Matthew Roda is headed for the University of Western Ontario. BILL POTRECZ

When Matthew Roda heard Club Roma had been granted an expansion franchise in the League1 Ontario Men’s Premier Division, he immediately went to work.

“As soon as I heard about this League1 team coming into Niagara, that was the first thing on my mind and I started training for it,” Roda said. “The main goal was to make the Premier team, to play at a high level, and to also prepare me for the high level of athletics at Western. It’s been very intense and very high-paced and a bit of a challenge, but I love it all.”

Once Roma’s season comes to an end, the 18-year-old Fonthill native will head to the University of Western Ontario, where he will play on the men’s soccer team and study medical science.

For the Notre Dame graduate, Western offers the best of both worlds.

“As soon as I got my offer I was super excited to get started and I knew the future ahead of me was going to be good,” the speedy midfielder said. “Western was always a top-three school for me. I didn’t have a preference for No. 1. It was Western, McMaster or Queens. I ended up choosing Western because of the opportunities they had both academically and athletically.”

Western coach Martin Painter is excited to have Roda on board.

“Matt Roda stood out to us for a number of reasons,” Painter said. “Firstly, he is a fairly complete and versatile player who can play a number of positions and can contribute at both ends of the field. He also was very impressive in terms of his work ethic and his desire to improve. He is clearly a very driven and thoughtful athlete. We are excited to add Matt to our program and look forward to what he can accomplish on and off the field.”

He also was very impressive in terms of his work ethic and his desire to improve

Roda is equally thrilled to be a Mustang.

“I think I am going to fit in well with them,” he said. “They have a really young squad with only two players with [Ontario University Athletics] starting experience so there’s lots of opportunities at Western.”

Roda played both soccer and hockey growing up but hung up the skates when he entered high school.

“I chose to focus on just soccer because that’s when I started to get really serious and I figured I might be able to get somewhere with soccer,” he said. “I’ve always had a true passion for the game.”

Roda spent the majority of his minor soccer years with Empire Niagara Soccer Academy technical director Davide Massafra, who also coaches on Roma’s staff.

“Davide’s training sessions are very intense and he keeps the players focused and on track in order to achieve their future goals, whether it be university, semi-professional or professional,” Roda said.

Massafra has high regard for Roda’s work ethic.

“Since he was 12, Matthew was always the most serious, committed, and focused player during every single practice,” Massafra said. “Usually North American soccer players tend to only give their best on game days, while they don’t really put a lot of effort in practices. With Matthew, I never had to worry about that — he worked hard during both. Despite his height, Matthew is an incredibly hard working player who applies everything any coach asks in all positions on the pitch. If you witness him lost tactically on the field, or if it appears as if he is making mistakes, I can guarantee you it’s not Matthew’s fault because he applies all he has been told.”

Massafra also feels Roda’s commitment in the classroom plays a part in his development on the pitch.

“Matthew is a unique and excellent student,” Massafra said. “His IQ in all disciplines helped him learn everything throughout the years, and his dedication exceeds all expectations. I’ll miss him dearly as I know it’s not easy to find another player like him, but I’m extremely happy to see him playing at the university level. I wish Matthew the best because he is the classic example of a player who worked incredibly hard to get to where he is— he never stopped working even in the midst of a very challenging year.”

 

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