By Ottawa Sportspage, For Ottawa South United Soccer Club
The 2020 soccer season will go down as a lost year in many people’s minds, but Ottawa South United nevertheless continued to advance players to soccer’s higher levels and broke new ground despite the pandemic’s roadblocks.
While COVID-19 kept OSU from building on its championship trophy collection, many club products nonetheless earned opportunities to play soccer in the university and professional ranks.
“There are still a lot of successes worth celebrating this year,” underlines OSU Head Coach Paul Harris. “I remember when I was at Everton, the way we viewed success is if you can do it year-in and year-out, which is what I think we’ve managed to do here at OSU.”
Another 14 OSU players born in 2002 are headed on to university scholarships in all corners of the continent, including many from the history-making girls’ side that became Ontario’s first-ever winner of OPDL league, Cup and Charity Shield titles last season.
Roughly 250 OSU players have earned scholarships since the club’s inception 18 years ago – worth nearly $15 million in school fees (based on the cost of 4-year tuition). The goal for OSU is that every member of their top OPDL Force squads will move on to the next level in soccer, Harris indicates.
“That’s a lot of people, but that’s the kind of target we are setting ourselves,” signals the OSU Head Coach of 9 years, highlighting the contributions of many coaches and club staff. “There are a number of people involved in the process who have worked really hard to make all this happen.”
OSU players on path to the pros
It was a memorable season for Matteo de Brienne and Horace Patient Sobze Zemo, who were signed by Atlético Ottawa and brought to PEI for the Canadian Premier League’s Island Games.
The pair were spotted by the rookie CPL club during pre-season training at OSU’s George Nelms home field. The work of General Manager Jim Lianos to develop a formal partnership with Atlético Ottawa was instrumental, Harris stresses.
“Once Matteo and Horace got their opportunity, they took their opportunity, and they’ve done the work to get there,” he details, “but it really helps being put in that shop window.”
It was also useful that OSU players were game-ready. OSU’s men’s and women’s teams played in the Quebec premier league for the first time this season (while the rest of Ontario clubs were idle), with the 4-1-2 men standing 2nd before COVID cancelled final games.
“Playing in the PLSQ, it helps plan a future roadmap for our kids when they come into our club,” Lianos notes. “It was a very competitive league, we were very competitive, and ultimately that was what we wanted for our teams.”
Also signing pro contracts this season were OSU products Antonio Carlini and Mehdi Essoussi with Toronto FC-2, while 23-year-old Kris Twardek earned a spot in Poland’s top division with Jagiellonia.
And moving on to the Montreal Impact’s residential academy this summer was 2006-born Luca Domanico.
“We’re extremely proud to see so many of our players achieving their dreams,” smiles Harris, who’s also proud to have many return to coach or train with the club when they’re home.
“It’s really that OSU family,” he explains. “And I think it also shows the respect that they’ve got for the staff. If they didn’t think that we could still help them, and if they weren’t appreciative for the work that we put in for them along the journey, then I don’t think they would still reach out and contact us.
“They really feel that pride in their community, and that pride in their club, and I think that’s what makes them want to come back.”
OSU players moving on to the next level:
Katie Broadhurst (Carleton)
Maddy Bush (New Brunswick)
Antonio Carlini (Toronto FC-2)
Katherine Chadwick (McGill)
Izaak Charles (Queen’s)
Matteo de Brienne (Atlético Ottawa)
Luca Domanico (Montreal Impact Academy)
Sami Elsaid (Queen’s)
Mehdi Essoussi (Toronto FC-2)
Oscar Forward (Concordia)
Bella Hanisch (DePaul)
Cedric Jean-Charles (Waterloo)
Ronan Kratt (Carleton)
Shannon Phee (Lafayette)
Katie Richardson (Simon Fraser)
Horace Patient Sobze Zemo (Atlético Ottawa)
Jade Taylor-Ryan (UBC)
Julian Terris (Albany)
Kris Twardek (Jagiellonia – Poland)
Chris Yoo (Queen’s)