After announcing Drew Beckie as the latest addition to their roster on Tuesday, Atlético Ottawa’s roster is starting to take shape. Beckie was the 19th player to be unveiled by Ottawa, and while they still have four roster spots open, we're starting to get a pretty good idea of how Mista's team is going to line up. With just nine returnees from a year ago – and without their best player from the Island Games, Francisco Acuña – Ottawa is still something of an unknown, but a strong group of midfielders and a few players with seven extra games of CPL experience are two positives ahead of their second campaign. Let's take a look at how their roster is coming along.
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GoalkeepersAfter moving east from FC Edmonton this offseason, Dylon Powley is expected to be the starting goalkeeper in Ottawa to begin the season. After making nine appearances with The Eddies in all competitions (including seven across two CPL seasons) as the backup to Connor James, Powley will now have a chance to get more regular minutes. The other goalkeeper on the roster is young Serbian-Canadian shot-stopper Teodor Obadal. Joining Ottawa from Serbian third-tier side FK Lokomotiva Belgrad, the 19-year-old has already made over 70 professional appearances since making his debut at age 16 in Belgrade. He’ll likely start the season as the backup, but could push Powley for minutes as the season progresses. A combination of CPL experience and competition for the starting job, this duo should give Mista a couple of solid options between the sticks.
DefendersAtlético Ottawa’s back four will likely be very consistent with what it looked like last year. Of the nine returnees from 2020, three were regular starters in the Ottawa defence – Vashon Neufville, Brandon John, and Milovan Kapor. Neufville, 21, assisted Ottawa's first-ever goal, and played 240 minutes in his inaugural CPL season. He showed flashes of brilliance, but after picking up a red card in their first game, and Ottawa bowing out in the first stage, he didn't get many games to show his full potential. With another season ahead, the former England youth international will be looking to establish himself as one of the league's better left-backs. John, Kapor, and recent signing Drew Beckie will battle it out for starting minutes at centre back. John and Kapor were the starters throughout the Island Games, with the exception of the game Kapor missed after being sent off in a 4–0 defeat to Valour. That duo may start the season together again, but Beckie is no slouch either, and will push them for regular playing time as the season progresses. Zach Verhoven is expected to be the starter at right back as things stand, but is also capable of playing higher up the pitch. Verhoven, who spent the past two seasons with Pacific FC, can create a lot of goalscoring opportunities as either a wide midfielder or an attacking full back. If he's needed higher up the pitch, they'll need to either sign another right back, or play 17–year–old Keesean Ferdinand, who is on loan from CF Montreal. Ferdinand, like Gianfranco Facchineri was last year, is a young loanee into Ottawa looking to develop and get some meaningful minutes in the CPL. He can play at centre back, or at either full back position – important versatility when you only have a roster of 23 players. He played left back for Canada at the 2019 FIFA Under 17 World Cup, alongside Facchineri, but with Neufville penciled in on the left, Ferdinand will likely come off the bench for Mista's side if everyone is healthy and available. Importantly, he'll also help Ottawa meet under-21 minutes requirements. This group of defenders needs a bit more depth, especially at right back, but Ottawa's starting back four seems to be set.
