‘It’s a big step’: Miguel Mista embracing new challenge with Atlético Ottawa

OTTAWA – A familiar face to soccer fans in Ontario is returning to the province in an unexpected way.

Soccer supporters in the country’s capital city of Ottawa learned on Tuesday the identity of the head coach of newly-minted Canadian Premier League outfit Atlético Ottawa, with former Toronto FC Designated Player Miguel Mista taking on first-team coaching responsibilities at the club.

Mista is, perhaps, remembered unfairly for his limited contributions in MLS. As this writer and long-time Valencia follower can attest to, Mista is one of Spain’s most prolific goal-scorers. In his prime, there were few players as potent in front of goal than the former Valencia and Atlético Madrid striker. And, at 41, the Spanish tactician is hoping to bring that same attacking instinct – coupled with Atlético Madrid’s club and organization philosophy for defensively stoic showings – to this new project in Ottawa.

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“For me, it’s a very important opportunity because it’s a big step for my career to be (coaching) in the first division,” Mista told reporters in Ottawa, in Spanish, as translated by staff. “I know this country, from previously being here (with Toronto FC in MLS) and I loved the way people treated me. I’m extremely happy to be here and to help, somehow, in being a part of this football team with Atlético.”

This is Mista’s first foray into the world of first-team management. But, it’s not his first coaching role, per se.

He has worked as a coach for both Valencia and Rayo Vallecano over the last few years, learning from experienced managers and taking in La Liga action from the tactician’s bench as an assistant.

His first order of business will be assembling a team of players to don the red-and-white stripes of the CPL’s newest outfit.

But, those pieces aren’t quite in play just yet.

“At the moment, we still don’t know (what the team will look like),” Mista answered, when asked about how he’d be putting together his first-team roster. “We’re still building the team and getting to know the players who will make the team, or not. But, we have to field a very competitive team to make Atlético Ottawa sit in the highest position in the league.”

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For Mista, a return to Canada came just as quickly as the actual development of this club. Though Clanachan explained to that conversations with Atlético Madrid started as far back as last Spring during the Champions League final, it’s only in the last two weeks that a deal came to fruition.

(We’ll have more on that particular story on in the coming days, so stay tuned).

So, with such a quick turnaround, Mista will need to get to work right away. But, he’s excited for the challenge.

“Everything happened so fast, it’s true, but yes, from the moment Atlético Madrid got in contact with me, I was really excited to accept the responsibilities of this new challenge,” Mista concluded, with a smile.