By Ottawa Sports Pages, for Ottawa TFC Soccer Club
Elijah Roche first started kicking the ball around on Friday nights as a four-year-old Ottawa TFC grassroots player, and now after climbing through the club’s Academy and Ontario Player Development League programs for 11 years, he’s moved to North York in pursuit of the sport he loves with Toronto FC Academy.
“I want to play for TFC’s first team and I want to be a starter,” underlines Roche, who would also like to play for Team Canada one day. “I’m really excited and grateful for this opportunity and I’m looking forward to working hard to make those dreams a reality.”
Not too long after taking his first kicks, Roche recalls meeting his future coach Kousha Aminian for the first time – particularly memorable because he bought him a hot dog.
The pair wound up spending most days together as Roche rose through the ranks and began training in Ottawa TFC’s Academy.
“We’ve got a really strong and close relationship. I know I can always talk to him and ask him anything,” Roche says of Aminian. “He really helped me get to where I am today.”
This season, Roche was also coached by Brogan Engbers, who was a goalkeeper for Toronto FC II before rejoining his youth club to coach following a shoulder injury. Roche says Engbers has given him a lot of guidance on how to be a pro, which is his end goal.
Roche and his Ottawa TFC under-17 boys’ teammates enjoyed an exceptional season up to the midway point in their season, sitting in first place in the OPDL with 7 wins, 2 ties and just 1 loss. Though he’s now based in Toronto, Roche hopes to continue to play for his hometown team whenever possible for the remainder of the season.
Roche is recognized for his high level of athleticism and his versatility on the pitch, which he says is also a product of Ottawa TFC coaching.
“They have built up our team to progress in a different way, playing players in different positions, and those players have been pretty good in those positions,” highlights Roche.
Identified thanks to Ottawa TFC’s long-standing affiliation and relationship with Toronto FC and its acclaimed youth academy, Roche has been monitored by TFC Academy staff for several years.
He took part in multiple identification camps both in Ottawa and in Toronto and was recently invited to join TFC’s U16 boys for their MLS Next Playoffs in Frisco, Texas.
“I got to know most of my teammates that I’m now playing with there,” notes Roche. “Even though it’s a new experience, it feels very familiar, and it helps a lot that I’ve been part of a club that does things the same kind of way. I’m not really nervous. I definitely feel ready.”
Ottawa TFC is proud to see another one of its homegrown players reach higher levels in the sport.
“Your evolution as a player has been fun to watch, and we hope this is just your next step in a long and blossoming career,” Ottawa TFC wrote in announcing Roche’s signing on Instagram. “You join a strong list of homegrown alumni who have moved onto the next level, and you bring added hope and proof to the developing players at Ottawa TFC that the next level is within reach.
“Your Ottawa TFC family stands strong behind you and we look forward to watching you continue your career.”
Learn more about Competitive and Academy opportunities available at OttawaTFC.com.