The veil of secrecy has been lifted for Chris Mannella.
Atlético Ottawa’s latest signing is far from their newest, with the 26-year-old formally joining from York9 FC (now York United) on Tuesday, though the contract was signed months before.
“My friends were texting me like ‘we know you’re there’ and I’m like, I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Mannella said with a laugh, adding a few Ottawa soccer fans had spotted him in the city before departing for Spain, where the club is taking in pre-season with its pre-season with parent club Atlético Madrid.
Speaking to CanPL.ca Newsroom from Spain, Mannella recounted his time in the nation’s capital with Ottawa Fury, which ceased operations in 2019 and, ultimately, set Mannella back to his hometown with York.
“Those were some of the best years of my life – I made some of my best friends there,” Mannella told CanPL.ca’s Marty Thompson and Charlie O’Connor-Clarke. “It’s weird because I’m almost more used to Ottawa because it’s been my most recent history.”
Mannella played 68 games for the Fury in both the USL and the Canadian Championship from 2018 to 2019 and appeared just a handful of times for York at the Island Games due to injury. His return to Ottawa, and the prospect of working under the Atlético Madrid umbrella, was a no-brainer for Mannella.
“When would you ever get this opportunity,” Mannella asked hypothetically. “It’s an easy draw for players, especially when they understand that the backing is so deep. The sport science element has been incredible, too – the way they are easing us into the season has been perfect, considering we don’t have a firm start date. We don’t want to start ramping things up too early.”
Ottawa – coached by Mista, Mannella’s former teammate at Toronto FC – famously built their squad at the last-minute in 2020 after being unveiled just a few months before scheduled kick-off. The COVID-19 pandemic allowed some more time to build a team that finished the Island Games with a 2-2-3 record.
“The coaches have done really well,” Mannella told CanPL.ca Newsroom recounting the shortened 2021 season. “We look like a solid team. We got guys fighting for positions, which is always, which is always good to bring the best in guys.