spartan to sign a contract with a Major League Soccer club.
Waterman, who had played throughout 2019 with Cavalry FC, from the Canadian Premier League, signed a two-year contract with the club, with options for 2022 and 2023.
“We are happy to welcome Joel to the Impact,” said Impact sporting director Olivier Renard. “He’s a centre-back that can play every position in a three or four man defensive line, and also as a defensive midfielder. He’s a player with the right mentality, and he comes to Montreal following a good season in CPL.”
Waterman, 23, played five years with TWU, helping elevate the Spartans program back into being perennial contenders within Canada West and U SPORTS. The Spartans captured Canada West medals in each of his final three years, winning bronze in 2016 before back-to-back silver medals in 2017 and 2018. Waterman capped his university career by helping lead TWU back to the U SPORTS championship tournament, in 2018, for the first time in nine years. The Spartans finished fourth in the championship tournament, which saw TWU upset top-seeded York University in the quarter-finals.
“There are definitely different paths to follow to becoming a pro and I’m a testament to that,” Waterman said. “But I think that path I took has been the most rewarding – in terms of being able to get my degree in Canada and then getting to move to the CPL and then being able to sign an MLS contract in Canada. I kind of feel a sense of responsibility as a bit of a trailblazer that this can actually happen within Canada through U SPORTS and the CPL.
“I don’t think anyone expected a small-town kid from Aldergrove to make it to this level. I sure didn’t growing up. I knew I could play, but I didn’t know how far it would take me. I just loved the game and I kept playing. The fact that I’m here is amazing and it’s pretty surreal. It’s going to take me a while to let this sink in for sure.”
In his time with TWU, Waterman registered nine goals and five assists in 57 career games, including 48 starts.
“This is massive,” said Spartan men’s soccer coach Mike Shearon. “This is a huge day for our program and for Canada West and a great opportunity for U SPORTS. I couldn’t be more thrilled for Joel and what’s next. This is why players are wanting to play in the Canadian Premier League. You look at Canada West and you look at how well Cavalry did this year and how Canada West was represented, you can see there are players, when given the chance, they can play at the next level.”
Beyond the pitch, Waterman’s time at Trinity Western University saw a life transformation that has now played an instrumental role in his outlook on his career.
“Finding my faith a TWU changed my life,” Waterman said. “That makes me look at football differently now. I only came to TWU for soccer and that’s all I was about in my first two years. I think finding my faith in my third year definitely put me on a different path. Now it’s more about community and about representing something bigger than myself. I definitely grew as a person off the field and Mike played a huge role in that for me. He was definitely a role model for me and he showed me how to be a man and how to deal with problems and I can’t thank him enough for everything he’s done in my career.”
Most recently, Waterman played his last season with Cavalry FC, helping the team finish atop both the Canadian Premier League Spring and Fall Seasons’ standings, before appearing in the first leg of the league final. He played 25 regular season games and 1,719 minutes, scoring one goal, and played in three Canadian Championship games. He was selected by Calgary in the second round of the 2019 CPL U SPORTS Draft.
“Joel is good athletically and that obviously helped him progress, but I think the thing that I’ve seen the most growth with Joel is his performance character and his emotional intelligence and his ability to really want something and work for it,” Shearon said. “Joel has had immense dreams and this is one step along the path of his dreams. If given the chance, Joel has always been someone that would take advantage of that chance. He did that in Calgary this last year and I hope he does it again in Montreal.”
Waterman also played three seasons in the USL Premier Development League, suiting up with the Kitsap Pumas in 2016, TSS FC Rovers in 2017 and the Calgary Foothills in 2018, with whom he won the league playoff championship. He also appeared in two Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup games in 2016.