MidfieldersIn midfield is where Mista will have the biggest headaches while picking his team. A midfield triangle of Viti Martinez, Chris Mannella, and Ben McKendry makes the most sense, but with Tevin Shaw finally able to join the club, and Antoine Coupland an up-and-coming young talent, the Atlético Ottawa boss has plenty of options in the middle of the park. Expected to line up in a 4–2–3–1 formation, Ottawa is set up well in central midfield. Despite losing their best player from the Island Games, Francisco Acuña, they have restocked their midfield well, starting with the return of Viti Martinez. Martinez, who went on loan to Deportivo Alavés B in the offseason, showed a lot of promise in PEI on both sides of the ball. He made nine interceptions, and his passing was crucial in the buildup to Ottawa's scoring chances. He also scored a dramatic 90th-minute winner against Pacific FC to give Ottawa their second-ever victory. Behind him in the base of midfield will likely be one, or both, of Chris Mannella and Ben McKendry. Mannella, a new recruit from York United, is returning to Ottawa after previously playing for the Fury, while McKendry is looking to build on an impressive Island Games tournament. Atlético Ottawa boss Mista called McKendry "one of the smartest players I have ever met on the field" in a press release announcing his re-signing, high praise for the 27-year-old from British Columbia. McKendry completed more tackles per 90 minutes (6.04) than anyone else in PEI, and will be an important part of that midfield duo. Mannella, who made 68 appearances for the Fury from 2018-2019 before joining York United (then York9 FC) for the Island Games, is also a strong candidate for minutes at the base of the Ottawa midfield. He only got into two matches in PEI while dealing with an injury, but his wealth of experience at just age 26 is important to help lead the team from midfield. Also available in central midfield are Tevin Shaw and Antoine Coupland. Shaw, a Jamaica international, was unable to join the club last season due to travel restrictions but re-signed with Atlético in the offseason. He hasn't played in a competitive match since he was playing with Portmore United in the 2019-20 National Premier League season in Jamaica. Coupland, still just 17, made three appearances at The Island Games in his debut CPL campaign. He's a highly-rated prospect in midfield and should eat up a lot of Ottawa's under-21 minutes. He's the youngest player to play in a CPL game, and signed his first professional deal at just 15 with the Ottawa Fury. The local talent may not be ready to be a regular starter just yet, but he'll certainly factor into Mista's plans in 2021.
ForwardsIn attack is where Ottawa has had the most turnover. With the exception of Malcolm Shaw, the club didn't retain any of their attackers from the 2020 season. Bernardinho also signed last year, but couldn't make it into the country, like Tevin Shaw, due to COVID–19 travel restrictions. Everyone else is new, including a new major signing from across the province, Ryan Telfer. Shaw finished The Island Games as Ottawa’s joint top scorer, with two goals, and will be the focal point at the top of Ottawa’s attack again in 2021. Shaw has a ton of speed and is capable of creating some special goals, like this long distance effort against Cavalry last season. Before joining Ottawa, he scored eight goals in 26 matches for Assyriska Turabdin IK in Sweden in all competitions – the kind of goalscoring rate Atlético will be hoping for in 2021. Alongside Shaw will be new recruit Ryan Telfer. One of the better Canadian Premier League attackers over the first two seasons with York, Telfer jumps straight into Ottawa's starting lineup. He can play on either wing, or up top. He didn't score in PEI at the Island Games, but if he can find the form that saw him score 10 goals in 32 games with York in 2019, he'll be crucial to whatever success Ottawa may have this year. Veteran winger Jordan Webb, returning to Canada after a decade in Singapore, will be one of the other wingers. The 33-year-old can play on either flank, and will likely share minutes with Bernardinho on whichever side Telfer isn't on. Rounding out the attack is a pair of Canadian strikers – Brian Wright and Shawn-Claud Lawson. Wright joins from Birmingham Legion of the USL Championship, where he picked up nine goals and five assists in 44 matches. He also played 18 times for Major League Soccer club New England Revolution, scoring twice, as well as a handful of games with the Tulsa Roughnecks in the USL.
Lawson, meanwhile, moves to Ottawa from Detroit City FC of the NISA. He is that club's all-time record goalscorer, finding the back of the net 51 times, including 19 goals in 2019 alone.
What's next?Adding some finishing touches to finalize the roster. With the signing of Drew Beckie on Tuesday, Atlético has 19 players under contract for the 2021 season, leaving four spots open. They could use a bit more depth in defence, where they may be stretched a little thin still, as one of their key areas of need. Ottawa's two draft picks in the 2021 CPL-U SPORTS Draft, defenders Cristopher Malekos and Reggie Laryea, are also available to them, should they wish to sign them to a CPL contract.