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League1 Ontario soccer newbies seek to shake rookie jitters in debut season
Updated On: May 8, 2017
Marco Natoli. File photo

By Phi Trinh

The Ottawa South United Force men and West Ottawa Warriors women are set to make history as they get set to kickoff the inaugural season for a local team in the fourth League1 Ontario season.

Though they are new to the loop, both clubs aren’t expecting to be league doormats by any stretch.

OSU League1 head coach Traian Mateas is confident that everything is possible if his players can maintain a high level of commitment.

“I believe we’d do well,” he underlines, noting that he would nonetheless like to see improvements in his team’s stamina.

The biggest challenge he sees for his squad is a lack of experience in League1, though many players on the roster can draw on successful backgrounds at other levels.

Dario Conte, who appeared for Ottawa Fury FC in the North American Soccer League last season and was part of the OSU group that won Ottawa’s first-ever Ontario Youth Soccer League title in 2013, will be a leader.

"He's a technical center midfield player who is good on the ball and has the ability to unlock defences with a dribble or vision of a pass,” highlights OSU club head coach Paul Harris, who also expects consistent offensive contributions from the likes of Walsh University player Myles Cornwall and former OYSL scoring champ Marco Natoli.

It took just 90 minutes for the Force to make history with Ottawa’s first League1 victory as Gabriel Bitar scored twice in their debut, a 3-1 road victory over Aurora on Apr. 29.

"We were well organized and the quality was good,” signals Mateas, whose squad makes its home debut on May 13 at Carleton University. “We have lots of youth and enthusiasm and passion to play the game. They have performed well and they wanted it and it's important to use this as a stepping-stone to go to the next one."

The Warriors are also keen to jump of the gate quickly, though their focus is on improving throughout their 20-game campaign that runs through to September.

“This is our first year in the league so we are looking to build and adjust throughout the season,” notes League1 head coach and West Ottawa club technical director Kristina Kiss, who had 14 players training together throughout the spring and expects to grow to roughly 18-20 during the season.

“We have some young players who are representing at the provincial and junior national levels as well as some experience returning from school in the States,” Kiss adds.

There are no age restrictions on League1 participants, though the target group is roughly 17 to 23 years old – intended as a venue for players seeking to move on to the professional level, or a place for university-level players to prepare for their collegiate seasons.

"There are many players in the region that are playing at a very high level and in need of a challenge to further their development," indicates Kiss, whose squad is filling the void of a top-level local women’s team since the Ottawa Fury’s W-League team folded after its 2014 season. "This is a much-needed opportunity not just for these players but for the younger players in our area to look up to and aspire to be."

West Ottawa will host Ottawa’s first-ever League 1 home game on May 5 at Beckwith Park.

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