Midfielder/forward Gabriel Bitar is the seventh player to sign with expansion Vancouver FC ahead of the 2023 Canadian Premier League season.
The 24-year-old from Ottawa spent last year with now-defunct FC Edmonton, recording five goals and an assist in 22 appearances. He dropped back to midfield with the Eddies from his normal role as striker.
“Gabriel is a powerful presence with the ball at his feet,” Vancouver head coach Afshin Ghotbi said in a statement. “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.”
In 2021, Bitar went on trial with then-Lebanese champion Al Ansar FC, scoring two goals in two matches. Bitar, whose parents were born in Beirut, made his debut for the Lebanese men’s national team in December 2022.
Bitar, a two-time first-round pick in the annual CPL-U Sports draft, played for the Carleton University Ravens from 2017 to 2021.
He was a two-time all-Canadian, Ontario University Athletics East MVP and winner of the Lou Bilek Award as the U Sports male rookie of the year in 2017. He remains second on the school’s all-time scoring list, with 40 goals.
Bitar made his CPL debut for Cavalry FC during the 2019 season, after being taken first overall in the 2018 CPL-U Sports draft. After returning to Carleton, he went sixth overall in the 2019 draft to Cavalry but did not join the club for the Island Games in 2020.
“I am looking forward to building on my growth as a professional in 2022 with Vancouver this coming season,” Bitar said in a statement. “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.”
Bitar joins goalkeeper Callum Irving, defenders Kahlil John-Wentworth and Rocco Romeo, midfielder Elliot Simmons and strikers Mamadou Kane and Nathaniel St. Louis on the Vancouver roster.
In other CPL news, Cavalry FC has signed Canadian international midfielder Shamit Shome to a multi-year contract.
The 25-year-old spent last season in his hometown on loan to FC Edmonton from Forge FC, which signed him in April.
Montreal selected Shome in the second round (41st overall) of the 2017 MLS SuperDraft after he signed a Generation Adidas contract with the league. Shome made 52 appearances for Montreal before the club declined his contract option in November 2020
Valour FC signed Canadian midfielder Juan Pablo Sanchez and defender Eskander Mzoughi.
The 19-year-old Sanchez joins the Winnipeg team after spending the previous two seasons in Portugal with SC Salgueiros (Campeonato de Portugal). The 19-year-old Mzoughi spent last season in Belgium with Oud-Heverlee Leuven’s under-21 squad, logging 158 minutes in 12 appearances.