DEBATE: Who should be Atlético Ottawa’s inaugural signing?

Are soccer fans in the nation’s capital still feeling sky high from the launch of Atlético Ottawa?

Or has the cold, harsh reality set in? After all, there’s a lot to do, including signing 20-odd players in less than two months before the 2020 CPL season.

Where do you even begin?

When the inaugural seven CPL clubs signed their first players last November, we saw some that were symbolic choices, while others were messages of intent. Either way, each player will be forever linked to their clubs.

With a very long to-do list, Atlético Ottawa has to “break the seal,” so to speak. Do they go with a local talent – someone the community can rally behind. Or do they unveil the most high-profile talent you can identify?

Sounds like a question for’s Marty Thompson, Armen Bedakian, Charlie O’Connor-Clarke, and John Molinaro…

RELATED READING: CPL DEEP DIVE: How a steak & fish dinner in Madrid led to the launch of Atlético Ottawa

MOLINARO: Zela Langwa

Toronto FC made a wise decision in the buildup to its inaugural MLS season in 2007 when it announced Canadian international Jim Brennan its first player signing. The move was a homecoming for Brennan, a Toronto native who at that point spent his entire club career in England, where he played for Bristol City, Nottingham Forrest, Huddersfield Town, Norwich City and Southampton. As a hometown hero, Brennan became the face of the franchise, as local supporters had one of their own with whom they could identify.

It wouldn’t be the worst move in the world for Atlético to make sure its first signing is a native of Ottawa, and Langwa is available as a free agent after parting ways with HFC Wanderers FC this off-season.

Langwa is a product of Ottawa Fury academy and he does have some CPL experience under his belt, which is something Atlético should take into account when you consider they’re building their roster from scratch. Langwa is only 21 years old (he turns 22 on March 5), so the pacy left fullback’s best years are ahead of him. Also, he’s open to the idea of playing for Atlético, telling in a recent interview, “(I) have options in Europe. We’re going to choose the best for me but, I am a kid from Ottawa. I’d love to play here.”

THOMPSON: Matthew Arnone

Matthew Arnone is a CPL-starting centre back who is ready to be plucked and who can make life a lot easier for Atlético Ottawa coach Mista.

Arnone, 25, made over 20 appearances for HFX Wanderers FC in 2019, and he was named the team’s player of the year. How many potential Ottawa signings have that specific level of tangible experience?

Arnone fits the Atlético mould, too, as a mature, no-nonsense centre back who plays hard. SportLogiq ranks the Vaughan, Ont., native in the top ten of CPL defenders in line-breaking passes (2.08) and successful aerial duels (0.95). He also ranks amongst the best in interceptions (2.08) per 90 minutes.

Now, would this be the flashiest inaugural signing ever? Definitely not – and Arnone himself would probably admit that. But, this move would secure a player who could be in Atlético stripes for years to come. Don’t be fooled by the fact he was released by HFX – Arnone could be a top CPL centre back for many more seasons to come.


Maxim Tissot while with the Ottawa Fury (Trevor MacMillan/CPL).
Maxim Tissot while with the Ottawa Fury (Trevor MacMillan/CPL).

It’d be a nice story, wouldn’t it? A player from the Ottawa region (Gatineau, specifically), who was a Fury regular, re-ups in the capital? Although Atlético Ottawa hasn’t signed a player yet, Tissot might be the front-runner for their inaugural captaincy.

Tissot made 44 MLS appearances with the Montreal Impact, plus 13 appearances for Canada at the senior level (and 41 games lifetime for the Fury). He has the experience to compete with most veterans in the CPL, and at 27 years old, he has plenty left to give.

We haven’t yet heard how exactly Mista plans to build his squad in Ottawa — from the back out, or loading up in attack — but regardless, Tissot is a versatile player who can fill out the left-back position or deputize very adequately in midfield.

Honestly, it’s hard to predict who the first signing will be in Ottawa, but smart money would be on Tissot finding his way there at some point. A local veteran who’s enjoyed playing in his hometown the past couple years? Not a hard sell.

BEDAKIAN: Fernando Torres

Why not? It’s not like he’s busy doing anything else, right?

While the idea of bringing on the former Spanish superstar striker may seem absurd, consider this: Major League Soccer’s development and growth trajectory catapulted forward tenfold with the acquisition of David Beckham in 2007. The CPL could see a similar effect if they were to bring on Torres, a legendary player with instant name-brand recognition from coast-to-coast.

Torres retired at the end of the 2018-19 Japanese J-League season with Sagan Tosu, but El Niño would still rank among the cream of the crop at just 35 years old. He’d be an instant fan favourite, would draw crowds wherever he travelled, and would do all of this in servitude to the Club Atlético de Madrid brand – the club that made him who he is from his youth soccer days all the way through to the end of his professional career.

So, why not is the question and why not is the answer I’m giving here, too. Make it happen!