"A baptism by fire" is one way to describe Atlético Ottawa’s inaugural season. The Canadian Premier League’s first expansion side arrived in Prince Edward Island to compete in their first season in unusual circumstances. Mista, a first-time coach, only announced his full complement of players this week, an aptly late announcement for a club that launched mere months before taking to the pitch. The additions of Ben McKendry and Milovan Kapor will ease concerns from the Atlético faithful, as a new roster turns to 20 names set to lead Ottawa onto the pitch for the first time. With so many unknowns (Ottawa has yet to play even a pre-season friendly), we here at CanPL.ca have decided to take a wild stab at predicting their opening day lineup at The Island Games. Some names are certain: first-ever signing and former Pacific FC captain Ben Fisk comes to mind, as does Liga MX veteran Francisco Acuña. But, outside of that group, things get a bit murky. Ottawa has taken on a young, somewhat unknown group to PEI. Here’s what we think is Ottawa’s best XI. RELATED READING: 2020 CPL regular season: The Island Games

Ricky Gomes A native of Kitchener, Ont., Ricky Gomes gets the first-choice nod in his return to Canada from playing in third-tier Portugal. He will likely split playing time with Nacho Zabal, who has some pretty good experience in Spain. Horace Sobze could also see a few matches.

Vashon Neufville, Brandon John, Gianfranco Facchineri, Malyk Hamilton English fullback Vashon Neufville is a fantastic addition, as he gets set to follow the path set by fellow countryman and West Ham product Nathan Mavila last season with Cavalry. Ottawa, unlike almost all other positions, has a shocking amount of depth at fullback. Recent addition Jarred Phillips was a shrewd bit of business, with the club betting on a three-time League1 Ontario all-star to make the jump to the CPL. Malyk Hamilton, another West Ham product, is looking to turn a promising Year 1 with Cavalry into a solid CPL career. Michel Djaozandry, a young Quebec prospect, serves as another option. At centre back, an up-and-coming pairing of Brandon John and Whitecaps loanee Gianfranco Facchineri could surprise some people – both decent on the ball with reputable work rates and physical acumen. Expect these two to eat up minutes at the back. Canadian Milovan Kapor, who may need to cover in the midfield, serves as the lone backup centre back.

Ben McKendry, Victor Martínez, Ben Fisk, Francisco Acuña, Mohamed Kourouma Perhaps Ottawa’s biggest bright spot, this five-man midfield promises to compete with the best in CPL – especially with recent additions Ben McKendry and Mo Kourouma. On the wings, Ben Fisk and Kourouma make up the best of Pacific FC and HFX Wanderers’ wide exploits from 2019. Kourouma is a work in progress, though, with his propensity for taking low-percentage chances on goal. Fisk, on the other hand, will likely wear the captain’s armband and play a much bigger role than a traditional winger. Watch for the B.C. native to tuck in and combine with Acuña and an overlapping Malcolm Shaw – a nasty, technically masterful threesome that will be hard for CPL defences to manage. In the middle, Victor Martinez and Ben McKendry make up a solid pivot in theory, though lack of chemistry or experience playing with one another will be an issue. McKendry, a former Vancouver Whitecap, is a high-risk pickup after joining Ottawa late with fitness concerns. Martinez, meanwhile, arrives as Ottawa’s lone Spanish outfield addition, and he could counter the lack of technical flair from Kourouma and McKendry quite nicely. Finally, Francisco Acuña slots in at the No. 10 because, well, Ottawa absolutely need him there – over 100 Liga MX appearances will get you a spot in the middle of the park. A shifty, creative spark, the 32-year-old Mexican attacker will be needed at his absolute best as a playmaker for Ottawa to compete, propping up a skin-deep lineup in the process.

Malcolm Shaw Since Ottawa seems so high on him, unproven professional debutant Malcolm Shaw will likely start over recent League1 Ontario acquisition Maksym Kowal. As a tall, strong forward, Shaw’s physical presence will set up the likes of Acuña and Fisk as joiners of the attack. He’s two-footed, too, a positive for an Ottawa team that may struggle to set up their No. 9 with many chances in PEI.

Nacho Zabal, Horace Sobze, Milovan Kapor, Michel Djaozandry, Malyk Hamilton, Ajay Khabra, Antoine Coupland, Matteo di Brienne Maksym Kowal Atlético Ottawa’s Achilles heel at The Island Games will be its depth. A passible starting lineup gives way to just seven outfield bench options – three of whom are teenagers with no professional experience. That’s a massive issue in a tournament that promises multiple games a week and loads of squad rotation. That being said, we could see some promising performances out of these extra pieces – especially with the 2021 season on the horizon. Ajay Khabra is a highly-touted former FC Edmonton midfielder and Maksym Kowal has loads of professional experience along with one of the best League1 Ontario seasons in recent memory.

Mista A first-time professional coach, Mista joins Ottawa just as he did with Toronto FC a decade ago – with lots of promise and a lot to prove. While a disappointing showing in PEI could easily be attributed to many factors, Mista can still show himself as a decent coach during this shortened season. One or two impressive results would be a respectable start – and a great footing for next season.

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