Atlético Ottawa will go from one bubble, to another… to yet another this month. Such is the life of a club born into a global pandemic. Ottawa shouldn’t be surprised to jump from a pre-season bubble in Spain to an ongoing quarantine in Ottawa which, of course, is all to prepare for another sequestered environment in Winnipeg, Manitoba with "The Kickoff" presented by Volkswagen – it’s all they’ve known. "It's certainly a bit tough, but we need to take advantage of that situation," coach Mista said of his players, who will depart for Winnipeg on Wednesday. There’s something different about this Ottawa squad from the one fielded at the Island Games. For one, Mista and his coaching staff have had a reasonable amount of time to recruit players since the PEI tournament ended last September. Domestic additions like Chris Mannella, Ryan Telfer, and Drew Beckie are set to mark a turnaround for the club that finished second last on Prince Edward Island. "It’s important to remember this year is completely different for us. We could actually train together because last year we could only get a couple of weeks before PEI," Mista began. "We were able to take our time – we trained without stress. That might have been what I needed for pre-season – so some good training. Very relaxed, there was no pressure."

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A big part of that greater squad cohesion came from a settled stay with Atlético de Madrid, their parent club. Players have gone on tours, seen the Wanda Metropolitano, trained in top facilities, and seen Atleti capture the La Liga title for the first time since 2013-14. They've also, perhaps most importantly, had two months' worth of training – almost twice as long as the club spent on Prince Edward Island. "These players now feel that connection much deeper," Mista, a former Atlético Madrid player, told "Last year we only had a couple of weeks to train to learn our philosophy. This year is completely different – they know. They have more responsibility. "Alternatively, we know the CPL more deeply and we’re more prepared." CPL clubs are eying a return to home markets by this Summer as COVID-19 vaccinations ramp up across the country. Ottleti has not yet played a game at TD Place – something not lost on Mista for even a second. "I’m very grateful for the support we continue to see back home," Mista said, speaking on behalf of the team for a moment. "It’s a difficult time waiting for news, where the league would kick off and all that. "All I can say is thank you for waiting and I hope they can enjoy this Winnipeg event in the interim." Atlético Ottawa will play the 2021 CPL season opener on Saturday, June 26 against FC Edmonton (2pm ET on OneSoccer).

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