By Charlie Pinkerton
At the make-or-break midpoint of the Ontario Player Development League (OPDL) season a collection of Ottawa soccer teams are still vying for their league’s top spots.
West Ottawa’s Under-17 boys attacked relentlessly during a game against Richmond Hill on July 8, showing no signs that they’re just barely hanging on in contention in their league’s east division.
Rebounding from a 3-0 loss from the day before against Hamilton United Elite, the west division’s top team, West Ottawa dominated in the second half of a 3-0 win of their own against Richmond Hill. West Ottawa’s players weren’t afraid to show off their passion for flashin’ in the victory with an array of signature goal celebrations. Before a teammate one-upped him by sticking a standing backflip to celebrate the team’s exclamation point third-goal, West Ottawa leading scorer Georges Musitu showed off his own favourite after scoring his 7th goal of the year.
An ode to 19-year-old Kylian Mbappe, a star forward of France’s national team, Musitu stood arms-crossed, smiling to a group of his teammates after his tally.
“He’s young, so he wants to be like him,” a teammate says of Musitu, while roughly translating from French to English after the game against Richmond Hill. Musitu moved to Ottawa from the Congo about two years ago and speaks little English. This is his second season playing for West Ottawa.
The language-barrier isn’t something that West Ottawa head coach Kwame Telemaque struggles with, being fluent in French himself, instead its Musitu’s flashy playstyle, which he jokes is “a handful.”
“(Musitu)’s a great kid. He has a big heart. You can see he’s still a little raw in terms of within a team structure, but his individual skills and ability are unbelievable,” Telemaque says. “He’s a treat to work with and a treat to have.”
OPDL Standings at the time of publication showed West Ottawa was in 3rd place in the east division at 4-2-2.
Ottawa South United’s U14 girls also continued their push for the top of the east division of their age group on the same hot and humid Sunday.
Keeping OSU’s defence sturdy during their win was player of the match Carling Roffey.
“She’s steady, and she’s one of the hardest workers in the group,” said first-year English coaching import Liam Hughes.
Hughes said he’s been blown away by Roffey’s progress over the eight months he’s coached her.
Roffey started playing soccer competitively at eight-years-old and played 11 sports at St. Mark High School this year. She says she thinks her ability to communicate well with her teammates is one of her strongest assets on the soccer field.
“I can talk with my teammates and make sure that we’re organized, especially on the backline,” Roffey said.
“I feel like I have a good understanding of the game, but obviously not a great one because I’m still learning a lot,” she said with a laugh.
Hughes said that though at the start of the season he didn’t think his team would be competing at this level, now he’s pushing for the top.
“I want to win, but, we want to develop as well,” Hughes said.
The girls were 2nd in the east with a 5-1-2 record at the time of publication, according to the OPDL’s standings.
Other upper-echelon Ottawa teams in contention for the lead of their division include OSU U15 girls (1st, 6-0-1), OSU U17 girls (2nd, 3-2-1), OSU U14 boys (2nd, 7-0-2), OSU U15 boys (2nd, 4-1-3).
Other local OPDL teams include the West Ottawa U14 boys (4th, 2-2-7), OSU U17 boys (4th, 3-1-4), West Ottawa U14 girls (4th, 3-4-2) and West Ottawa U15 girls (4th, 3-2-3).