May 12, 2019; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Pacific FC midfielder Benjamin Anthony Fisk-Routledge (10) tries to move the ball past FC Edmonton midfielder James Marcelin (14) during a Canadian Premier League soccer match at Clarke Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports for CPL
CPL debate: Which Atlético Ottawa signing will have the biggest impact?
Atlético Ottawa supporters have been treated to a deluge of signings over the past couple months, as the CPL’s newest club assembles its first-ever roster.
In all, 14 players have been announced by Ottawa, with six internationals locked in and three Canadians who played for other CPL sides in 2019.
Coach Mista’s squad has some holes to be filled before the 2020 CPL season kicks off, but it’s certainly starting to shape up nicely. The cast is a diverse one, with a healthy mix of youth and experience, and a bit of a lean towards wide players.
We haven’t seen Atlético Ottawa play yet, but we can make at least some educated guesses about their players.
So, looking at the squad so far, which of Ottawa’s players is likely to have the greatest impact in the club’s inaugural season?
The CanPL.ca editorial crew of John Molinaro, Marty Thompson, and Charlie O’Connor-Clarke are here to offer their picks.
I’m actually not sure there could be any other answer, assuming the 32-year-old is healthy and motivated when he suits up for Ottawa. The Mexican attacking midfielder has one of the most impressive resumes in the CPL, and his high-level experience is a good deal more recent than, for instance, David Edgar or Marcel de Jong.
Acuña played a significant role for some genuinely huge clubs in Liga MX, including Tigres UANL and Puebla, and he’s won trophies down in one of the top leagues in the Americas. His recent highlight tapes are jaw-dropping; some of the passes and touches he’s able to pull off suggest that, on raw footballing ability alone, he could be one of the best players in the CPL.
This player will be worth the price of admission to an Atlético Ottawa match, and it’s a major credit to their organization to be able to attract a player like that.
THOMPSON: Brandon John
Brandon John: If you know, you know.
The 25-year-old is one of Canada’s most underrated young defensive talents and has, unfortunately, just not made a breakthrough yet. An ill-timed ACL injury halted John’s MLS-bound career in 2016; solid stints with Orlando City B and with Vaughan Azzurri followed, putting John in the Canadian Premier League as a pseudo-underdog despite his all-rounded skills as a centre back.
Impressive physically and good on the ball, John will catch the eye right away as another Luca Gasparotto or Peter Schaale who, like John, also spent a chunk of their development in Europe.
John’s big return came in League1 Ontario when he led Vaughan to a championship in 2017. He suited up with and against many CPLers, too. Heck, he was even called up the Canadian men’s team during this time. How many players can get a call-up from League1?
Ultimately, he’s a sleeper pick, but he’s proven to have all the potential to play with some of these more-established pieces. Truth is, John still has that MLS potential – especially coming into his prime years. Let’s see it play out on the field, shall we?
MOLINARO: Ben Fisk
There’s a reason why Ottawa made Ben Fisk their inaugural signing.
“He was one of the key players for Pacific last year. We really liked his technical ability on the attacking side. We believe we need to be very strong at his position, with someone with good technique. Ben is very fast and a smart player, and we need that kind of player close to the goal,” Atlético Ottawa CEO Fernando López told CanPL.ca when they signed Fisk last month.
At 27 years of age, Fisk is set up to be the cornerstone of the franchise for years to come. The Canadian national team veteran has a wealth of valuable club experience both at home and abroad, most notably having played in Spain with Deportivo B. Ottawa will heavily rely on his experience this year.
In 2019, Fisk returned home after playing with Derry County in the Irish league and proved to be one of Pacific’s best players, scoring six goals and tallying five assists (tied for second-most in the CPL).
Still, Fisk was overshadowed by Terran Campbell, and you got the sense that there was more to come from the veteran. Now as one of the main focal points of the league’s first expansion franchise, Fisk is expected to the one of the side’s most influential players.