Langley-based Vancouver FC has announced the signing of free agent attacker Gabriel Bitar as the club’s latest addition to the roster ahead of the 2023 season.
Bitar, 24, joins Vancouver after a successful Canadian Premier League debut with FC Edmonton in 2022, where he recorded five goals and an assist in 22 appearances.
A native of Ottawa, Ont., Bitar took the Canadian soccer pathway from U SPORTS to the Canadian Premier League (CPL) as a two-time first-round pick in the annual CPL-U SPORTS draft.
He starred for his former side even as he navigated a position change that saw him drop back into the midfield from his more traditional role as a striker.
Bitar was named to the CPL’s Gatorade team of the week four times through the course of the 2022 season and earned the title of player of the week in week nine.
“I am looking forward to building on my growth as a professional in 2022 with Vancouver this coming season,” said Bitar.
“I learned a lot during my first full season as a professional and believe I can contribute even more to my new team as Vancouver takes the pitch for its first season this year.”
Before going pro, Bitar starred up front for the Carleton University Ravens from 2017 to 2021. The two-time U SPORTS all-Canadian was named the Ontario University Athletics East MVP and was honoured with the Lou Bilek Award as the U SPORTS men’s soccer rookie of the year in 2017.
He remains second on the school’s all-time scoring list, with 40 goals.
“Gabriel is a powerful presence with the ball at his feet,” said Afshin Ghotbi, head coach for the Vancouver FC.
“He has an ability to create chances for himself through his strong dribbling and shooting skills. His movement off the ball also makes him a threat any time he is on the pitch,” Ghotbi added.
Bitar earned experience abroad in 2021, when he trialed with then-reigning Lebanese Premier League and Lebanese FA Cup champion Al Ansar FC, scoring two goals in two matches for the club.
At the international level, Bitar, whose parents were both born in Beirut, Lebanon, debuted for the Lebanese men’s national team in December 2022. He previously participated in the Canadian youth program when he took part in an identification camp for Canada’s men’s under-20 national team in 2015.
Bitar is the seventh player to be added to Vancouver FC’s roster since the club’s official launch in November 2022, joining strikers Mamadou Kane and Nathaniel St. Louis, midfielder Elliot Simmons, left-back/wingback Kahlil John-Wentworth, centre back Rocco Romeo, and goalkeeper Callum Irving in the growing squad, said Rob Friend, President, Vancouver FC.
“We are excited to add another young but emerging player in Gabriel,” Friend noted.
“As we continue to work through the process of building a roster ahead of our inaugural season in the Canadian Premier League, we are confident we are adding the right players to make this a memorable year for our team and our fans.”
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