Sigma FC centre back and League1 Ontario 2015 Defender of the Year, Dominic Samuel has been signed by USL Pro club Rochester Rhinos.
"Rochester is the USL champion of last year, and has the best defence in the league, so it will be good for Dominic," said Sigma FC head coach, Bobby Smyrniotis. "They obviously have a big focus on defending and defenders, and it says a lot that they are looking to bring him in."
A regular feature in the Sigma's League1 sides, Samuel has a broad skill set that Smyrniotis feels will equip him well for the challenges at the pro level.
"Dominic was a dominant force at the back for us this past season in League1, and obviously that was reflected in him being selected as the 2015 Defender of the Year," said Sigma head coach Bobby Smyrniotis.
"But most importantly, he has a good head on his shoulders and his ability to defend tactically is very good. He is very physical in nature, he's quick and strong, but perhaps his best attribute is that he can rely on very good footballing intelligence. I think the intelligence has led to him getting better and better as a player, both with us and with Southern New Hampshire University, where he has been selected an All-American over the past few years. His tactical insight of the game gives him the opportunity to play at the next level."
Smyrniotis also pointed to the attributes of the USL Pro level as uniquely suited to the development of a player making the leap from development focus to professional.
"The USL is filled with teams playing good football, and a mix of tactical approaches to the game, and I think is a great extension of what we are doing here with League1 Ontario and college soccer as well," he said.
"The USL is still a very physical league in a lot of aspects, with the top teams being a little older, experienced, and savvy in terms of elite management, which is something Rochester have in veteran head coach Bob Lilley."
"In the USL Pro environment at Rochester the demand on the players is to win. There isn't a focus to move players to the first team - at Rochester they are the first team, and they are out to win. I think that dynamic is good for a player like Dominic. He has been through good years in college and League1, and this will be a good step for him as he will be in a full pressure environment from day one."
A native of East York, Samuel had some good fortune in being noticed by Mississauga based academy Sigma at the age of 13.
"We found him after the recommendation of a family friend," recalled Smyrniotis. "We went and watched him on one of the worst soccer pitches you can think of in Toronto, and it was just a bunch of 13 year olds running around in circles!"
"He's from East York, and for years he would take the TTC for two hours to training at Hershey Centre in Mississauga, and two hours back home. He's a very dedicated person. He's also a quiet guy who likes to do the work on the field, he's fantastic."
"That's something we have to remember, - we have good players everywhere around here," he concluded.
"Sometimes we just need to look."