Defence wins championships and forwards win glory but it will be the midfielders who provide the yeoman’s work for Atlético Ottawa in its first Canadian Premier League season.
Whether supporting the attack or helping defensively, their importance will be essential to the success of the club.
Let’s take a deeper look at Ottawa’s midfield so far:
Ambitious 16-year-old local boy
By far the youngest member of the squad at only 16-years-old. Coupland is a perfect example for all the kids in Ottawa to realize that their professional dreams can now come to fruition without moving away from their hometown. This really is the perfect signing for Atlético Ottawa to prove they really are here to help Ottawa kids attain their dreams.
But this is far from being only a token signing. Don’t let his age fool you as this young player might very well be a star in the making. Proving his immense potential by turning pro at the ripe age of 15 last year with the Ottawa Fury, he featured in three games in the USL championship.
Coupland spent his youth training with Ottawa’s St. Anthony soccer club, graduating from their Futuro Soccer Academy. The attacking midfielder was offered a trial with English club Sheffield United before turning it down to join the Fury.
Interviewing him when he signed with Atlético Ottawa in March, I was struck by the maturity he spoke with and his ambition was self-evident. He seems like just the type of young player that can shine brightly for not only Ottawa, but perhaps for Canada as well.
Central midfielder with Canadian Premier League experience
The 24-year-old Edmonton native played youth soccer with Edmonton Juventus and then with the FC Edmonton Academy. Khabra then went on to the University of Alberta where he helped them win a U SPORTS national title in 2016. He also played with the Edmonton Green & Gold of the Alberta Major Soccer League before signing last year with FC Edmonton and featuring in 24 CPL games.
He’s a central midfielder who can also play the right side, and CEO Fernando López describes him as bringing “strength, technique and ability to cover ground” to the team. His strength and ability to cover should prove valuable to the Atlético.
Victor “Viti” Martínez
Spanish defensive midfielder
The 22-year-old central midfielder is a native of Spain and played with various Spanish clubs as a youth before signing with CE Sabadell FC. Martinez made his senior debut for the club in 2017 in Spain’s third-tier. He also has played in Spain’s famed Copa Del Rey. Martinez signed with CF Pobla de Mafumet in Spain’s fourth-tier before signing with Gimnàstic de Tarragona returning to the third-tier.
Atlético Ottawa seems to regard him in high esteem.
“With his addition we continue with our philosophy of supplying top level players to our squad and to attract the best talents to the nation’s capital,” said club CEO Fernando López at the beginning of April.
Lopez went on to suggest Martinez could be used as a centre back as well as in central midfield.
Box-to-box Jamaican international
The 23-year-old Jamaican is a box-to-box midfielder. Shaw began his youth career in his native country with Kingston based Boys’ Town FC signing as a professional with the club in 2014.
In 2016 he signed with Tivoli Gardens also of Jamaica’s National Premier League, spending three seasons with them. He spent one more season in the league with Portmore United before signing with Atlético Ottawa.
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CEO Fernando López describes his style of play as “a very skilled defensive midfielder that will bring to the team a wide range of possibilities. He is able to high pressure opponents, make smart tackles, recover balls and move the team sideline to sideline with quality and precise crossings.”
He also brings international experience earning six caps for Jamaica. Ottawa has appeared to have a penchant for signing attacking players and his stability on the defensive side coupled with his ability to help start the attack should be quite a welcome addition.
Atlético Ottawa should target experience next
With the potential this young group possess it will need leadership to be successful. A veteran presence will aid this group to alleviate some of the pressure by providing on-field vision and experience.
If Ottawa’s midfielders can hit the ground running, they could prove to be a big asset and a stabilizing force for the team as it enters its inaugural season in the CPL.