‘A perfect fit for me’: Atlético Ottawa announce the signing of Kevin Dos Santos

Last year, Kevin Dos Santos basically ended Atlético Ottawa’s season.

On October 1, 2023, in the penultimate match of the campaign, Dos Santos skipped around Atléti’s Diego Espejo and poked a shot past Nate Ingham in the Ottawa net to score an 88th-minute match-winner for York United. The goal meant that York went into the final day of the season in full control of their playoff destiny. Ottawa, meanwhile, now needed York to drop points to have any hope of reaching the postseason.

Cue pandemonium at York Lions Stadium as Dos Santos peeled off in celebration, the now famous Ingham post-game rant, and a result that ignited York to go on and book a playoff spot in the final match of the season with a 2-1 victory over Vancouver FC. Atlético Ottawa finished the season just outside the playoff positions, in sixth.

But the story doesn’t end there. On Tuesday, Atlético Ottawa revealed that they had signed the 24-year-old Portuguese winger on a two-year contract.

“Finding out that I was coming here, that memory came back straight away,” said Dos Santos during his press availability on Tuesday. “What would the players think? What would the fans and everyone think?”

Whether the Ottawa faithful are ready to forgive or not just yet, Dos Santos is intent on making it up to them this coming season.

Kevin Dos Santos (centre) celebrates his match-winner against Atlético Ottawa (Photo: David Chant / York United)

Dos Santos first came to the Canadian Premier League midway through the 2022 campaign, signing with the club from English side Darlington. After making his debut on July 15 against Pacific FC, he would go on to make 14 appearances for York over the second half of the season, recording just one assist as he struggled slightly to integrate into the league.

“When I first came, first half season I was kind of shocked, like coming from Europe you think ‘oh it might be an easier league than others’, because you don’t know anything,”said Dos Santos. “But that’s more of a learning experience, and after the season and obviously getting to know how the league is, how competitive it is, you go back home and just do your training and prepare yourself to come back even better.”

He certainly did that in 2023, becoming one of the league’s most exciting attackers for the Nine Stripes, finishing tied for the team lead in goals with six, and adding an assist for good measure. The dynamic winger also finished fifth in the league in dribbles completed (48) and had 69 touches in the opposition box demonstrating his consistent ability to get into dangerous areas. Santos showed an excellent work rate as well, among the league leaders in duels won with 117 during the 2023 season.

His quality certainly caught the attention of York’s Ontario rivals, who quickly reached out after the campaign had concluded to inquire about whether or not he might be interested in moving further north for 2024. Dos Santos felt the move was a no-brainer.

“At the end of the season Carlos [González] and some of the staff messaged me just showing their interest and I was very happy to hear that I had interest from a club like Ottawa,” said Dos Santos. “I felt like it was a perfect fit for me to progress to the next level, to learn more because that’s what I need to do, to learn and just to get better the next day. After hearing the projects that they had for the team, for myself, it’s a perfect fit for me.”

In Ottawa, he hopes to find another gear. Regardless of all of his success with York this past season, Dos Santos wasn’t fully satisfied that he had lived up to his potential. Despite a competitive group of wide attackers in the nation’s capital that also includes fellow off-season signings Ballou Tabla, Kris Twardek and Matteo de Brienne, Dos Santos is confident he can win his place, and make his mark.

“I don’t think to my standards I had a good season [last year], because I set my standards very high, but what I want to do is continue with that work and obviously produce a lot more,” he said.

Dos Santos’ signing adds extra spice to the opening match of the Canadian Premier League season, which sees Atlético Ottawa host his former side York United on April 13, 2024 (1:00 p.m. ET). But facing his former side isn’t really on Dos Santos’ mind as he heads into the campaign.

“Honestly, it’s just another game,” said Dos Santos. “First game but I don’t see any other ways, first game of the season, it’s my opponent. It was home for maybe a year and a half, but I moved on.”

Instead, like everyone else in Ottawa this season, his focus is fully on what this impressive collection of talent being assembled in the nation’s capital can achieve together in 2024.

“There’s only one thing on my mind, me and the team and the staff team, we want to win, our goal is to be champions,” said Dos Santos. “That’s what’s on my mind right now. That’s why I came here just to win titles and show what kind of team we are building.”